I have flair for the good idea! I can smell when the idea is the right one. And I can make it sustainable.
Managing Director for PJ Diesel Engineering A/S, Copenhagen
30 years ago, Anne-Mette Elsborg was a stewardess on a ship with her daily life close to the chief engineer. “I liked the smell of diesel oil and the thing about starting the engines and head to the sea”, she remembers. She had taught herself a great deal about ship engines, and became a procurement manager in a shipping company with 32 cargo ships.
At that point, there were not many people who thought of what was dropped as garbage into the sea from ships. It was in the middle of the oil crisis that Anne-Mette had an idea. Was it possible to both renovate components to the engines and to improve fuel utilisation and thereby recycle components, instead of dumping them? If so, it would be possible to both save money on fuel and avoid waste at the bottom of the sea. She was after all not a specialist, but she sensed that there was a business in that.
“It’s after all a small part of an industry, I’d just got divorced and was alone with a twenty-month old baby, so everyone knew the blonde girl Anne-Mette with long hair and golden buttons on the navy blue suit that could tell you all about fuel equipment, turbochargers, turbines and fuel injection nozzles. So I had the network, and then it was about finding a business partner, and preferably a technician”.
In 1978 she found the partner, and they invested DKK 15.000 (€ 2.000) each and established a private limited company together. In the beginning Anne-Mette kept her day job, while her partner and the first two employees, a ship service engineer and a toolmaker, serviced the customers. In the first years, Anne-Mette had all the roles in the company. For the last many years, she has been managing director in a company with 45 employees, a 2000 m2 storage hotel in Copenhagen harbour, with 24 hour-service and service engineers who travel all around the world – and in co-operation with a network of companies globally, which all have the same concept. Anne-Mette had started up the network in co-operation with a company in Singapore and one in Rotterdam.
The technician, with whom she established the company, has been her husband for many years. Their son was involved with the company until recently, but he is now starting up as self-employed in Canada as a representative for PJ Diesel Engineering.
The company has done well during the crisis, despite competition from cheap production countries. “You can get the components so cheaply in China that it’s not worthwhile recycling. However, for many of the customers recycling is a deliberate choice, for the environment’s sake and not for money”. Anne-Mette regards sustainability as an expression of a comprehensive view, which also is expressed in employees’ benefits including the healthcare scheme, lunch service and so on. Today, she has several seats on the board of directors in several companies, she is chairwoman in a board on Lolland, and regularly advises small business owners and leaders.
“Women have a comprehensive view and a responsibility that the community need. We shouldn’t compete with the men’s masculine energy, but practice our own, which is valuable. Conversely, women have a tendency to fiddle with the housekeeping wallet and to be too careful, but when the man with a deep voice says: “Come on, we’ll do it” then it gets really good! The combination of a man and a woman is really powerful”.