A tribute to IKEA founder Ingvar Kamprad by Gillian Drakeford, country manager for IKEA UK & Ireland
On Sunday January 28, IKEA co-workers around the world were deeply saddened by the loss of our founder, Ingvar Kamprad.
Ingvar was an inspirational man who touched the lives of many, many people around the world. From those of us working for IKEA in every corner of the globe, to customers who have gained from Ingvar’s vision to create a better everyday life for the many people, we’re eternally grateful for his values, his energy and his tireless spirit to always do better for the benefit of everyone. He will be truly missed by us all.
I had the privilege of meeting Ingvar on many occasions, especially during my time as retail manager in China. He would spend the week at our suppliers’ factories and would always ask to visit the stores at the weekend. It was important to him to meet people in all departments, and in particular those working on the front line who meet and interact with customers every day.
I’ll never forget when he once asked me to join him at 6am so he could meet co-workers working behind the scenes. We carried on all day until late in the evening and greeted every co-worker, even shaking hands with customers.
What was truly inspirational about Ingvar was his ability to make IKEA, one of the world’s largest global businesses, feel like a family. For Ingvar, it was always important for his co-workers to feel a sense of togetherness.
Everyone who was fortunate enough to meet Ingvar has a story to tell and they will tell you how he inspired them. He was a unique leader with a presence like no other, always making people feel important and valued no matter the position or role they were in. He had a remarkable ability to establish a real connection with everyone, and made it his priority to listen to every single word you had to say.
I always admired Ingvar’s incredible entrepreneurial spirit, and how he ensured he understood every detail of the business – he truly led by example.
I remember he once came to visit a store and started chatting to co-workers about the correct temperature to cook meatballs in the customer restaurant. The next minute, we were discussing the special glue used to bind certain products such as POÄNG [an armchair with a layer-glued bent birch frame that gives comfortable resilience], and where the opportunities were to reduce the price for the customer, without compromising on quality and function.
It wasn’t just co-workers who felt inspired by Ingvar. Throughout his IKEA journey, Ingvar worked relentlessly to create a better everyday life for the many people and cemented it as a core value across the business.
In everything he did, Ingvar always sided with the customer. He was a down-to-earth man and would always refer to how he and his late wife, Margaretha, would shop – helping him to view products and the shopping experience from the eyes of the customer.
Ingvar was for the many, not the few, and his values will be carried forward in the years to come as we grow the IKEA business. As IKEA co-workers we feel a strong sense of responsibility to continue his legacy and IKEA will continue to flourish in his spirit and remain true to his vision – to create a better everyday life for the many people.
Today I want to say thank you to our founder Ingvar Kamprad for giving to IKEA such a clear, meaningful and ambitious vision. As Ingvar said himself: “Here’s to a glorious future.”