Erik Lodberg retires after 45 years with HydraSpecma

HydraSpecma’s CEO Erik Lodberg has announced his retirement after 45 years of contributing to a Danish industry success story. Generating revenue of more than DKK 2 billion annually, HydraSpecma is a market leader in the Nordics and gradually expanding into the global hydraulics market.

HydraSpecma is a Danish business success story. The company has evolved at a record pace, topping the DKK 2 billion mark in revenue last year. This remarkable expansion is due in no small way to CEO Erik Lodberg who joined the company in 1974. At that time, the company was named Hydra-Grene. It had eight employees and DKK 5 million in revenue.

Business acumen honed to perfection
‘Business acumen’ is what first comes to mind when trying to fully understand Erik’s DNA and thereby HydraSpecma’s DNA. Erik’s talent does not belie his roots in western Jutland: the unique business conditions in that region helped shape the foundations of the business success that HydraSpecma has become.

It all started in the early 1900s in Chr. C. Grene’s shop selling goods to farmers in Jernbanegade in the small town of Skjern. During the 1960s and 1970s, hydraulics gained popularity in farming, and the business saw great potential in specialising in this field. This led to the formation of Hydra-Grene, which was founded as a subsidiary in 1974.

Erik was 20 years old at that time, working as a spare parts assistant with Ford in the town of Ringkøbing. He had already made his mark thanks to his skills in combining technical advice and sales, so he was brought in to take up a dual position as a hydraulics technician and salesman with the Hydra-Grene start-up.

Ten years later, the employee headcount had risen to 24 and the revenue had grown almost tenfold to DKK 51 million. By then Erik had proven his worth to the company and had been promoted to the combined role of technical manager and sales manager.

Schouw & Co. took its first step towards building a conglomerate in 1988 when it acquired the Grene Group. Erik had by then advanced to become department manager. Ten years later in 1998, he was appointed CEO of Hydra-Grene A/S.

Robots and wind turbines
Shortly after becoming CEO, Erik decided to invest in an industrial robot for the production processing centre at Skjern. There were only a few industrial robots in Denmark at the time.

Another big decision Erik made shortly after he became CEO was to start developing products for the wind turbine industry. The Danish wind turbine industry was evolving rapidly at the time, and after consulting with his management colleagues, Erik decided to go all-in. Technically, there were plenty of challenges, but Hydra-Grene assisted Denmark’s large wind turbine manufacturers in finding solutions and soon became a trusted business partner.

Swedish adventure
Over the years, Hydra-Grene has successfully grown its business organically. However, the trend of internationalisation placed the Jutland operation in a new and demanding market, as the company had gone from being one of the largest players in Denmark to being one of the smallest on the global stage. Erik consulted Schouw & Co., and the decision was made to consider acquisition opportunities that would add muscle to the Hydra-Grene operation.

The idea soon became a reality. In November 2015, the company acquired its larger Swedish peer, Specma, at a price of DKK 680 million. The combined business, HydraSpecma, became the Nordic region’s largest player in specialist hydraulics technology, serving customers in industry, wind power, marine, offshore and other sectors. At the time of the acquisition, Hydra-Grene had revenue of almost DKK 600 million, while Specma’s was SEK 1.35 billion.

From spare parts assistant to CEO
More than anyone else, Erik is the architect of the success that HydraSpecma has become. He successfully worked his way up from junior employee and through sheer hard work, his humble, empathetic and trustful personality and his unique and remarkable business acumen, he was probably always destined to become the company’s chief executive. If you ask him, Erik never wanted or strived to become the company’s top manager. It has simply been a natural evolution, and Erik is not the type of person who declines when his company asks him to step up.

He has engaged with people both within and outside the company, and has been a driving force in developing the local business community in the municipality of Ringkøbing-Skjern.

Erik does not have a long university education, nor does he have uncritical faith in spreadsheets. He has the God-given gift of being able to pair up technology and sales, and he is highly respected both in-house and by customers, suppliers, business partners and industry peers. Currently aged 66, he has made the decision to retire as CEO at the end of 2019, but will move on to serve on the board of HydraSpecma.

Successor with proven track record to continue along the same path
The succession is well planned and the obvious person to take over is Morten Kjær. He joined the company as business development manager in 2013 and played a key role in the Specma acquisition. Morten has a long international career and currently lives in Gothenburg, Sweden, serving as CEO of HydraSpecma’s Swedish operations. Like his mentor, Morten was born and raised in the Ringkøbing-Skjern area. At the end of 2020, he will return to Skjern which will remain the site of HydraSpecma’s head office. His management colleague, Henrik Sillesen will stay on as head of the company’s original business and together they will make up the executive team of Hydra Specma.

The strategy is to continue to build on HydraSpecma’s position as a Nordic market leader and a global player in hydraulic components and systems development for industry and the aftermarket.
Today, HydraSpecma has subsidiaries in Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Poland, the UK, China, India, Brazil and the USA.

HydraSpecma expects to generate revenue of around DKK 2.1 billion and EBITDA in the range of DKK 210–220 million in 2019. In other words, Erik is handing over a smooth-running and well-oiled machine to his trusted management colleagues Morten Kjær and Henrik Sillesen.

 

Photo: Morten Kjær to succeed Erik Lodberg (left) as CEO of HydraSpecma.

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