Lars Magnus Ericsson, 1876-1900

Lars Magnus Ericsson
Born: May 5, 1846
Died: December 17, 1926
Company leader from 1876 to 1900
President from 1896 to 1900

Lars Magnus Ericsson disliked using lawyers in business deals. He believed that his word was sufficient. In this respect, he was a typical businessman of his time.

Neither did he accept shoddy workmanship. He was thorough, deliberate and cautious by nature and disliked speculative business deals. Some people regarded Lars Magnus Ericsson as extremely pessimistic.

With respect to employee policies, however, he was more like a modern manager - unreserved and what we would describe as open-minded today. He had a talent for recognizing gifted employees, and despite his cautious nature, he was quick to place his trust in young and relatively unproven talents. Young Hjalmar Kronvall, for example, became the manager of the plant in St Petersburg when Ericsson began manufacturing equipment in the Russian city. Axel Boström, who joined Ericsson when he was 20, was also recognized at an early stage and advanced rapidly. At the age of 36, he succeeded Lars Magnus Ericsson as the company's president.

The fact that Lars Magnus Ericsson received his own training through a company undoubtedly played an important role in his personnel policies. Through internal training programs, employees were able to gain practical experience as they worked.

His fondness for practical occupational training was also in part a reflection of his skepticism towards higher education and what he called "paper engineers." The first engineering graduates were not hired by Ericsson until 20 years after the founding of the company in 1876. When Lars Magnus Ericsson retired as president, the company had very few trained engineers and an administrative department that was small in relation to the company's size and its technical products. It is said that Lars Magnus Ericsson's most serious reservations with regard to H T Cedergren's plans to invest in telephony were that Cedergren lacked "practical technical experience" in the field.

Lars Magnus Ericsson's expertise in manufacturing and design instilled confidence among employees. A kind of patriarchal relationship prevailed, not just on the shop floor, but also with other employees. A health plan was established as early as 1889, and from 1891, Ericsson offered all members of the plan and their families free medical care. Salaries were also relatively high and working hours reasonably short.

Lars Magnus Ericsson's working hours, however, were long. His day started at 7:00 a.m., and he spent most of his time on the shop floor, monitoring and supervising the work that was in progress, sometimes involving himself in the smallest details. Other times, he worked in the office, discussing various contracts with office personnel. When the normal working day was finished, he turned to the drawing board, where he worked on new designs, often remaining at work until two in the morning. Lars Magnus Ericsson lived for his work.

Lars Magnus Ericsson needed to feel that he was in control of all aspects of the business. He wanted to supervise work in the factory himself, manage the growing volume of business and work as a designer. His ability to do so decreased as the company became a major industry. He left his post as president of Ericsson in 1900 at the age of 54 when he was no longer able to supervise every detail and work at the lathe if he felt like it. In 1903, he resigned from the board of directors, and two years later, he sold his remaining shares in Ericsson.

Thereafter, Lars Magnus Ericsson devoted himself to his farm in Alby where he focused his efforts on rationalizing and modernizing operations.

Author: Katarina Reinius

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