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Culture beats strategy


HauCon is a leading supplier of special products and technical solutions for the contracting and prefab industries in the Scandinavian countries. The company has operations in Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden and offers a wide range of products for diverse construction applications: plastic spacers, concrete spacers, steel products such as wire, tools, edge shuttering, reinforcing clutches, clamp rods, clamping devices, supports and insulation, waterproofing and moisture barrier solutions, chemical products, including mortar, oils, sprays, fillers and polyurethane foam, as well as miscellaneous other products such as mats, cables, thermometers, foils and containers.

“Altogether, we have more than 1,100 special products and technical solutions in our portfolio,” says Jan Haugaard, HauCon’s co-founder and managing director. HauCon has particular expertise in reinforcement accessories, formwork, shuttering, joint and bridge solutions, concrete castings, waterproofing and fall safety and protection.

The company was established in 1988, by Per Haugaard together with his son Jan. The initial focus of the company was on plastic spacers and similar products. Since then, the product range has expanded considerably.

“My father retired three years ago,” explains Mr. Haugaard who is now the main shareholder in the Group and a minority shareholder in the individual national companies. Jan Haugaard manages HauCon together with John-Otto Lippert who owns the majority of shares in the Norwegian firm and who has the position of a strategic director.

In 1994, HauCon ventured abroad for the first time and set up business in Norway. In 2002, Sweden followed, and the following year the company established another branch operation in Ålesund, Norway. In 2006, HauCon opened its most northerly branch office in Trondheim, Norway.

In 2011, the company started HauCon Finland. Today, the Group is in a position to serve the entire Nordic region. A major milestone in the development of HauCon is the company’s involvement in the construction of the Great Belt Bridge in 1989, one of the biggest construction projects in Northern Europe at that time.

Only one year after the company’s foundation, HauCon was asked to supply millions of custom-made concrete spacers for the new fixed link between the Danish islands of Zealand and Funen.

“In order to deliver the huge amounts of spacers, we had our own production in Denmark,” explains Mr Haugaard. “This was the only possible solution, as construction required great flexibility, short delivery times and high quality.”

The next big milestone was the expansion into the Norwegian market which differs significantly from the Danish. “I can be anywhere in Denmark in three hours,” states Mr. Haugaard. “That is not the case in Norway which is much larger and geographically totally different. We had to accept that Norwegians are very locally patriotic people. Sales reps from Oslo did not sell anything up north. This is why we set up our own office in Trondheim staffed with local people.”

Looking at the history of HauCon over the last 25 years, one could think the company had a plan for growth, a strategy for expansion. But this was not the case.

“We just did what felt right and what the market asked from us,” says Mr. Haugaard. “We are where we are now because we want to serve the industry. We are very humble about growth, it is completely organic, and has a lot to do with our corporate culture.”

In fact, HauCon’s favourite development is a prime example for “culture beats strategy”. “Our culture is based on three fundamental values: credibility, competence and flexibility,” explains Mr. Haugaard. “We run the company in close dialogue with our customers and suppliers and have longstanding relations with both. Loyalty is very important. We are focused on providing a high level of service to become construction industry’s preferred partner and develop into Scandinavia’s leading provider of special products and technical solutions in our field. This includes being proactive, being first to market with the latest products.”

HauCon employs a total of 84 people in Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden and generates annual revenues of 53.4 million EUR. The company distributes its product and technical solutions to two main markets: residential and industrial construction on the one hand and bridge and tunnel construction on the other.

HauCon works closely together with its suppliers. “We have grown with our suppliers and treat them as well as our customers,” says Mr. Haugaard. “It’s all based on loyal partnerships. If we need help we get it from them. The same is true the other way round.”

HauCon has plans to expand more into engineering and consulting services. “We want to have close contact with the contractor, just as the client with his engineer and our suppliers with us,” Mr. Haugaard describes his dream scenario.“All aiming for the optimum solution together. This is how the best projects are realized, through value added by all players in the supply chain. We do not keep away our suppliers from the client. We rather bring in specialists from our suppliers and go deeply into technical solutions. The goal is to bring everyone in along the entire value chain.” HauCon is also co-developing a number of new projects with suppliers.

“We have to change things and be proactive,” states Mr. Haugaard. “And not wait for things to change.” Its unique culture made HauCon develop into one of the leading suppliers to the contracting industry in Scandinavia. Yet growth is not the company’s primary goal, it just happened.

“We want to be the best, not the biggest,” explains Mr. Haugaard. “But our commitment to being the best led us to become this big.” The sustained success of HauCon is also a result of the company’s focus on hiring the best people – people with the right skills and – above all – the right attitude.

In 2014, HauCon will have the opportunity to practise this tried-and-tested staffing philosophy again. “This year, we shall open two new offices in Norway, in Bergen and Stavanger, to provide complete coverage of our largest market,” concludes Mr. Haugaard.

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