Sofa Talks with the Nilssons
Our focus on interesting people with connections to Furninova continues. This time the spotlight is on three people, namely the founder Benny Nilsson’s three children; Sara, Sanna, and Sammie, all of whom started their careers within Furninova and today, still hold key positions in the company or its parent company Stommen Group.
Sanna: No, I didn’t. It was actually the opposite. I did everything I could to avoid following in dad’s footsteps. I worked as a telephone advisor, mowed lawns, and attended musical theatre school, for example. In the end, I ended up in Furninova’s customer service department, where I was made responsible for the Canadian market before moving on to purchasing.
Sara: I always knew I wanted to work at Furninova. I wanted to be just like dad ever since I was a toddler. The only thing that ever came close to competing was my tennis career. I spent a few years in Austria, where I learned German. This came in handy later on when I became responsible for our German market.
Sammie: Yes and no. I’ve always been good at selling, so it’s maybe not a total surprise. I spent several years working as a ski instructor in Åre and in New Zealand, but when the opportunity to join Furninova as a trainee arose, the choice was easy. I’m now Key Account Manager for one of our largest client and responsible for the Finnish, Cyprus/Greek and British markets.
Sammie: The fact that I don’t have to deal with loads of Excel files containing heavy reports! Joking aside, I love that I’m able to focus on selling and creating a great experience for our customers.
Sanna: To me, the best things are the variety that comes with this job, the opportunities, all the trips, and all the interesting people I get to meet. I also love watching the various business areas develop.
Sara: I agree with Sanna, the variation gives me energy. And then there’s working with all the talented people at Furninova, Brafab, Conform, Affari, Elevenate, and Ambiente. Right now, I miss being able to go to trade fairs, but things are starting to open up.
Sammie: Surprisingly well, actually. We do work great together. We’re pretty similar deep down, yet also different in many ways. Sanna is maybe a bit stricter, Sara is the glue that keeps everything together, and I mostly just hang around…
Sanna: Well, I wouldn’t say that you hang around. Sammie is excellent at sales. I also think all three of us are fairly mature.
Sara: We have our differences, of course, and we sometimes have very different opinions, but we are first and foremost a great team.
Sanna: I was about ten and attending Stockholm Furniture Fair with mum and Sara. Suddenly, dad appeared on a huge screen at Furninova’s large stand. Everything was playing on a loop,
and the film with dad never ended.
Sara: I remember that too, and how big everything seemed. It must have been sometime in the early years of 2000.
Sammie: I remember being in nursery and all the children talking about where their parents worked. I told everyone that my dad worked at Bjärnum, because that’s where he said he was going every morning when he went to work. It was the name of the village where the office was located.
– The relationships are hugely important. Both with our suppliers and with our customers.
Sammie: Fundamentally, we all have a strong sense for interior design, even if interpretations vary. I like grey and beige; a modern, unfussy style. Sara once said that my home feels playful, maybe because I like to display fun art on my walls.
Sara: I would describe my style as smart and clean, down to earth, with a lot of dark wood and a beige colour palette. The leather version of the Noir sofa feels like the obvious focal point.
Sanna: I have a Noir too, but mine has a fabric cover. This says a lot about our approaches; similar yet different. I would define my style as modern Scandinavian. Pared back and minimalist. There’s grey, a bit more grey, and then some grey…
Sara: I’m very impractical. I feel that a sofa should first and foremost look great. One good tip is to try to capture the feeling of the entire room. That usually works out well.
Sanna: Think about how you’ll be using the sofa. Will you be sitting on it to eat, or just getting cosy in front of the TV? I would say that the more you’ll use the sofa when eating, the more vertical the backrest should be.
Sammie: Prioritise in the following order: style, colour, fabric type. Classic or modern? Ask yourself how much work you’re willing to put in. Are there a lot of cushions that need to be plumped every time you’ve used the sofa? Comfort? That’s important of course, but not something you need to worry about as
it’s an integral part of any Furninova sofa.
Sanna: The relationships that dad cultivated so carefully over the years. Also, the product range, which is somehow both cool and mainstream. Our employees are essential too, of course. They’ve always been loyal to the company.
Sara: I agree; relationships are hugely important. Both with our suppliers and with our customers. Dad has also always been fearless and good at thinking long term. His entrepreneurship means a lot too.
Sammie: I agree with my clever sisters. I would also add gut instinct. I feel this is an important piece of the puzzle that I hope all three of us have inherited from dad.
Sammie: I’d have to say Bear Grylls; he’s an extreme survivor who knows how to deal with everything from a bear attack to starting a fire from virtually nothing. Maybe not exactly a guy who loves to chill out on the sofa, but still…
Sara: Spontaneously I thought of the Swedish comedian Johan Glans. At least he’d give me a few good laughs to brighten up the misery. Or I’d bring my best friend, she makes me happy.
Sanna: I’d bring my partner Pontus, of course. He’s a doer, so we’d be just fine.
Sanna: Five years really isn’t much, and by then sustainability issues will have become even more important. Many of our products will have the Nordic Swan label, we will be able to measure and influence our overall carbon footprint, and the human aspect of sustainability will have become even more important.
Sammie: Five years from now, the company is in a really great place. Just like today, but much more visible. Our brand will have become more widespread. We will be a front runner when it comes to digital developments. We’re selling a holistic experience, not just sofas.
Sara: I think it will be about much more than just business five years from now. It will be about how we act, new ways of working, what the organisation looks like, how the group develops and, not least, how the move to our new premises panned out.
Sara: As I said, I’ve invested in a Noir sofa in our most exclusive leather, so I think it’ll look better than ever five years from now. Leather just looks better with age after all.
Sammie: The dream is a hovering sofa. Perhaps we’ll be bringing one out in a few years?
Sanna: I’ll have changed to a sofa with more ‘lounge’ feeling than Noir, maybe a Vesta. I’ll have sold my old sofa. It feels great to know that our sofas last a long time. This is also great from a sustainability perspective.