The dilemmas on how to manage growth and expansion matter for any successful company. In this article, we talk to Marja Hillis, CEO of Molok North America Ltd., about the ingredients that have made Molok such a runaway corporate star.
Molok Ltd. is a company based on innovation. In the 1980s, Finnish mechanical engineer and entrepreneur, Veikko Salli, invented the MOLOK® Deep Collection™ system. The Deep Collection™ system was and is an entirely new way of storing waste and recycling partly-underground, creating less odour and improving appearance. Additionally, the vertical design of the system compacts waste efficiently so that there are fewer collections.
Molok quickly expanded from Finland to North America and beyond, establishing a presence in over 30 countries. Marja Hillis, Salli’s daughter, set up an entirely new company in Canada – Molok North America Ltd. in 1999.
Naturally, growth has been central to the company from the start, and how the company manages that phenomenal growth is of primary importance.
We talked to CEO Marja Hillis about Molok’s growth management strategy and what makes the company such a huge success.
What would you say is unique about how you manage growth?
We believe that a company must consider all aspects of its operations to successfully manage growth, from our vision and strategy to our staff relationships. Careful consideration of who we are, and the development of our company culture to strengthen our vision puts us in a good position for growth.
I was awarded the title of Most Innovative CEO – Waste Management Industry by Business Worldwide in 2016. I feel strongly that our continued success has been due to the hard work and commitment of our workforce. How we treat our staff, and in turn, how they respond, gives us our strength.
That, I think, is what is unique about us.
Could you tell us more about your company culture?
Our company culture is based on family values and caring about each employee on a personal level. We (management) want to make sure we know all our staff well and that everyone feels comfortable about coming to talk to us about anything.
We strongly believe that we can all be friends as well as co-workers. We encourage talking about issues as soon as they come up. It’s about being honest and open about everything.
We also enjoy spending time together, whether it is a barbeque once a month during the summer, a relaxed get together when we have an international visitor or a Christmas party at the CEO’s house.
I feel very strongly that a more horizontal and open culture in an organisation works better to build a company. We have certainly proved that this approach works at Molok.
You’ve said elsewhere that staff training is a vital part of building Molok’s human resources. How do you encourage staff to develop their careers?
We are very focused on the needs of our staff.
We feel that it is vital to have employees who not only enjoy working on a daily basis but who also see that they are valued and that they see value in their work.
Therefore, we continuously encourage everyone to consider where it is that they would like to see their career move towards and we (management) participate in the planning to make the process meaningful to all.
When an individual employee has a clear career plan, and the subsequent professional development plan to achieve their goals, it goes hand in hand with the evolving organisation that is needed for constant growth.
Training can be something specific to our company (product training or sales training, for example) but also executive training, college and university courses, all the way up to Master’s degrees.
How important is planning when thinking about growth management?
Planning is absolutely central to everything we do. There are various ways that forward planning comes into play at Molok.
One of these is planning in manufacturing.
We are a growing company without a limit in sight. Therefore, we need to constantly plan our next move in manufacturing. It may involve expanding our facilities, purchasing new machinery or other equipment, and hiring new staff.
We have a short-term action plan but always know five to ten years ahead of time what our next moves are going to be. We don’t always know when exactly these moves are going to take place, but we know the indicators that trigger the processes of moving forward.
Another is organisational planning.
As I mentioned earlier, staff training goes hand in hand with our organisational planning. We want our employees to stay with us long-term, not only for a few years. If we can inspire people to stay with us, it makes our organisational planning much easier as we can be more confident about who we have to fill future positions.
Also, we like to involve our staff in planning for future growth and hiring additional employees. We are always keeping our eyes and ears open for people who would potentially like to work for us and with us. This practice also helps us maintain our close-knit ‘family’ culture.
Facility planning is also important
Whether it is the requirements of our manufacturing facility, offices or other facilities, we try to look ahead a few years.
Instead of building something that is good for right now, we try to understand what our needs are going to be at least five years from now. We make sure we either can accommodate those needs or have a plan for expanding no later than five years from now.
One of our foci, as we grow, is to have a comprehensive financial plan.
We strive to understand what we need to do in order to make solid decisions that support our growth.
We are building a better management accounting system that goes far beyond what we see in our bookkeeping, which really is just history. Management accounting is an area that changes as we grow since new undertakings always need new ways of monitoring and planning.
And lastly, of course, we are also working on our sales and marketing planning strategy.
Without disclosing our strategy going forward, we always consider multiple areas of business in our sales and marketing plan.
Suffice it to say, we are constantly thinking ways to improve our marketing to support our sales in the world of rapid development everywhere.
Planning is a very challenging task and requires the minds of many in our organisation. It is one thing to keep up, but another thing to stay ahead of the game – and that is what we want to do.
If you were to summarise for any other company, what is the most important concept in growth management, what would it be?
Absolutely to invest in your staff and create a conducive workplace culture. Good employee relationships and workplace culture increase productivity.
We also benefit from having an experienced staff that stays with the company long-term. They know our business, they know how to do their jobs, and they apply that experience efficiently.
Having a good workplace culture also means that we don’t have to second-guess our planning needs. The resources around which you plan – our workforce – are already in place.
All this contributes to having an engaged, seasoned workforce which contributes to the long-term vision of the company. These perspectives give them a sense of value, knowing that their contributions have made a difference.
It pays to work on good staff relationships. It really does.
Molok North America Ltd. was winner of Business Worldwide Magazines 2017 Corporate Excellence Awards in the category of ‘Growth Strategy Management Team – Canada’.