Paulig Group CEO Rolf Ladau thinks leaders should try to find solutions rather than culprits. According to Ladau, the Finnish leadership culture has recently discovered a better balance between fact-focused and human-oriented approaches.
Coffee stirs up memories of childhood in Rolf Ladau. The smell of coffee makes him relax and feel at home. He also values good food, which offers him a way to wind down. No wonder Paulig CEO is so excited about the business of the company he is heading, as it “resonates so strongly in people’s lives”.
“Coffee and meaningful culinary moments are a part of both humdrum everyday life and more festive moments – they are present in both joy and sorrow,” Ladau explains.
The development of the food industry, as well as products and brands becoming a more integral part of people’s lives have also affected employee motivation. People are genuinely proud of Paulig’s history.
“The great atmosphere and the employees’ commitment to the company are tangible.”
Paulig brings values and people together
Ladau started his work as Paulig Group CEO in the beginning of June, before which he was the Managing Director of Fazer Confectionery. Before returning to Finland a few years ago, he spent two decades abroad, working in managerial positions at various global enterprises, such as The Coca-Cola Company, Procter & Gable, Gillette, Unilever and Kellogg Company.
After such a long period abroad, he now has an outsider’s perspective to leadership culture in Finland. What is it like? How has Finnish leadership changed in his view?
“The traditional strength of Finnish leadership is that it’s focused on facts. However, you should never forget the real people when looking at numbers and processes. I have noticed that Finnish leadership culture now has a better balance between factual and human approaches.”
In general, current trends in leadership include valuing teams and people, as well as maintaining a conversational culture. At Paulig, respect for individuals is demonstrated by the fact that employee training is found at the core of the corporate culture.
So what is the greatest difference between working for a listed company compared to a family-owned company?
“Values are very close to the people here. What is written on paper and how people carry out their lives are pretty much the same here. The company has strong roots, and when you look at its history, it’s clear that Paulig’s values have always steered its business.”
A leader cannot communicate too much
Let’s talk a little about what Ladau is like as a leader. Approachable is the first adjective that he uses to describe himself. In addition, he believes that he is a leader with clear communication and a strongly goal-oriented mindset.
“I’m sure people have felt that it has been easy to come to me with their ideas. I also try to ensure clarity – both in the organisation and in the actual activities. We also establish challenging objectives to people and then try to tackle them together. I always offer employees support and tools to reach these objectives,” Ladau says.
He emphasises the importance of communication in leadership work.
“Discontent is the result of lack of communication in the company. It is important that the leader asks questions, talks to people and gets to know them.”
One of the most important mottos or instructions that Ladau wants to implement in his work is “find solutions rather than culprits”.
“Nobody makes mistakes on purpose. It is precisely the leader’s job to help find solutions and remove problems."
Success can be found in the answers to open questions
Ladau’s strong background in marketing is also visible in his work at Paulig.
“Everything we do in the market must be based on real consumer insight. What are the needs and consumption situations that Paulig’s brand is uniquely tailored for? Why would a consumer choose or not choose our products? Creating in-depth consumer insight is difficult, as it requires both time and the ability to correctly interpret data that can come with several layers of nuances. But often it’s nuances that matter, and building this kind of analytical ability is crucial. This is one of the tasks that I want to support at Paulig,” Ladau explains.
Innovation is a big word
What will Paulig look like after a few years of Ladau’s leadership? The new CEO wants to see the company more involved in shaping opinions on what good coffee and food look like in the future.
“We are respected because we are forerunners. We are constantly becoming more and more involved in people’s daily lives, and that is why we understand what their needs are now and in the future.
Innovations play a great role in shaping Paulig’s future. However, innovation does not necessarily have to be completely new.
“Innovation is a big word. It is important to create an operational culture of constant improvement, a genuine interest in our work that ensures regeneration instead of repetition,” Ladau states.
He is fascinated by trends in foods and beverages. The current trend of mixing different product categories is especially interesting for Ladau.
“What will happen to ready-to-drink beverages, or when Cold Brew Coffee is mixed with different types of juice? How and where will people enjoy their meals as eating and snacking outside the home become more and more common? What kind of status will vegetarian food gain in people’s lives as values become an increasingly powerful factor in determining what you buy?” Ladau elaborates in his well-lit office – and he seems genuinely enthusiastic.