Career Story: Martin Tordsson, Stokke

August 10, 2015

Professional MBA Marketing & Sales alumnus

What stages in your life have had the greatest impact on you and why?
It has definitely been marrying my wife and starting a family. Before that, I was very much caught up in work and promoting my career. I know it sounds like a cliché, but having a family puts life into perspective, and having a healthy work/life balance becomes increasingly important – to the benefit of both my family and myself.

Did you originally want to pursue a career in a different field? If so, why is it that nothing has come of your plans?
I’ve always known I would end up in sales. Since I started working at the local grocery store back in Denmark at the age of 14, the dynamic of selling products and keeping customers happy has been a driving force for me.

How and why did you come to work for Stokke?
For most of my career, I have been working in the furniture industry. First, it was office furniture with IKEA and Martela in Denmark, and later it was BoConcept in Germany. When I was looking for new opportunities back in 2009, Mercuri Urval approached me with an interesting opportunity; taking responsibility for Stokke’s Austrian business unit. Back then, Stokke was primarily a producer of children’s furniture, mainly know for the iconic Tripp Trapp high chair. Since then, they have expanded their range of products into strollers, baby carriers, bathtubs etc. Stokke has continuously been able to offer me new opportunities, which is why I still enjoy working here 6 years later.

What has changed in your career as a result of your MBA degree? How did the program support you in reaching your career goals?
The MBA has definitely given me a broader theoretical foundation, which I needed to take my career to the next level. At the time I started my MBA studies, I had 14 years of sales experience, which will only take you so far. Deeper insights into finance, operations, marketing, logistics etc. have been pivotal for me in progressing my career. Also, being in a study/learning environment with people from different cultures and industries who have different levels of experience has been educational.

Shortly before graduating in 2013, I was offered the position of Sales Manager in our American subsidiary. I was given the task of restructuring our sales team and implementing clear structures and processes based on best practice sharing from our EMEA organisation. The contract was for 2 years, but in late 2014 I was asked to come back to Europe and take on a newly created position as Global Sales Development Director. Both promotions wouldn’t have happened without the reinforced theoretical foundation provided by the very competent faculty at the WU Executive Academy.

What has been your biggest professional/personal success?
My biggest personal success was without a doubt finishing my MBA with honours. It had been 14 years since I finished my last degree and I wasn’t sure how I would balance my professional, family and academic commitments. It wasn’t easy, and I owe a lot to my family for their continuous support, but the benefits and the advantages the MBA provided me with can’t be measured. It was a great feeling of pride getting to put on the cap and cape in September 2013.

Professionally, landing my current role is a dream come true; being part of developing our global sales force and moulding our global sales strategy.

What are your goals for the coming year?
I have two goals this year. First of all, to make sure my family settles back in in Austria after having spent the last year in the USA. Secondly, to deliver great results in my current role; ensuring Stokke maintains their global sales edge and continues to have a best in class sales force.

What do you consider a “great luxury”?

What was the last book/movie you really enjoyed?
The last book I really enjoyed was “The Hypnotist” by Lars Kepler. I’m a big fan of the current Swedish generation of crime writers. The last movie I enjoyed was “Chef”, which is about a chef who quits his prestigious job at a fancy LA restaurant to follow his lifelong dream of opening a food truck.

How would you characterize your philosophy of leadership? Has it been influenced by a leadership role-model?
My leadership style is very much founded in my Scandinavian background. I appreciate openness and honesty and I provide direct feedback (the Danish part of me). If I see that people are competent I give them a high degree of freedom to develop and perform. At the same time, however, I also seek consensus and try to involve everyone in larger decisions; this is a Swedish/Norwegian thing. I have found great inspiration in the leadership of Jens Moberg, a Danish executive who made it to top management at Microsoft.

How do you recharge your batteries when you are not pursuing your demanding career?
I’m spending time with friends and family. I also enjoy playing golf, which is when I have time to reflect on things and recharge my batteries.

If you could change places with anyone for a day, who would it be?
It would be Klaus Schwab during the World Economic Forum. To be close to so many key influencers from politics, monarchies, businesses etc. must be very inspirational.

Why would you recommend the Professional MBA of the WU Executive Academy? What did you like the most?
The Professional MBA at the WU Executive Academy provides great insights into all major functions of running a company. Not only are the academic staff more than competent in their respective fields, but the high diversity within the student body adds an extra dimension to the learnings provided as part of the degree.


My motto in life:
Always do your best.

I can laugh about:
myself. To be able to laugh at yourself and not take life too seriously is very important.
Mistakes I am most likely willing to forgive:
I am most likely to overlook smaller mistakes if responsibility is promptly taken.

I would spend my last money on:
doing something good for my family.
In 20 years I will be:
look back on a successful career, which has provided a comfortable life for my family.

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