Leading the way


Behind every Perkins customer relationship there’s a Perkins distributor. We choose only the best to join our network – as ‘the face’ of the Perkins brand promise in their country or region, our global distributor network works to meet customer expectations by providing the highest levels of customer care, product knowledge and service offerings. 

For this issue of Powernews, we talked to Kajsa Mildén, the CEO of Universal Power Nordic. Our distributor for Sweden and Norway, it’s also one of our longest-established distributor relationships.


Kajsa interview

“It’s only one year since I joined this team, but I’m so impressed with their knowledge and competence and experience. I sensed it when I arrived. I was hooked the moment I stepped into the office.”

That’s how Kajsa describes Universal Power Nordic (UPN), the Perkins distributor for Sweden and Norway. A businesswoman with multi-industry experience, Kajsa’s been involved in everything from electronics to coffee to aluminium, in roles encompassing the entire business function, from sales to planning to production, operations and logistics.

“Yet despite working and participating in numerous management teams, I hadn’t yet led my own team. I hadn’t had that ‘start to finish’ role.”

Kajsa initially dismissed a recruiter’s approach, thinking that moving to UPN from an organisation employing 2,000 wouldn’t be the right direction. 

“The company as it is now only started in 2018. It had been the engine sales, maintenance and service branch – hence the 60-year Perkins connection – of a much larger engineering group.

“The way of doing business, the relations, the people – all that was well-established. I wasn’t sure that heading up the 20-strong workforce of a young company in a sector of which I had little experience was right for me.

“But the recruiter convinced me to consider it and here I am. There was that sense of energy when I walked through the door, but also the appeal of being CEO in a smaller company. I must be jack-of-all-trades – marketing, HR and so on.

“I’m very lucky. In a small company it really comes down to who else is there. That dictates whether it will work, or not. At UPN, we have dedicated, entrepreneurial, flexible people. Everyone pitches in, and the depth of experience – the company’s collective memory – is amazing.

“People will call in about a 30-year-old engine and the team is immediately on it,” Kajsa enthuses.

That knowledge and competence is a galvanising force for Kajsa, who says she draws her work energy from people, from diversity and “being able to make a difference”.

“Work should have a purpose,” she laughs. “Too many of us spend too many hours working and too few hours not working. My attitude is to think, let’s make those hours worth something. Let’s enjoy it. 

“So I do.”

Kajsa has less time for others’ tendencies to shine a spotlight on her as ‘successful female in a male world’. “I’m ever so slightly disappointed that we’re still discussing this! Honestly, I don’t think about it a lot, although I’m often approached with the question.

“I’ve been a leader since I was 25 and I’m older now, so for me there’s really nothing special about it. Having said that, however, I do think women approach leadership differently. They are brave leaders because they dare to be vulnerable. They dare not to know everything.”

Kajsa herself practises this approach. One of her own success stories within leadership is, she says, always considering the person you’re talking to. “Think about your communication with them. What do you have in common? What are our differences? How can I reach out to this person to find common ground, even if it means stepping outside my comfort zone?”

Kajsa readily admits that UPN was initially outside her own comfort zone. “UPN’s customers are in forestry, mining, local authorities. We’re providing them with engines to build mid-size contractor machines: road-sweepers, snow machines. And reserve power, of course – server halls, hospitals, prisons.

“I had little knowledge of this big, diverse market. I’m still not up to speed on all the technicalities, but I don’t need to be.  What I do need to do is to identify the common challenges and ensure that we can help our customers provide solutions for them. That’s what gets customers onboard.”


- Kajsa Mildén

Kajsa points to environmental legislation as the most significant challenge, especially because the Nordic countries are ahead of the curve – for example, EU Stage V engines were mandated much earlier.

And while ‘green’ legislation hasn’t changed customers’ priorities – Kajsa says total cost of ownership remains the ultimate decider – they are having to consider the effects.

“Changing that spec is a lot of effort – and investment – when you’re one of the small companies that make up our customer base. So if tighter emissions standards force them into a change, they will see power, RPM and form factor as being the most important. 

“But we’re on the ball with environmental legislation. It’s a huge opportunity, especially when we think ahead to where we, and the market itself, will be in ten years’ time.”

Many business leaders, men or women, often cite a mentor or influencer as their inspiration for adopting a certain management style, or for their leadership approach. But just as Kajsa doesn’t want to be cast as a ‘female leader’, so too does she refute the idea that there’s a single inspiration behind her development.

“Throughout my career, I’ve had some excellent, and memorable, coaches and managers. They’ve all contributed. Anyone in particular? No. I’d say it’s like picking the cherries from people – I remember the people that helped to make a difference.”

The importance of personal relationships in business isn’t lost on Kajsa, especially when it comes to explaining the longevity of the relationship with Perkins. “Perkins is a high-end brand, with a very good reputation – something which is difficult to get and even more difficult to keep.

“But it’s a very good brand to have in your company portfolio, so of course that keeps us on our toes, by encouraging a management style that sees us work effectively on different levels, through different disciplines – sales, purchasing, technical and so on. The Perkins distributor excellence programme is applicable to the whole company, despite our small size compared to other distributors.”

“We’re not the most well-known distributor, but we’ve been here for a while. We’re here to show our customers that we can keep their machines running, doing their job.”

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