A Founder’s Profound Influence on Business Culture

Kent Rhodes

Ikea is a Swedish family owned and operated enterprise in the home furnishings retail space.  Broadly known as the world leader for designing, manufacturing and selling modernly designed and cheap functional furniture, first generation founder, Ingvar Kamprad originally started out as a “one-man mail” company in 1943. Today the firm counts approximately 70,000 co-workers and realizes over $33 Billion turnover through 332 stores and 30 franchises spread in 38 countries.

Ingvar Kamprad’s personality had a major influence in shaping the company’s organizational culture, which was informed by his core values of cost-consciousness, simplicity and efficiency. They have also tangibly translated into Ikea’s recipe for success: Selling good quality practical furniture’s at cheap prices. The multinational founder nourished the company’s commitment to cost saving long before he first introduced the ‘self-assembling’ Ikea-way.

Anders Dahlvis, Ikea’s former CEO from 1999 to 2009, describes the firm’s culture as informal, cost-consciousness, and with a “down-to-earth approach”.  It has been famously reported that when IKEA management organized a gathering buffet-dinner for employees several years ago, Ingvar served himself last and made sure to shake hand with every worker before they left. Through this genuine and authentic action, the culture of IKEA was further solidified simply because this humble interaction with employees demonstrated the culture at work in the bones of the organization.

We’ve been blogging a lot recently about culture and the unique role is plays in the family enterprise – whether the size of an Ikea or the local hardware store down the street. IKEA’s story is likely not too different from those of other business owning families or even of your own. What stories come to mind of founder’s deeply influencing culture?

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