Heating up the market
TEXT: SIGNE HANSEN | PHOTOS © SOLAMAGIC
In less than seven years, Solamagic Scandinavia has gone from a yearly turnover of less than 400,000 DKK (46,000 GBP) to a turnover close to 100 million. Peter van A. Bjerke, the CEO behind the success, tells Scan Magazine how he turned the company into a market leader within electric, energy-efficient outdoor heating, and why he thinks the newly developed AniMA® technology – heating for horses – is the next big step.
“Basically, what we have done, and what has been incremental to our success, is that we, as the first company to do so, went into the market and took on the responsibility of structuring it and making it navigable for the customers,” explains Bjerke, who as part of the Zeetec Technology group took over Solamagic and created Solamagic Scandinavia at the beginning of 2013.
While broadening the company’s customer base from the hotel and restaurant industry to private retail, the 50-year-old business generator used his many years of experience working with long-term client relationships to build a different approach to the market, one that has turned out to be hugely successful. “Our successful start in Solamagic was definitely furthered by our industrial background – there’s a big difference, in that in industrial client relationships you work on creating long-term benefits for all partners, and that’s the approach we took with us into Solamagic,” says Bjerke.
Turning around a bad image
With a background in Roxtec, one of the fastest-growing industrial companies in Europe, Bjerke’s approach to business management and result generation has not been pulled out of the blue. Taking over a company that already produced high-quality products, his main ambition was to make sure that the qualities became better known to the customer base. “When taking over, we sat down and looked at why people’s perception of electrical heating lamps was as far from the reality as it was. Generally speaking, people thought of electrical outdoor heaters as an incredibly energy consuming product with little effect, and hence, most hotels and restaurants chose gas-solutions. It’s a mentality that we’ve all been brought up with – that heating through gas or oil is good and heating through electricity is bad.”
With the increased focus on reducing CO2 emission within cities, the advantages of Solamagic’s products, which – unlike gas heaters – emit no CO2 on site, are plainly evident. Furthermore, when the recognised German magazine Selber Machen tested outdoor heaters from six leading European producers, Solamagic’s heaters were the only ones to achieve the overall rating ‘very good’.
Since 2012, the demand for Solamagic’s electrical heaters for both private and business use has increased dramatically. About 50 per cent of sales now go to private buyers, and with most of that sales increase having taken place within Denmark, the potential for expansion is still big.
Improving the technology for humans and horses
Obviously, the improved image of Solamagic has not been all down to improved communication, but also a focused effort to expand and refine the technology behind the products. Since taking over Solamagic, Bjerke has continuously increased the company’s research and development budget by more than 100 per cent annually. This has resulted in a number of new patented technologies, including the No-glare®, Zero-glare® and AniMa®. The AniMa® technology has been developed in close collaboration with professional equestrians and has led to the new product line Solamagic HORSE, a heating solution that reduces recovery time and the risk of injuries in horses. “When I looked at the market and what was currently available, it was clear to me that there was great potential for our product. The alternative was big, immobile and very expensive solutions and didn’t provide the same quality of heat penetration as we can do with the AniMa® Technology,” stresses Bjerke, and rounds off: “And, I don’t think it necessarily stops at horses; I’m looking at heaters for dogs as well. Now we have the foundation and the unique technology to build on, and that means that rather than trying to copy someone else, we can enter the market and offer something that’s completely new. My guess is that by 2023, solutions of this type will be generating a yearly turnover of about three to five million euros for us.”
About Peter van A Bjerke:
Peter van A. Bjerke studied at and graduated from Copenhagen Business School and the University of Columbia, City of New York, USA.He started his career as a product manager in Boliden, a major Swedish mining and smelting company.In 2001, Bjerke, Trond Klementsen and Tore Wennerberg founded Zeetec Technology, a company aimed at helping grow the market for ‘products with potential’.From 2001 to 2012, Bjerke was a member of the management team of Roxtec, one of the fastest growing industrial companies in Europe.In 2011, Bjerke and Zeetec Technology bought the rights to Solamagic’s products and entered a strategic partnership with Solamagic GmbH. Bjerke is the CEO of Solamagic Scandinavia, which has divisions in Denmark, Finland, Sweden and Ireland, with new divisions in Norway and the Baltic countries under way.In Bjerke’s own words, there have been two dominant themes to his career: top-level management and results generation.