6 Takeaways From the CEO Behind the Biggest Event Company in the Nordics

How to turn a crisis to an opportunity and build a highly motivated team.

Sofi Franzén

CEO & Founder of Eventyr

Sofi Franzén

CEO & Founder of Eventyr
We’re back with another episode of Meet the CEO, with Daniel sitting down with Sofi Franzén, CEO and Founder of EVENTYR NINE YARDS a part of LIWLIG.

Here’s a quick breakdown of Sofi’s successes to date:
- Founded Eventyr at just 23
- Led Eventyr to become one of the leading event companies in the Nordics
- CEO of the Year Award Winner

Such was the rapid rise of Eventyr that the company grew by 160% in 2022 alone, reaching a revenue of €23m.

In this episode, Sofi and Daniel will discuss this growth, her learnings from the COVID-19 pandemic, and how to turn a crisis into an opportunity, among other things.

Takeaway 1: Being willing to change or pivot when necessary is crucial for success

Despite growing to become one of the leading event companies in the Nordics, that isn’t how Sofi and her business partner originally saw their venture into entrepreneurship developing.

“We were working in ski resorts at the time, and the idea was to help companies hold meetings in the ski environment,” she explains.

In fact, the company wasn’t even called Eventyr, when it first launched, instead going by the name ‘Ski and Conference Guides.’

But, as it turns out, that wasn’t as lucrative a niche as Sofi had first thought it might be.

“It turned out to be quite hard to find the clients,” admits Sofi. “So we took the big yellow phone book and started to call companies to tell them they could help set up a ski trip.”

And the result?

“Everybody said no thank you,” laughs Sofi.

But that didn’t stop them from persevering before meeting someone who gave them a job that helped them change their business into the successful brand it is today.

The name was then changed a few years down the line to Eventyr, helping create the term ‘event’ in the Nordic languages, as it didn’t actually exist prior to this.

Takeaway 2: The best companies adapt quickly to change and become proactive rather than reactive

As Daniel alludes to, being in the event industry when COVID-19 hit must have been very tough for brands like Eventyr, but Sofi and the team were able to adapt quickly, thanks to forward thinking and prior experiences.

“I think that we had learned from a crisis that had come before,” she explains. “The first large crisis we had in the company was around the year 2000 to 2001 when the IT industry almost died. By then, almost 90% of our clients were in the IT industry.

Sofi and the team quickly realised that they didn’t have anything set up in their order book and had to adapt quickly to ensure they could rectify the issue as quickly as possible, changing job roles and business objectives overnight.

She believes it was this prior experience that helped prepare her and the team for everything COVID-19 had to throw at them.

While other competitors closed their doors, Sofi and the team partnered with other businesses within the industry, offering a digital version of their event service.

They also looked forward to events that were likely to get cancelled, getting out ahead of potential issues in the future as well.

Photo: CHECK!

Takeaway 3: Building a strong team culture is vital for long-term success

From their conversation, it is clear that Sofi and her team have built a strong team culture, which is a huge factor in why the company has seen so much success over the last twenty years.

When the pandemic struck, and government aid was brought in to help companies stay afloat, Sofi’s team actually chose to take a further cut because they believed in the long-term success of the business.

“I had to tell my team that we could not go down to 0% working as some of our competitors did,” she explains, “I said that we need to work at around 60% because we still need to talk to new and existing clients. The day after, one of my team members called me, explaining they could do everything I asked in just 40%.”

This allowed Eventyr to not only survive but come out the other side stronger without getting rid of any staff members.

Takeaway 4: For some companies, a team bonus structure can be more beneficial

When it comes to company bonuses, Eventyr does things a little differently. While other companies skew their bonuses heavily toward their sales team, Sofi explains that Eventyr splits bonuses evenly across the entire company.

“We have bonuses for the full company,” she explains. “So no matter what role you have, you are part of that split. I’ve done a sales-focused split at other smaller companies, but that was where work was more individual, and the bonuses reflected that. But with Eventyr we work in teams, and the bonus structure reflects that.”

Photo: Peter Knutsson

Takeaway 5: Merging with other market leaders is a great option for expansion

Eventyr has continued to grow ever since its inception in 1995, to the point where they recently merged to grow even further across the Nordics.

“In 2016, we decided that we wanted to be the leading events agency in Sweden,” Sofi states. “That meant being a great place to work for employees, getting high scores from our clients and so on. When we closed in 2019, we were at the top for great places to work, we had really high evaluations from our clients, and so in our eyes, we had hit that target.”

But when they achieved that goal, Sofi was unsure where the company could go next.

However, then Sofi got a call that would take the business to the next level.

“This guy from a Finnish event agency called me and told me he wanted to have a meeting,” she explains. “And he told me that he wanted to do a Nordic journey and asked to join forces.”

Since then, Eventyr has built offices across Denmark, Norway, Finland, and, of course, Sweden.

However, merging with other companies isn’t always so smooth and can often lead to company culture clashes. However, Eventyr was able to avoid such issues.

“It wasn’t super easy”, Sofi admits. “But when we looked at which company to join forces with, the culture was one of the most important things that we looked at. We are proud of the culture we have developed, and the Finnish team was the one that matched ours the most.”

Takeaway 6: Fostering a culture of open and honest feedback is vital for success

Sofi explains that honesty, openness, and curiosity are key to success as a CEO. “If I had one piece of advice, it would be to always try to be yourself,” she explains. “It was never my plan to be a leader, so I have had to really train and learn via feedback, and I’ve tried to build a culture where my team are confident they can provide honest feedback to me, which I think I have done.”

You can learn more about Sofi and Eventyr’s rise and a little bit more about the woman behind the brand by tuning in to the full episode.

Listen to Sofi’s episode of Meet the CEOs to hear all their insights.


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