Zebra Technologies CEO Anders Gustafsson has held the chief executive position before joining Zebra in 2007. As an expert in the role, Ladders wanted to hear Gustafsson’s thoughts on the most enjoyable part of being a CEO, the future of work, and setting the vision for the company.
What’s the biggest career risk you’ve ever taken that paid off?
“The biggest risk I’ve taken that proved to be a great decision was taking on the acquisition of the Enterprise business of Motorola Solutions in 2014. It was a financial, operational and strategic risk, but one I felt necessary to take Zebra to a new level of growth and cement our position as not just a product company, but a true solutions provider. It was a daunting task to take on, integrating two large companies not only operationally, but culturally, and more than five years later, I look back and can say with great pride that we successfully created ‘One Zebra,’ experiencing significant growth ever since.”
For you, what’s the most enjoyable part of being CEO?
“I love being able to connect with a diverse group of people, working with them to build and innovate new things. I’ve had the privilege of working with some of the best employees, customers, partners from all over the globe, all of whom teach me something new with every interaction, project and challenge. Just recently, I had a day where it started with me collaborating with a potential customer at their operations site, then ended back at Zebra headquarters with 18 Zebra employees in an intimate round table discussion about our culture. The breadth and depth of what I do is so immense, but the consistent part of what I love about it is the interactions I’m able to have.”
— Zebra Technologies (@ZebraTechnology) November 20, 2019
What are you most excited for at Zebra right now?
“Our potential for growth and the realization of our Enterprise Asset Intelligence vision. We’ve placed some big bets in areas like prescriptive analytics, intelligent automation and computer vision and we see those starting to pay off as our customers continue to operate in more automated, data-powered environments. Zebra has positioned itself well to build on its legacy business that is rooted in industry leading products, while also strategically investing in future trends that enable us to uniquely take the lead in areas that some of our competition hasn’t even started to address. The combination creates a very exciting moment in Zebra’s history and one that will set us up for future success.”
When you came to Zebra in 2007, was there a set vision for the company? How have you changed or continued to enforce that vision throughout your tenure at the company?
“The vision of Zebra has always been rooted in innovation, which is something that we carry on today. However, the vision of innovation was focused on being a printer company – very hardware focused, very narrow. Our vision today builds on our legacy commitment to innovation, but takes a significant pivot, by focusing on full, end-to-end solutions that make every asset and worker on the edge visible, connected and optimally utilized. No doubt our industry-leading products are the heart of our company, but throughout the years, we’ve shifted to really think about innovation holistically, challenging ourselves to think about the problem we’re trying to solve first and architecting a full solution around it. “
How do you think the future of work will play into Zebra’s operations?
“We’re already seeing future work trends impact how we do business internally. From a corporate perspective, we are more mobile and flexible than ever before. We have many remote and global employees who rely on technology to stay connected without having to be in same room. We are also redesigning many of our office spaces to be more collaborative and open to drive more productivity and accommodate the evolving work preferences of the new generations. We are also committed to inclusion and diversity as we build the talent necessary to achieve our vision. The more inclusive our culture becomes, the more innovation we can drive which will lead to even greater diversity.”
— Zebra Technologies (@ZebraTechnology) October 14, 2019
What kind of traits do you look for in employees?
“Zebra would not be the company it is today without its people. Our people are what have enabled Zebra to uniquely withstand the test of time in the technology space. We just celebrated our 50th anniversary and that’s no small feat in in our industry. There is so much talent who have the technical skills to do their job, so what makes a Zebra special? It’s our mutual curiosity, passion and positive attitude. To be successful here, you must innately bring those three things to the table.”
How would you describe the company culture at Zebra?
“The Zebra culture is such an incredible one and something we’ve proudly been able to create and develop over the years despite rapid growth. Zebra is a dynamic community of builders, doers and problem solvers who are empowered to bring their authentic self to work each day. We give our people the opportunity to define their own paths, while also promoting a competitive environment that thrives through collaboration. We expect great things from our people, but we will give you the tools and partnership you need to be successful.
Above all else, Zebra takes great pride in rolling up our collective sleeves to get things done and exceed our customers’ expectations. I tell people if you like to be innovative, take risks and have fun with incredible colleagues along the way, Zebra is the place for you.”
What advice would you give to someone interviewing at Zebra?
“Be yourself. Zebra is successful because the diversity of thought, approaches and cultures our people bring. We want to see that come out when getting to know candidates. And do your research. We’re just not ‘a printer company’ anymore and haven’t been for some time. Go to Zebra.com, visit our social profiles on LinkedIn and Facebook, get to know the solution evolution we have driven and be prepared to have a point of view on it.”