Global business: The IPO dash

By Lauren Paul, CIO |  Business

By 1999, Friis-Molin's leadership had carried the company successfully through its first growth spurt. But he was smart enough to realize his venture -- like many others before it -- was in danger of imploding from too much growth too fast. So he called in a team of seasoned managers, including Toon Bouten as CEO and Tom Nyman as COO, to help take the company to the next level. Bouten, 42, spent six years as vice president of the European consumer division for Compaq; prior to that, he had been with Philips Electronics for 10 years. Bouten feels that the young entrepreneurs who start these ventures often don't know how to pace their company's growth, and they expand too fast. "At a certain point, things can go out of control," says Bouten, mindful of the highly publicized fate of his Swedish countrymen who founded the B2C fashion venture Boo.com.

During late 1999 and 2000, Jobline has added eight countries of operation (Austria, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland and the United Kingdom) to the original roster of four, for a total of 12. The trick to ramping up so quickly, says Bouten, was to find the right property at the right price and then follow detailed processes for increasing operations. Of course, it's not always possible to find good space at a decent price. Bouten had to settle for a tiny office on the outskirts of London; he calls rents there of $500 per square meter "outrageously expensive." The trade journal Realty Times puts London at the top of the global rent heap at $126.85 per square foot, with Tokyo a distant second at $95.63.

Jobline contends with the cultural challenges of operating in so many different countries by trying to instill a sense of corporate -- rather than country -- culture. For instance, the company has an international sales conference once a year, and managers in all countries "meet" in weekly phone conferences. Still, misunderstandings sometimes crop up. "Swedish people are more introverted," says Bouten. "In group discussions it can sometimes appear they are not interested in a subject. But that's not true. You have to approach them actively to get their opinion, whereas Italians, for example, are always answering."

Last September, Jobline went public, raising 83.3 million euros (roughly US$73.1 million) in its IPO on the OM Stockholm Exchange. Jobline has 477 employees and so far this year has hit revenues of 15.6 million euros (about US$13.3 million). But the company is not yet profitable, aalthough Bouten expects to achieve that crucial milestone in the near future.

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