Counselor’s Person of the Year 2017: Henrik Johansson

Published in Counselor

For Henrik Johansson, entrepreneurship is the ultimate expression of creativity.

Growing up in a small town in Sweden, the boy who would become the co-founder/CEO of Top 40 distributor Boundless (asi/143717) knew he wanted to work in a creative profession. Practicality compelled him to earn an engineering degree, while a growing interest in the business of technology led to an early career in consulting, first in Europe, then in the U.S. where he came to pursue the American dream. Still, the creative itch persisted. In entrepreneurship, he was finally able to give it a satisfying scratch.

“You’re not just creating a piece of art, or a book, that someone will enjoy for an hour or two; you are actually creating a place where many people spend a big portion of their lives, where they build their careers, support their families,” says Johansson, who heads a company with 74 corporate employees and more than 120 salespeople. “You can have a huge impact on a lot of people.”

And an industry.

Since co-founding Boundless in 2004, Johansson’s entrepreneurial vision, technological expertise, and penchant for inspiring the best from his people has helped propel the Austin, TX-based distributorship into a leadership position within the promotional products industry.

Ranked 21st on Counselor’s list of the Top 40 largest distributors, Boundless increased year-over-year revenue about 18% in 2016. That makes 12 consecutive years that the company achieved an annual sales gain. The continued success is rooted in a winning go-to-market formula that Johansson has played an integral role in developing and implementing. Boundless’ recipe combines consultative sales professionals, a hard-working support team, and strong supplier partnerships with a patented, industry-topping technology platform that helps enhance the speed, accuracy, uniqueness, and ease-in-buying of promotional solutions.

“We have always been focused on the intersection of people and platform, relationships and technology,” says Johansson. “We bring a proven process, a team of experts, and a platform we spent a lot of money building internally, which gives us unlimited flexibility and control in delivering solutions our clients need.”

Henrik Awards Ceremony

“Opportunity for Innovation”
Before spearheading success in promo, Johansson began his entrepreneurial adventure by founding CreditLand in 1998 during the boom in San Francisco. The company raised $35 million in venture capital and was the first to approve credit cards online for large banks like Bank of America. In 2001, he moved to Austin, TX, to run another financial services startup – EverydayWealth. While in the Lone Star state, he met Jason Black. The pair founded Boundless.

“I was contemplating my next move, and it seemed like the promotional products industry was a great opportunity for innovation,” says Johansson, who would succeed Black as CEO following a 2014 merger in which Boundless became a wholly-owned subsidiary of custom consumer product company Zazzle. The deal has further positioned Boundless as a technology and personalization leader in the promo market.

“Zazzle,” Johansson says, “has been a good partner and has given us a lot of insight into technologies and strategies. They are incredibly good at processing a lot of small completely custom orders at healthy margins. That is something our industry has always struggled with, but Zazzle has built impressive infrastructure and systems to make it work. They have a strong brand, so big companies often come to them and look for B-to-B solutions, and we have closed several big customers that way.”

“The Smartest Person in the Room” 
While owned by Zazzle, Boundless operates with a lot of autonomy – a reality that allows Johansson to continue to put his unique stamp on the company. Top employees are thrilled to have a leader like Johansson at the helm. Mark Lopez says the CEO’s energy and enthusiasm for pioneering ingenious advancements is contagious. Vice president of technology and services for the distributorship, Lopez has worked with Johansson for about 10 years. He says the company co-founder has cultivated a culture where talented people are given the space and support required to take calculated risks that result in innovations. As importantly, Johansson’s personable nature, open-mindedness and lack of ego make him an easy leader to follow. You want to excel for him, says Lopez, adding, “he is everybody’s friend before he is anything else.”

CFO Jason Broadhead sounds a similar note. Sure, Johansson is “probably the smartest person in the room,” but it’s his “character, moral and ethical qualities,” along with a willingness to trust and believe in Boundless’ people, that make him a world-class leader, Broadhead says.

That’s evident in the time Johansson spends mapping out paths to success for his team – sales professionals and direct reports alike. It’s also evident in that he considers Boundless Cares, the distributorship’s corporate social responsibility initiative, one of his top accomplishments as an executive.

Perhaps it’s evident in his optimism, too. Johansson acknowledges that the industry faces challenges, but rather than fear change, he embraces it. “There is going to be a market in 10 years, but it’s going to be up to this industry to innovate. At Boundless, we spend a lot of time thinking about this, and building what we think is the platform for the future.

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Categories: Inside Boundless

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