With climate change at the forefront of discussions across the globe – both in parliament and our living rooms – it’s becoming more evident every day that sustainable energy solutions are an essential part of our future.
And for Michael Høj Olsen, CEO of Denmark-based Global Wind Service (GWS), he couldn’t be prouder than to be at the helm of a company helping to create tangible change and pave the way for generations to come.
At the same time, Michael points out that rapid development of this necessary industry cannot be at the expense of safety. “With the wind industry growing as fast as it is, a lot of new people will join it and we have a responsibility to make sure that happens alongside training and education,” he tells The CEO Magazine.
“We’re about the importance of a green energy agenda and the right awareness about the safety of the people working in this industry.” And considering that people are the beating heart of the entire operation at GWS, their focus on safety is not only understandable but vital. “I know all companies say this, but we are a people business,” Michael enthuses.
“We have a lot of people in the field with tools and heavy equipment and executing the projects in a safe manner is what we are all about. In that way, it’s a dangerous industry, so we’re constantly striving for awareness and improvement in the way we work.”
GWS was co-founded in 2008 by among others, Lars Bo Petersen and Michael Nielsen, whose combined knowledge of the industry (both in the field and in the management of service installation and projects) meant their rise to the top was unbelievably swift. In 2009, Fred Olsen Windcarrier acquired 51% of the company.
We’re about the importance of a green energy agenda and the right awareness about the safety of the people working in this industry.
GWS then continued to expand over the next decade to become one of the largest companies in Europe offering onshore and offshore installation and servicing of wind turbines.
With a background in sales and marketing at Domus in Estonia and DermaPharm in Denmark, followed by four years at sustainable energy solutions company Vestas where he progressed through the ranks, Michael joined the GWS team in 2014 as Chief Commercial Officer, Sales and Marketing Director. Just four and a half years later, he was appointed CEO.
“At Vestas, I was responsible for product marketing and related marketing activities,” he says. “I was missing the commercial part, the dialogue with customers and closeness to the market, but I got that by stepping into GWS. I could see this would be an extremely exciting journey; joining an entrepreneurial company like this and beginning the next part of the life cycle, where it’s maturing in the way that it works.
“When I look at my career, it always comes down to being able to give people a common purpose. That’s when you create good results, right? As a leader, it’s not about what I do; it’s about what the team is doing.” That mentality of continuously fine-tuning all procedures is something Michael believes sets GWS apart from its competitors.
“Operational excellence for us comes down to the core of our mission as a company, which is about exceeding the customer’s expectations,” he says.
“I know it sounds like a cliche, but our company is never better than the last project where we executed relationships with key suppliers. How did the last project go? What about safety performance? Was it on budget? Were there issues? What about the quality? In that way, it’s a clear link.”
GWS has nearly tripled its revenue in the past five years, so it’s obvious that the company is only going from strength to strength – something Michael puts down to adaptability. “Our growth is connected to our agility to move into new markets,” he explains.
“Being ready to follow our customers across existing and emerging markets is essential and one of the engines behind creating a more sustainable energy agenda globally, especially in emerging markets where they rely on nuclear, coal or oil.”
An invaluable component of the company’s success lies in its strong and enduring partnerships with suppliers such as BMS Heavy Cranes and RelyOn Nutec. “We have long-term relationships with key suppliers where we follow each other into markets and support each other. We do it because we believe it can create an added value for the customer,” Michael explains.
“By being able to do that, we’ve secured projects and facilitated significant growth. With BMS Heavy Cranes, for example, we have a very close and trusted partnership. They’re a good example of where we’ve entered a new emerging market together. We went to Australia and the US at the same time. We cherish and value our partnerships and this mutual loyalty.”
Now, looking to the future, Michael explains that GWS is continuing to evolve from being a company that delivers trained individuals to solve tasks and support customers, to one that is becoming a “preferred partner globally” for complete wind turbine services.
“Being able to deliver a full set-up to execute a project successfully, including such aspects as health and safety, quality management, project management, tools, equipment, cranes and the manpower to get the job done is a direction that we are moving steadily towards,” he says.
“We have many of these competencies already in place, but over the next few years, we will undoubtedly strengthen these capabilities a great deal.”
Proudly supported by: