Gekås Ullared is a well-known success story – but one of the leading characters is concealed behind the scenes far from the media spotlight. Ulf Öjerklint, a lawyer at Wesslau Söderqvist in Borås, acts behind the scenes. As Chairman of the Board, he has been part of Gekås’s unique journey from a small-scale shop to Sweden’s biggest visitor attraction.

Ulf has worked at Wesslau Söderqvist since 1984, assisting large and small companies in all manner of legal matters. He is a member of several boards of directors, although he resists the epithet of ‘professional board member”. “I think it’s unprofessional to be on lots of boards. If you work full time, you might have time to be on ten boards – no more than that.” Ulf is chairman of five boards of directors, one of them Gekås. He has chaired Gekås’s meetings in Ullared since 1991, when the company’s founder Göran Karlsson decided to leave his creation in the hands of six employees. Ulf was entrusted with managing both the bank’s and the buyers’ interests in conjunction with this major transaction. Gekås is now owned by Thomas Karlsson and Torbjörn Bäck, two of the six original buyers. And Ulf is still chairing the company’s meetings. “I think it’s fairly unique to have such a long-standing relationship. But we enjoy working together and business is thriving. It’s been an exciting and successful journey where we’ve avoided major mistakes,” he says. To call the journey successful is definitely an understatement.

When Ulf joined Gekås in 1991, the company had sales of SEK 300 million. Today Gekås has sales of around SEK 5 billion, profits of SEK 0.5 billion, about 5 million clients and nearly 2,000 employees. Liseberg, the Vasa Museum and all the other tourist attractions have been outdone by this low-cost superstore in inland Halland. “We’ve become much more than just a store,” Ulf explains. “We are deliberately building up Gekås as a destination. A few days ago we had 3,500 guests staying overnight at the facility, and there are bus and air connections from all over Sweden as well as Norway and Denmark.

As an experienced board chairman, Ulf is deeply involved in Gekås’s business and its development. Five board meetings are held per year, and Ulf is regularly in contact with the CEO and owners. So far he hasn’t appeared in any of the several TV series about life at Gekås (and he suspects that’s just as well). “Gekås has been featured on TV for eight years, and this has strongly boosted our business. You can’t buy that sort of publicity for money. But it’s important that the programmes convey the right image of Gekås,” he says. “Do you see any possible obstacles to the company’s continued success?” “Not really. I suppose the biggest threat would be losing our corporate culture, that spirit that makes people enjoy being at Gekås,” says Ulf, who has been nominated for the Golden Gavel Award (Guldklubban) for his efforts as board chairman of various companies. The award ceremony will be held on 3 December, and the award highlights the importance of active board membership to a company’s success.

Ulf Öjerklint’s top advice for successful board membership
– It is absolutely crucial that the company’s owners really want to work with a board and understand the benefits this can offer. The owners must take the board seriously and not just see it as a figurehead.
– As a board member you have to know the matters on the agenda, what needs to be done and when it must be completed. The best thing about it is working in clearly defined projects from start to target. If you see the project isn’t working out, you need to change it.
– Pay attention to gender balance. Most businesses have both men and women as clients and employees. Take care to maintain a good gender balance among employees. This benefits both the company and clients.