Heading abroad

Johannesburg Telephone Exchange. October 1912.
Johannesburg Telephone Exchange. October 1912. Main exchange room. Makers: L.M. Ericsson & Co Limited. Agents: Jenkins & Co./ Retur från Durban.

Cedergren’s transformation into a competitor gave Lars Magnus all the proof he needed. Now he definitely had to set off abroad to find customers.

Axel Boström was appointed as marketing director, even though he was handicapped “by his lack of foreign languages”, as Johansson put it. Lars Magnus had employed Boström in 1884. Then a 20-year-old from Umeå, where he had worked in a general store, Boström had meant to apply for a job at SAT, whose head office was at Oxtorget, but as he was not familiar with Stockholm he ended up by mistake at Ericsson’s on Tulegatan. He was taken on as a general assistant in the office, attracted Lars Magnus’s attention with his fine handwriting in the wages register and was asked if he wanted to help with the clerical work. As the company expanded, he was later promoted to become office manager.

Boström is described by Johansson as enterprising and bold. If Lars Magnus and Boström had different opinions on issues, “it was often Boström’s stronger will that determined the outcome”. Of course as the manufacturer and sole proprietor, Lars Magnus took the ultimate responsibility. “The two men worked well together; they had great respect and esteem for each other,” Johansson wrote.

Above all, Boström succeeded in acquiring capable agents in different parts of the world. Many of them were “adventurers” with varied characters. This was not a job that could be combined with comfort. Admittedly, journeys in Europe could be made by rail and there were regular steamboat services across the Atlantic. But a trip to other parts of the world was an undertaking that could take months or even years. Setting up a business in a remote country and reaching long-term agreements was not something that could be done in a hurry.

Johansson, recruited from SAT in October 1898 to be chief engineer at Ericsson, also undertook a long and adventurous journey at the turn of the century, which included visiting South Africa and Australia. He returned with several large orders which helped make these countries two of Ericsson’s most important markets for several decades.

Author: Svenolof Karlsson & Anders Lugn

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