Mats Hilding

Mats Hilding outgoing CEO -
Leading with a light hand

I still remember the first day I stepped in as the new CEO at Axelent. In fact, apart from a brief evening visit, it was also the first time I went to the company’s premises. I was immediately struck by what an incredibly nice company Axelent was and how well everything was thought through. I remember thinking to myself ‘I can destroy more here than I can be of service’.

I had come here directly from a company that had experienced major problems, where I had to push through major changes. At Axelent, I understood that the challenge was much different. Here, I would have to proceed carefully so as not to tear anything down. It can be easy when you come in as a fresh face to think that you are going to change the world, and that was also the reality I came from.

At Axelent, it had a lot more to do with gaining everyone’s trust and continuing to build on the ambition and faith in the future that had already been established.


"When I was young, I hardly dared to dream that I would someday be able to be part of a company and help build it. But that dream has always been there, and for me, my time at Axelent has meant that my dream became a reality."

I came into Axelent because of a restructuring. Folke Axelsson, Stefan Axelsson’s dad, and I had crossed paths now and then over the years. In the autumn of 2000, he came to visit me at the job I had at the time and we talked about a little bit of everything. What he was really after was a little hard to understand, but then during the Christmas holiday season, he called me and asked if I wanted to be part of Axelent. I had tremendous respect for Folke and agreed to join the company along with Stefan and Johan Axelsson in the future. I stepped in as CEO on 1 March 2001.

I had stepped into the company during a critical phase, but thanks to the employees’ positive attitude – everyone worked in the same direction and bent over backwards to make sure everything worked – with the result that things worked out even better than I ever could have hoped. Our employees have always had a certain faith in the future and a love for the company, ‘the Axelent spirit’ as we call it. I usually describe it like a tree: if the core is healthy, a new growth ring is formed every year. We are constantly building on the healthy core and adding growth rings, one by one. It is in this manner that the tree has grown.

With the coronavirus and the consequences it brings, we are facing a moment of crisis like we have never experienced before. But at the same time, we have never been stronger than we are now. Ever since we started, we have been increasing the value of the brand each and every day, and with each day, our employees develop in their roles and improve their skills.

When I first arrived at Axelent, Folke came to see me almost every day and we would talk about this and that. On one of his visits he found me a little worried. Folke asked how things were going and I told him. He replied: “Yes, but it’s good that you have to think a little. It can’t be too easy because then it wouldn’t be fun”. That immediately put me in a better mood. Of course, I get butterflies in my stomach now when I think of the future. Both Axelent and the world around us are, as I said, in a major crisis, and the work ahead will not be so easy. But Folke’s words of wisdom are still with me, and I am sure Axelent will manage to get through this as well.

Thanks to Folke, I understood that Axelent is not just a company. At Axelent, employees must be able to develop, the company must be strongly rooted in its home soil and we need to let the tree continue to grow. As I leave the CEO post, my philosophy is still the same. The changes shouldn’t be too big, everyone should feel secure in the fact that we want to continue down the same road. The company needs to be able to develop based on the conditions that were set out at its inception. Even when Axelent started 30 years ago, the intention was that the company would always remain in Hillerstorp, that there would be a connection with the family and there would be a tradition that would continue to grow. Now, my daughter is taking over, with all the skills and prerequisites necessary to perform the job. That feels very right. Through her leadership and the same close collaboration with Stefan and Johan, Axelent will be able to add even more growth rings around its healthy core for the foreseeable future.

"I am entering a new phase in life now, which will have its charm. I will, however, still have a presence at the company in some shape or form, including on the board, as long as I feel I can contribute in any way."

If I leave a legacy behind me in this company, I hope it is the insight and knowledge that we are much more than a company that sells as many mesh panels as possible.  Folke had a strong Christian faith, a belief that I also share, and there has always been a strong value at Axelent for treating one’s neighbor as yourself. We should strive to be a part of the community, and the faith that permeates our values, we should also let that shine through in our actions. It should reflect what we are and where we want to be. And we should always acknowledge individuals and let them grow according to one of our mottos: ‘Grow with us’.

When I was young, I hardly dared to dream that I would someday be able to be part of a company and help build it. But that dream has always been there, and for me, my time at Axelent has meant that my dream became a reality.

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