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People are what make the difference: Stefan Nilsson

What’s most evident when speaking to the CEO of Colosseum Dental Group, Stefan Nilsson, is that he is a people person. “Our greatest strength is our people. We recruit and retain talent by allowing them to grow, providing training and rewarding their contributions.”

Motivating his team to be the best they can be is the foundation of Stefan’s leadership. “The first thing I did when I joined was to put myself on a plane and visit all our markets,” he says. “I met the management teams and I went out to the clinics and talked to the dentists and the nurses to get to know people.”

Colosseum Dental Group provides dental care and treatment across Europe. While out travelling between countries on his field visits, Stefan’s goal was to see if each team member was “blooming to their maximum potential”.

“If I thought that a person could flower better in another pot, so to speak, then I’d make moves,” he explains. “When I joined the Group, we were present in eight countries and we are growing the company by adding clinics in all of them, prior expanding to new markets.”

Stefan decided at a young age he wouldn’t work in his native Sweden; instead, he wanted to see the world. “I left decades ago to work around the world and to learn from people of other countries,” he says. “It doesn’t need to be bigger, but must be different. I want to learn, to be out there and dream.

“I like to learn with people. People make the difference. I try to understand what makes them tick, what drives them and what interests them.”

“I like to learn with people.”

Driving and developing the Group is something Stefan feels strongly about. In order to further progress the company, he and his team helped redefine its priority areas, with top management from each country, meeting and discussing what they could do to prepare for the future. “We discussed group initiatives,” Stefan says.

“We decided we could build a dental academy for professional education and hands-on training. The academy is now open, and we’re already onto the third training group, which is fantastic.”

Since Stefan joined, the company has started planning a new clinical management system that will be more functional and efficient, and will include features to improve clinicians’ work with patients.

“We are looking into the complete job profile of a clinic manager and what tools, KPIs and responsibilities we give them,” he explains. “In fact, we are working through different job profiles to perfect what we can do.”

When Stefan started his role, he says the company had good people but needed to create a stronger culture. “They had been without a CEO for a while and the feeling in the whole Group had to be built up as the markets had been operating independently,” he recalls.

“Today, the Group is focusing on sharing the same values and having clear priorities in every market. We are also working together on building best practices from the markets for the whole Group. We have come up with seven initiatives and are now working on these to get the right buy-ins.”

Trained as an engineer, Stefan became a factory manager aged just 30. While the position had always been his career goal, his fast advancement stirred up the desire to continue striving for more. “I asked myself, ‘What should I do now?’” he reflects.

“I think you choose who you want to work for. You choose your leader. If you don’t learn something and get inspired at work, change or ask for a mission. If you only work to get a pay cheque, it’s too boring – you’re not being engaged.”

Stefan says while there is still a lot to do at Colosseum Dental Group, little by little the company is getting to the level of success he knows it can achieve. “It’s ongoing; I haven’t achieved what I want to achieve yet,” he says.

“I am into caring for patients, striving for collaboration and motivating people to engage, be entrepreneurial and to take ownership,” he continues.

“We are in a caring business and I’ll always talk to our dentists and see what makes them tick. I try to motivate people to take ownership and grow as professionals. People want to have freedom; they don’t want to be told what to do.”

Stefan also believes in giving back to society. The main owner of the Group is Jacobs Holding, a global professional investment firm, of which the leading charitable organisation Jacobs Foundation is the sole economic beneficiary. The foundation is dedicated to child and youth development and aims to produce “socially responsible and productive members of society”.

“I want to do what’s right and what I believe in,” Stefan says. “That’s why I like the Jacobs Foundation. I believe being the ‘good neighbour’, as we say at Colosseum, is essential.”

He further believes success comes down to being passionate about what you do and allowing others to soar. “We are striving to be the best employer for our people and are actively working together with the Great Place to Work organisation to make this happen,” he adds.

“You need to wake up and be happy with the job,” he adds. “I’m a simple guy at the end of the day. I’m an engineer – one plus one equals two. I’m not the most creative guy, so that’s why I complement my team with people who are more creative than me.”

As his career progresses, Stefan continues to gain inspiration from the people he works with and what they achieve. “The best thing is when people come back to me after several years and remember what we did, what we accomplished together and how tough it was then but how well it works now.”

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