Swedish Fitness Group, SF Group, is a global fitness company that has grown exponentially in recent years. By present time secure their premises with a new IT environment, they opened up the door for a seamless and efficient cooperation between the various offices around the world while it has managed to keep its family culture and strong team spirit. How important contemporary fuse has had for the business management realized only afterwards.
SF Group is the company behind the brands GASP and Better Bodies targeting hard training athletes. The company is run by the main fitness profiles in the United States and their products are sold in over 40 countries worldwide. Everything from product development and design to marketing and distribution are handled internally.
In recent years the company has grown from 20 employees with offices in Stockholm to be a global company with about 78 employees spread across offices in Sweden, USA, Norway, Finland and Turkey. The rapid global expansion has placed high demands on both the communications and IT environment. SF Group realized at an early stage the need for a long-term IT solution that could handle the continued change and growth.
As the company grew, it became more trips for employees and thereby increasing need to be able to work at a distance. The company lacked an effective mobile working where employees could easily connect to gain access to corporate resources in a secure manner. This led to the sharing and cooperation became an increasingly serious problem, while the need to cooperate across borders increased.
To get instant input and help of their colleagues in the various offices could be problematic when the primary communication channel was the company’s mail, which also tended to be a discussion forum where many cc: n passed within the organization. Overflowing inboxes easily lead to increased stress and because you could not work in the same document, it allowed employees information stored locally or emailed that they themselves or one another.
To participate in the weekly meetings at a distance was a challenge. Michael Johansson, one of the company co-owner and CEO of a US resident, ran for example, the company’s ongoing weekly meetings online via Skype. Facebook was the channel that you use to keep their employees informed about events within the company. It worked well in the initial expansion phase, but it was realized that it would be an unsustainable solution in the long run.
– SF Group has always been a flat organization with a strong team spirit. To prepare itself for the expansion plans while maintaining the familiar culture within the company, we saw a need to present secure our company. Together with our IT partner Atrox, which is an integral part of our business, we wanted to create the best conditions for the success of global expansion, says Michael Johansson, CEO of SF Group.
Today, all employees have laptops, which means that they can easily work remotely and move freely between the various offices around the world. The process is the same whether you log in to the office in Stockholm or in Dallas, which contributes to a stronger sense of belonging to an organization. File sharing and cooperation across borders is no longer a problem when you can easily share documents and work desks with each other and use instant messaging.
– As I see it, is the largest and most important impact of the business that, despite a strong global expansion, has managed to maintain a friendly corporate culture across borders. Using the new IT platform enables all employees work as a team even though they are at different locations around the world. There are no subcultures or us and them feeling between the offices, which can easily create discontent. To easily communicate and collaborate with each other in the same system under the same conditions make employees feel involved sitting anywhere in the world, says Michael Johansson.
Another effect of the present fuse is that all 78 employees from the various offices can meet every Monday for weekly meetings. When running internal meetings in the same way, where everyone can be seen and heard, as they have always done in the past when everyone was in the same office. Internal communication has also improved. With the new IT solution enables all employees to take part of pictures from fairs and all the events that SF Group annually organizes around the world. Which is also a good way to get everyone to feel involved.
Another example of where “we” feeling within the company strengthened as a consequence of the present fuse is that employees every day must take part of the daily current sales figures from the various offices posted on the common IT platform. This is a way to manifest that all employees working in the same system, that no country limits exist – they are a team working towards the same goal.
The key to our success owes much to the way we work together with our IT partner Atrox. They do not deliver an IT solution to our company, they are the IT solution. Thanks to it, they stood ready in the early stage, which meant that the actual implementation of the new IT solution coincided well with our expansion plans. Actually, I understood afterwards how significant our present insurance has had on the business. The digital communication is everything to get our daily business work, says Michael Johansson. It should not matter where in the world we are. The world is our market and it’s just that we adapt accordingly and we are well equipped with the right tools to overcome both cultural problems and internal frustration. Today, SF Group features in place to manage a global business model, where product development, design, marketing and distribution are managed centrally. The entire infrastructure of the Stockholm office is now hosted centrally in the server environment. Partly to make the IT environment less vulnerable, but especially to simplify global expansion.
– Hosted servers and business software through terminal server
– Centrally AD, networking and wireless
– Microsoft Office 365
– Skype for Business
The implementation of Office 365 was made with the help of partner Atrox, who also holds the role of SF Group’s IT department and handles from IT strategy and IT budget, to implementation, deployment, operation and support.
“The key to our success owes much to the way we work together with our IT partner Atrox. They do not deliver an IT solution to our company, they are the IT solution. “
Michael Johansson, CEO Swedish Fitness Group