Award-winning business leader backs Vakanta

Awarded CEO Of The Year 2020, Liza Nyberg has had an illustrious leadership career spanning everything from banks and credit institutes to renewable energy and software development. Today she is CEO of property brokerage firm Svensk Fastighetsförmedling. And a Vakanta investor. What are her thoughts on Vakanta, the current state of business – and the future?

Leadership, people and data go hand-in-hand.

Driven by her love of people (and a healthy dose of skydiving, opera and ballet), Liza Nyberg is the kind of person who commands immediate respect – without making anyone else feel small. She’s thoughtful and direct, clearly ready to discuss anything and everything that could lead to better connections between people or make better sense of the systems and tools we use to co-operate. After a 30-minute video interview, it’s not the least surprising to find that she was awarded CEO Of The Year 2020 (and it’s equally unsurprising that Liza didn’t say anything about this herself – the writer had to conduct his own research for that nugget).

But why did Liza find Vakanta’s concept so appealing? What parallels are there between the digital world of Vakanta and everyday, hands-on leadership?

There are many answers to both questions.

A leader for total talent

It’s about adapting to a new world of work. And this isn’t in preparation for some vaguely defined future. Things have already changed fundamentally.

“The lifelong career, climbing through the ranks within one company, is pretty much extinct”, says Liza, “and, besides, some of the best professionals are simply unemployable. They’re doing great as consultants and would never give up the freedom that lifestyle brings.”

Consultants are key to a strong organisation, and they’re representing an increasingly large proportion of companies’ manpower. The external workforce today accounts for over 40% of global labour costs, and nearly 80% of executives believe that consultants and freelancers will replace many of their full-time employees over the next five years.

This requires leadership that sees everyone – both employees and consultants. A leader for total talent. And Liza could immediately see Vakanta’s potential in this regard: “the platform turns consultants from ‘resources’ into what they really are. People.”

People and culture

Liza thinks this is so important, she doesn’t even discriminate consultants from employees in building her company structure. She’s not looking for the next HR star – she’s looking for the right People & Culture person.

“Getting people on the same page, helping them understand each other as individuals as well as a collective, a company or a brand is a huge part of what it means to be a leader,” muses Liza. “And that naturally includes consultants. You can’t have someone be part of a change journey if they don’t know what their starting point is or who they’re working with.”

This is a major reason why Liza chose to back Vakanta. “My family and I invest in a number of different ventures. Granted, some investments we make with our hearts – supporting ideas that we’d like to see more of in society without necessarily expecting strong returns. But with Vakanta, it’s both head and heart. Aside from the fact that Peter [Lantz, Vakanta Procurement Specialist, -Ed.] and I are old friends and I’ve enjoyed getting to know Samir and Johan [Vakanta founders], I really like the inclusive nature of Vakanta’s concept. And, of course, I believe that this will be the future model. The gig economy is here to stay – the world simply has to adapt.”

So, establishing the right culture is one part of the equation, and Liza adds that it’s very much about getting the mix right. “I might not be the smartest person in the room”, she explains, “but I’m very good at using the competence around me – and I want to be challenged by others. With many different perspectives, you’re more likely to find the strongest angle. When we leave a meeting, every option should have been considered.”

Dynamic decision-making

The other part of the equation is data. “In creating change through strategic recruitment, I work closely with my analytical CFO”, says Liza, “and we aim to be as responsive as possible. You have to be ready to pivot. The market doesn’t conveniently change in step with financial quarters. It changes quickly, sometimes overnight – and it often brings completely new needs of specialised competence. To anticipate and meet those changes, we rely on quick access to a broad range of current data.”

Liza compares leadership skills to another favourite subject: music. “I think of myself as something of a conductor. I don’t play the violin or the trumpet or the drums, but when I know the talent in front of me, I know how to make everyone play as one. And with the right data on hand, I know what tune we’ll be playing, too.”

There’s a degree of intuition in this, but just like a top tennis player who constantly gets “lucky”, that’s something you actively develop through new knowledge and experience. Anyone who has read Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink knows how experts often can spot patterns in large sets of data at a glance.

“It’s going to be interesting to see what happens when more and more people start using Vakanta,” says Liza. “Because it’s like a lens, consolidating and sharpening all these different perspectives. The full potential is anyone’s guess. But it sure looks promising to me.”