Lindström: Small Steps Make Big Leaps

During the course of 166 years, the small Helsinki-based textile service company has spread in over 20 countries.

03.09.2014

The success story of Lindström, which currently focuses in textile rental, has taken dedication, direction and perseverance.

1848

Dye master Carl August Lindström establishes a small textile dye house on the current parliamentary hill in Helsinki city center. The dye house is named C.A. Lindström & Son.

1880s

Lindström sends his son on an educational trip to Europe. While travelling through Denmark to Berlin in Germany W.E. Lindström is familiarized with the Central European novelty of dry cleaning. Upon his return home he incorporates the technique into his father’s company and expands the company’s operations.

1920s

The company’s owner family changes. Uusi Pesula Oy acquires Lindström’s stock in 1922, and the company has been owned by the Roiha family ever since.

1970s

The company makes a significant change of strategy, as the original textile dye industry is no longer lucrative. ”My father foresaw that it did not have a future any more”, says Jukka Roiha, the current Chairman of the Board. ”It was a big decision to give up the domain that the company had originally been founded to serve.”

Lindström focused increasingly on laundry and cleaning services.

1992

The company strategy was altered again. The company gave up laundry services and once again centralized its operations in textile rental. This is when Lindström’s process of internationalization also began, partly unintentionally.

”The thought had stirred in the back of my mind”, Jukka Roiha remembers.

Before taking charge of the family company, he had lived and worked in the Netherlands and Germany. Due to the corporate acquisition of 1993, Lindström was presented with the opportunity of expanding its operations into Estonia.

”It was something that just seem to surface. At this point we laid out our first internationalization strategy. It was simply jotted on a piece paper, but looking back on it now, it has taken place surprisingly well”, Roiha says.

”We decided to take small steps and enter countries where our line of operations is unfamiliar. In many countries we have been the first on the market. So we have taken a rather different route from other names in the industry.”

Internationalization was believed to best take place through strong concepts. The textile service was condensed and clarified into an easily replicable form. The method for spreading an international concept were modeled after McDonald’s, for example. ”We wanted to learn how concept leadership works. To learn to operate everywhere in a very similar way.”

2000s

Internationalization continued to take place according to the original strategy. Lindström’s current CEO Juha Laurio provides India as an example: ”Since 2007 we have operated in India, and within seven years we have attained large volumes ac- cording to European standards. We currently operate in nine cities in India. But if we had initially aimed to create significant business there in three years and attain major profit, it would not have been possible. Growing through small steps takes a lot of time and perseverance.”

2014

Lindström has subsidiaries in 23 countries. 40 per cent of the company’s EUR 303.2 million revenue derives from outside Finland.

”At the change of the year the figures turned so that currently 50.5 per cent of employees work abroad”, CEO Laurio states. ”We will continue with the same strategy of taking small steps. I believe that this way operations can grow without restrictions.”

“The challenge is to make the company truly international, instead of a Finnish company operating internationally. We have systematically made the operations of our headquarters more international. People without a Finnish passport work in all of our departments.”

Chairman Roiha ponders on the next challenge.

”Lindström’s story has taken courageous choices. Not reckless ones, but necessary ones in terms of boldly revising the company’s strategy. Even when times are good.

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