When I was 15 years old, I quit my two jobs at Hardees and HyVee and started my own business painting houses. Learning to be my own boss shaped my attitude and opened up a whole new world. That’s why I’m so interested in helping you meet Björn Stansvik – a Swedish-born, stubborn entrepreneur who became a wildly successful CEO because he was attracted to a whole new world he calls: “the American attitude.”
The Fall 2015 Good Leadership Breakfast Series begins this Friday. If you join us you can personally meet Björn Stansvik, who will tell an international Seven Fs story from Sweden, to Minnesota, to China and beyond. He represents a new generation of leaders who are creating a cultural mosaic here in Minnesota. “I started my first business making and selling apple pies with my sisters and friends in Sweden,” explains Björn Stansvik. “When I came to America many years later, I was attracted by the American entrepreneurial spirit…then I married a Chinese woman and here we are thriving together today.”
He makes it sound easy. But a closer look reveals an ambitious, restless soul who tried his hand at many, many things. Eventually he earned a wall full of honors through the struggle: Business Journal “40 under 40,” “Power 50 Honoree,” “Titan of Technology,” and “Inc. 50” design for his role as CEO of MentorMate – an international mobile solutions company with nearly 300 employees, working for clients in five cities internationally.
Björn and I became friends through The Minneapolis City of Lakes Rotary Club. Today, MentorMate is a strategic piece of Taylor Corporation – helping guide their family of companies from paper-based products into mobile communication. He and his four-person executive team just returned from an internet-free planning retreat in Canada, making big plans for the next chapter of the business.
Where are the Seven Fs?
“As I think about how the Seven Fs have shaped my journey, I’d have to start with Future,” he shared. He became fascinated with mobile technology way before its time. “I lived on bread and water for many years here in the US, while others were learning to appreciate how mobile devices would change our life experiences,” he smiled. The good news is that anything complex takes about 11 years or more to master, so he had a good start. “Now that the world has finally gone mobile, the best part for me is envisioning the future for our clients and helping them win with their customers. We really know how to make complex things simple through mobile devices.”
Friends and Family help
“My parents were risk-averse. Overprotected by working in the Swedish public system, they thought I was crazy…but they supported me. I always felt secure and that helped me be persistent and believe in myself – even halfway across the world, in the bread and water days,” he recalls.
But one particular friendship encounter started the avalanche of good fortune. “One day I was on a consulting assignment in Mexico, when a stranger recognized my Swedish Hockey bag that I used as my suitcase. He started speaking to me in Swedish and connected me with his friend Erik in Minneapolis. Erik became a great friend. He and his wife took me in during the early days. They co-signed for my apartment, my car loan and invested in my company.”
His wife Hana grew up in Japan, so they are raising a multi-ethnic, multi-linguistic family together. Their sons Rolf and Arn will likely know four languages (Swedish, Japanese, Chinese and English) by the time they start Kindergarten. “Family is very important to me,” he smiled. “My father invented the pricing model for the Swedish healthcare system. He had many opportunities to become powerful and famous, but he turned them all down to be dedicated to his role as a father. I keep that in the front of my mind through every decision I make.”
Good leaders blend together their personal and professional aspirations to pursue their dreams. And they delight in friends and family who help them live their dreams.
Will you join us for the Good Leadership Breakfast this Friday?