Carsten’s Corner: Ownership Structure and Long-Term Success – Why It Matters More Than You Think

Carsten Amtrup, Emma’s Head of International

The ownership structure of a company plays a crucial role in shaping its culture and determining its long-term success. It’s not just about who owns the company, but how ownership aligns with the company’s goals and values, shaping its culture and long-term success.

As someone who has spent over 20 years in the global trade and supply chain technology industry, Carsten Amtrup has seen firsthand the impact that ownership structures, mergers and acquisitions, and finding the right company owners can have on a business’s success.

In this blog post he will share some of his experiences as well as insight into Emma Systems ownership structure and culture.

In a rush? Here are the most important takeaways from this post:

When ownership is aligned with the company’s mission, vision, and values, it creates a sense of shared purpose and commitment that can lead to sustainable growth.

  • Ownership structure impacts company culture and long-term success
  • Alignment between ownership and company values is crucial for sustainable growth
  • Misaligned ownership can lead to conflicts, short-term thinking, and ultimately, failure
  • Companies should carefully consider ownership structure and cultural fit when engaging in M&As to ensure alignment and set themselves up for long-term success
  • Emma Systems is committed to growing the company organically, and thrives on being backed by their committed long-term owner, Vind

Emma dates back to 1958

The name Emma Systems is not inspired by a women’s name (although my daughter, Emma, likes to think so). However, if you visit the Technical Museum in Oslo, you’ll come across a machine named EMMA, which stands for Electronic Mathematical MAchine.

Our company has roots dating back to 1958 and the company was part of the technical revolution around data programming in punched cards supporting all kinds of public- and private sector customers. The world we operate in now within Global Trade Management software started in 1992 and the technology has luckily come a long way since the punched cards!

At the Technical Museum in Oslo, you’ll find EMMA: Electronic Mathematical MAchine. This device was the inspiration behind our company name, Emma Systems!

Consolidations in Global Trade Management space

The software industry has always piqued the interest of investors. With rapid advancements in technology and innovative solutions transforming the landscape for businesses and individuals, it’s only natural that investment firms see lucrative opportunities in backing technology companies.

The Global Trade and Supply Chain technology industry has attracted significant interest from investment companies as well. As a result, there has been a wave of consolidation through Mergers and Acquisitions, also including Tech companies acquiring others to strengthen their portfolios, penetrate new markets or verticals, and satisfy their growth ambitions.

Having experienced takeovers in companies I’ve been part of, I understand the founders’ desire to benefit from their hard work and let new owners take the business to the next level.

Through my experiences I have learned some lessons:

  • Mergers and acquisitions can be advantageous for companies and their investors, but they often come at the expense of customers and employees
  • New owners often overlook the hard work put into building a solid business with loyal employees and customer if it doesn’t align with their own strategy
  • Every successful company has had a company culture that has been extremely important for people to go the extra mile to help a colleague or customer. After a takeover, that culture can fade away as new owners may not place the same value on the personal investment that employees had in the company and its customers
  • The long-term strategies still exists, but the short term objective often wins as the quarterly reporting has to show growth and, if it is an investment fund, a successful exit is the overall goal
With technology’s rapid evolution and innovative solutions reshaping industries, the software sector continuously captivates investors, offering investment firms lucrative opportunities

A look at Emma Systems’ ownership

Emma Systems was fully owned by its employees until 2018, when Vind Group approached us with an interest in investing in established software firms. Although Emma was thriving and not seeking investors, after good and long discussions it was agreed that Vind should acquire a majority of the company.

As a committed long-term owner, Vind has set its sights on expanding Emma Systems as a company in our home markets and internationally. With their understanding of our culture and values, we have made a successful match that resulted in Emma doubling its size, revenue, and profit in the past four years.

In this strange niche business that we are in, it is important that the owners respect the complexity of the solutions we deliver. When you deal with customs changes (and there are a lot of those at the moment) you have to plan carefully and be able to react fast. If our filing solutions do not work, cargo does not move and that is expensive. This means that all changes must be implemented before the government deadlines, to serve all our customers – large and small.

The owners are crucial in how you treat your customers and we want to maintain a very close relationship with ours and I am not sure that is possible with all types of ownership. Running a business requires making countless decisions, both short-term and long-term. With owners and board members who trust management and offer support, the desired results are often seen day-to-day.

Growing Emma organically

At Emma, we have a strategy of developing all our software in-house. Our teams have a good mix of very experienced people in development, consulting and support and young people coming on board with the relevant competence and personality. For us it is key that new people who join us will also have an important role in maintaining the great company culture we have and provide new ideas and views on how things can be done.

We are frequently asked if we can build solutions for new countries or new functionality. Despite being a small company, we remain committed to providing our customers with the support they need to meet their operational and compliance requirements across all divisions. Moreover, we understand that we can learn a lot from our customers, so we take their feedback seriously and are always willing to listen.

It can be tempting to acquire other companies in our space to be able to grow faster, but we strongly believe that our customers do not want a mix of solutions from different suppliers, so we are patient and grow step by step to offer them consistent Emma solutions.

If we produce the best software and offer a great customer experience, the financial results will follow!

I am sure that some people have different views than me, but Emma Systems is the place I want to be until I retire. Having owners, colleagues and customers who believe in us as a company and our products is energising and gives us pride. We have thousands of ambassadors talking warmly about us in the market to which we will always be grateful.

The company is growing rapidly and our owners, both Vind and employees holding shares, do get a really good return on the investment and we do this through all the things I mentioned above. Could we have the same profitability and growth if we had a different ownership structure? Yes definitely. But I am not sure we would have as much fun and our customers might feel less loyal to us if we were a small piece of a big puzzle.

Learn more about Emma and our products:

You might also enjoy

Carsten’s Corner: The Complexity of International Trade in 2023

Blog Post

Preparing for a Customs Audit using Real Data

Blog Post

Introducing Digital Customs Archives and Post-Customs Clearance Software

Buyer’s Guide

Navigating Customs Compliance

On-demand Webinar

HydraForce Tackles Customs Compliance with Emma E-Doc

Customer Success Story

10 Key Actions for Importers

Customs Compliance Checklist

Browse all available resources