Eyjólfur Árni Rafnsson

CEO of Mannvit

We need to learn from the past to secure our future

One can certainly say that Mannvit had its ups and downs in 2013.

At the same time as we were celebrating our 50th anniversary, the effects of the international financial crisis on our operation were still materializing even though long-term contracts have done a great deal to keep the company strong during the most difficult years. It did not, however, occur to anyone that domestic investments as a proportion of GDP would in 2013, 5 years after the downturn, be at an historic low since WWII. This is in fact quite an incredible truth which must, nevertheless, mean that the current situation develops toward more positive trends in the near future.

 

Despite difficulties in the domestic market, an ailing economy and a trying reduction in staff numbers in 2013, there were also positive indications for Mannvit’s future. The foundations were laid for exciting future projects by means of business and project development during the year and we look forward to see how they evolve. Mannvit’s advance  in new markets is envisaged as a long haul effort. We have been selecting opportunities and paying particular attention to the fields with which we are most familiar. Offering the company’s services overseas is not a quick fix solution for anything and we need to prepare for new projects carefully.

“The foundations were laid for exciting future projects by means of business and project development during the year and we look forward to see how they evolve.”

Thus it is vital that we properly familiarise ourselves with the local business culture, given the fact that one need not go far from home to find new customs and practices.

Mannvit has decades of experience with overseas projects, particularly when it comes to geothermal energy utilisation. In recent years, this part of the operation has become more diverse and has achieved greater stability. By focusing on particular fields of speciality, geographical areas and establishing local operations, we plan to provide stronger foundations for the entire operation and reduce the effects of the fluctuations that characterise the domestic market. We can build up trust and recognition among our partners and customers by means of quality work practices and a good reputation. Engineering firms in Iceland can only grow to a certain extent in the Icelandic market and it is important go elsewhere for further growth or to increase the stability of the operation. A strong home market, however, is always the basis for such development.

More active in project development

The past few years in Mannvit’s operation have offered worthy challenges. Mannvit has responded by being a much more active participant in the development of various investment projects. The company, therefore, is no longer limited to service operations and technical assistance, but is also involved in finding and developing interesting project options in co-operation with investors, contractors and local authorities.

 

One such project that will have quite a high profile in the social environment and city landscape of Reykjavík is the development of the construction site next to the Harpa Concert and Conference Centre. This is an exciting development project in co-operation with overseas entities and includes a hotel building, residential apartments and shopping areas. This eagerly awaited project will have a significant impact on our experience of the city and it is vital that it is a success.

Opportunities for positive projects in Iceland are considerable. The nation’s resources will continue to be used for good works despite disagreements as to what means to use in this respect. One field of energy use that we at Mannvit are certain can develop in a positive direction over the next few years is further energy development for use in food production, e.g. growing vegetables, further processing of seafood and increased use of aquaculture. I am certain that we will be seeing such developments over the next few years and Mannvit has already been involved in preparations for such projects.

 

When Mannvit takes the initiative in project development, the company tends to prefer to be in the driver’s seat rather than act as a passenger, although we will continue to tender for projects and sell our services and provide technical consultancy services. It is important that we mix all these elements well together and keep our eyes open for projects where Mannvit can have greater and more direct control of the development of projects. I am certain that Mannvit will continue to stay on this path in the future.

We must look before we leap

Icelanders’ tendency to say  things will be all right on the day, has both positive and negative consequences. Sometimes this can act as a strength in that projects that appear to be failing are simply put on full steam ahead and completed. Conversely, such attitudes can also lead to the avoidance of long-term thinking. There is often a lack of long-term policy formulation, both in Icelandic politics and in the operation of companies. The Icelandic reality more often than not is about continually reacting to new crises. We must always remember to look ahead, at least to the next five or ten years. It is very, very easy to lose sight of the speed with which time passes.

 

Mannvit’s history shows that it is vital to ensure a secure and steady growth at all times. This we could see when we took a look at the company’s development over time. From 1963 to 2007, developments in human resources revealed a growth of approximately 9% on average, something that certainly went hand in hand with the large-scale developments in Icelandic society. For the future, we imagine that the corresponding growth of the company could be between 3 to 6% on average over a longer period.

It would be preferable to achieve such a growth by reducing fluctuations between years. If we get stuck into looking only at shorter periods with poor performance, however, it can be hard to remember the good years. Thus Mannvit has, over the past five years, also had very good years in operations and results.

 

Over the past few years, there has been somewhat of a generation change among Mannvit’s employees. Those who have been leading Mannvit’s journey have been handing the baton on to the younger generation. On such occasion, thankfulness for the selfless work that employees undertake is uppermost in our minds. Mannvit has focused on ensuring that knowledge and experience is efficiently transferred between the company’s employees. A broad age distribution among staff is also important as the company needs to be able to meet the challenges of the modern day. Mannvit has reached a respectable age and at its fifty-first year of operation we look happily and optimistically toward the future with a dynamic team of employees.