The importance of a strong board of directors

When Soil Steam International AS was established in 2016 all the founders were members of the board. The board was both a technical team and a board. The board made decisions in both strategic questions as well as technical questions. As the company got external investors it was naturally some expectations towards a more professional board. This means that the company had to make a search for more professional people. Growing from a promising startup to a company that produces services and technology that people want to buy, is a very demanding process and needs experienced and strong involvement from people who have done this before. Even though it is only one person that was a board member when the company was established which still is a board member, this is an important step in the transition period that the company is in.

Therefore, it is a great pleasure to give some more information about the board.

Einar Abrahamsen is the chairman. Even though he is retired as a lawyer now, he is a highly active chairman of the board.  Normally he starts the day around 0530-0600, and our CEO normally has received the first round of emails before 0630. He is a large owner and has been a board member of the successful Norwegian paint company Jotun for many years and has been an active investor for a long time. All this experience is of great value when mapping the road for Soil Steam International. Einar has promised to sit as the chairman until the end of 2021, but we hope we will manage to encourage him to be an important part of SSI for many more years. Einar has been involved in the company since January 2019 and became chairman at the end of 2019. Einar and his family have become a considerable owner of the company also.

Hans Kristian Westrum has together with Einar Abrahamsen (chairman) been focused on establishing a strong team with expertise in business development, agriculture, finance, engineering, and international business.

Our CEO, Hans Kristian told Einar that he had heard many good things about a gentleman called Ben Guren, and asked if Einar thought it would be a good idea to ask him to join us. Einar thought that was an excellent idea. He knew Ben from the time when Ben was CFO in Jotun! Ben has been working as an auditor in KPMG for 18 years and been part of their management team. After that, he has been working as CFO in the Norwegian Apparel company Helly Hansen and Jotun. When he was CFO in Jotun, he was working closely with Einar. Ben has also been working as CFO in the Danish company FL Smidht which is listed on the stock exchange in Copenhagen. Today Ben is the CEO of Permian Gruppen where he is one of the original founders. Ben is a board member of a few other companies as well and it is his engagement in sustainability which made it easy for Ben to join our board. We are incredibly happy that 😊 Ben has invested in our company.

At the same time, as we engaged Ben, we also knew that we needed to strengthen our financial control and routines. As Soil Steam still is a small company, we have a small administration. Our intention when we involved Bård Kjetil Erdvik was that the board and the administration would get much better control on the finance and accounting. Bård Kjetil has a master degree in Finance from NHH and has been working within finance in large Norwegian companies such as  Nordea and Orkla Finans. Today he is CEO of Sandvik Kaldnes. Bård Kjetil has been a close friend to our CEO, Hans Kristian for more than 30 years and also knew Hans Kristian’s father, Kjell, who started the whole project with soil steaming, 25 years ago. Since then he has been following the project from the side, and now he is one of us! Bård has also invested in the company.

We mentioned earlier that there is only one person from the old founders which still is in our board. This is Arvid Laksesvela who is one of the 3 farmers who started everything back in the 1990 ties. He has been working as a farmer for 30 years and at the same time being a highly active person in the agriculture production in Norway. He had many different roles within the industry and knows everyone within the vegetable, berry, and fruit production in Norway. His great practical insight is of great value to the board.

Marianne Strøm is our first female board member! For a long time, we have been addressing this problem and we wanted to create a better gender balance.  Marianne was the perfect match for us. She has a master’s degree in agriculture and has for many years been working as an Advisor in Norsk landbruksrådgiving. Her network and knowledge combined with her curiosity and challenging approach make her an exciting contribution to our board. Marianne has already invested in SSI.

In a board that has great knowledge about finance, business development, law, and the agricultural industry there was one thing missing. We did not have the quality we wanted within engineering and great experience in how to take a product from the planning stage to the final product ready for serial production. More than once the board of SSI has made decisions without enough competence regarding the timeline and complexity in product development. We wanted to find the best person to fill our gap here. When seeking a person with this engineering competence who also has skills and expertise to strengthen our global industrial process, there were not many people we could find.. Well, we found one. His company is most famous for designing and making fast cars and boats (such as Koenigsegg and Hydrolift), but that is only a small part of the line of products that Bård Eker and his team have been part of. They have taken many Norwegian products from idea level to mass production. And maybe the coolest part of this is that when Bård was asked about this he told us that he was planning on contacting us when he first time read about us! He has developed so many different products and designs, but never been part of the development of something which is this important! It is a great pleasure to welcome Bård Eker to our Soilsteam family. We know that you are a busy man and have many projects, so we must warn you. Working in SSi is not normal work. Working in Soil steam International AS is a lifestyle 😊

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