Ingvar Kamprad is another business mogul who has made it all the way to the top despite struggles with dyslexia. He was born in a very rural area of Sweden in 1926, and although his family lived on a sizeable farm, he grew up in harsh conditions in a time that was hard for everyone. The province, Småland, was agrarian but relatively poor, and everyday life consisted of frugality and hard work. This upbringing had a huge influence on Kamprad’s future business sense and style of management and leadership.
As mentioned, hard work was no stranger to the young Kamprad, but neither was the will to prove himself and do more than expected. He started selling matches at the age of 6, and by the time he was 10, he was a familiar sight in the nearby villages, selling anything from fish to pencils and even Christmas decorations. Despite his struggles with dyslexia, Kamprad did well in school which prompted his father to award him with a small sum of money when he was 17. This was in 1943, and it was the money that would found the business IKEA. You might think that IKEA is some random Swedish word, much like the names of their furniture, but in fact, it’s an abbreviation for his name and childhood address; Invar Kamprad, Elmtaryd, Agunnaryd.
In the early years, IKEA was a mail order company with no actual stores, and it wasn’t until 1947 that the company started selling furniture from local manufacturers. The very first IKEA catalogue was introduced in 1951, and two years later, a furniture warehouse was established in an old factory. However, other manufacturers were not happy about Kamprad’s low prices, and in 1955 a boycott began against IKEA. It was then that Kamprad decided it was time to sell in-house designs, which also prompted the introduction of the flat pack. And there you have it, the IKEA concept, complete in all its glory; affordable and simple flat-packed furniture, with design, distribution and sale all done in-house.
As a leader and business man, Kamprad implements the same concepts in life as those he used to build his empire. Although he is obviously wealthy and owns large properties all over the world, he still has a no nonsense approach to his business. He calls his employees co-workers, travels in economy class and encourages a formal dress code.
Kamprad is fairly secretive about his wealth and won’t do interviews, so one can only estimate how much money this man is really worth. He has consistently been at the top of Sweden’s richest people list, and is normally placed somewhere between 1st and 11th of the world’s richest people.
Kamprad’s dark side appeared with the revelation of his involvement in fascist groups in pre-war Sweden. According to certain documents, Kamprad was a part of this movement from the age of 16 until 19, although some claim he still sympathises with the movement. Kamprad himself, commented on this part of his life, in the book Leading by Design: The IKEA Story, and has even called his fascist affiliation the greatest mistake of his life. Despite these dark revelations, Kamprad also does a lot of good through charitable foundations. He is the man behind The Stitching IKEA Foundation as well as Familjen Kamprads Stiftelse, which are both charitable organizations donating large sums of money to a wide range of causes.
Kamprad only moved home to Sweden in 2014, after living most of his adult life in Switzerland. At 90 years of age, he is still going strong and perhaps, it is the no-nonsense attitude that keeps him young at heart.