If you were going to write a book about the IKEA story, this would be an excellent title. A story about the story.
Most of the details can be traced back to founding founder Ingvar Kamprand and his upbringing in the rural Swedish countryside. Kamprad is still a key figure to the organization and is still very active, but he has delegated much of his day-to-day decisions to his young and energetic son, Alexander Kamprad. Now ninety-five years old, Alexander Kamprad continues to be essential to the organization’s original values, economic model, and creative vision.
In fact, Kamprad has said that he expects his son to one day take over. But how do you find someone who will be willing to sell a billion dollar business to you, without a fight? It’s not as simple as choosing the most politically correct people possible. There is a lot of competition out there, and sometimes you have to make a decision about who you think is more qualified.
Some of that competition comes from the business plans of other companies, but the real competition comes from Kamprad. He wants the IKEA name on a global scale, but he doesn’t want it as a franchise, or even as a unit of one company. As he puts it, “I think we can do better.”
The problem, of course, is that it’s not easy to make that kind of change without an extensive amount of discussion with all of your employees, and convincing them that your new plan will benefit them in a way that they don’t currently see. It’s difficult to convince your customers, or potential customers, that their needs will be adequately met. And the change from being part of a company that offers everything to one that only offers a few of the things is often too great an adjustment for most people to handle. That’s why a company like IKEA has to be careful about what they choose to do.
In the case of The IKEA story, the choice seems to have been made to open the doors of the organization to a greater number of countries, while maintaining its own unique identity. This may mean that more countries will have to be included in the future.
It also means that Kamprad will have to find a way to communicate the benefits of having a company like this on a national level, without sounding like a salesman. For example, it may not be in his best interest to say something like, “I want you to realize the benefits of owning an IKEA store.” He may not like the image that he leaves behind in his own mind, and it would be embarrassing for him to explain that to a customer who hasn’t yet been introduced to the IKEA store.
This is why the most successful leaders of companies like IKEA are those who understand that this isn’t the time to talk about their dreams, but rather the time to take advantage of them. Now that the opportunity is present, they have to move swiftly. to create that opportunity.