Lars Bøgvad Jeppesen’s journey from Denmark to the Philippines was a long one but marked with successes along the way. The successes came in part of his leadership style of empowering people to share their energy to make an organization succeed, with him in the sidelines. This leadership perspective was a fruit of his experience during his apprenticeship years at Merlin, a camera and electronics company, where the company, including its leadership, believed and listened to his ideas.
“The reason why I [seek to] have a lot of ideas is because I don’t have to be the best,” he said, with regard to his belief in his people. These ideas have proven to be the best, as these were transformed into successful business ventures.
Today, Lars guides his company, Tech One Global, an information (IT) solutions company, from its offices in the Philippines, Brunei, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and the United States. Under his leadership, the company has grown to become one of the top Microsoft Distributors and document imaging agencies in East and South Africa and West Asia as well as in Brunei, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh.
Building a path for himself
Lars built a solid foundation in business after becoming inclined to start business ventures during his apprenticeship at Merlin. While as an apprentice, he earned his Bachelor’s Degree in Retail, Business, and Trade in Copenhagen Business School. Later, he was one of the few qualified under the Kodak Management Development Program to earn an Executive MBA in Sales and Marketing in IMD Business School in Switzerland. He was again selected as one of the few to undergo an MBA degree in Harvard Business School through the Dicom Management Academy.
However, before he decided on taking the path for business, Lars was torn between taking a course related to photography or music – two of his passions back when he was an adolescent. As a child, Lars was immersed in outdoor and creative activities such as music, film, radio broadcasting, and television. His parents, John and Yvonne, were key factors in developing his interests.
His father, John, in particular, developed interest in photography after he was assigned in Kodak’s equipment manufacturing and maintenance division for motion picture films processing. As an avid photography hobbyist, John would process his films in make-shift darkrooms in their house’s bathroom. With this influence, Lars started to take on photography as a hobby, starting as a concert photographer in secondary school.
At the same time, Lars excelled in music as a band member and also showed promise in leadership and entrepreneurship. Taking after his parents who were both leaders in their own professions, Lars was involved in the student government, where he was elected chairman of the student council.
Lars’ tertiary degree was a choice between music and photography but eventually chose Nørre Gymnasium in Copenhagen over the School of Photography. However, during his first year in Nørre Gymnasium, Lars felt dissatisfaction over his career path. Unmotivated, he would have poor attendance in class but excelled nonetheless.
At age 18, he decided to drop out of school to work full time. Although he was not able to secure an undergraduate degree, he continued his education through the management programs of Kodak and Dicom Group.
Shortly after dropping out of college, Lars took an apprenticeship under a local camera store in the city then was later reassigned as an apprentice at Merlin, a camera and electronics company.
It was in Merlin where he started to envision business ventures, particularly in computer retail. Working in the marketing department of Merlin, Lars started of thinking of his actual career path, which should be directed to business.
More than 30 years of experience in building businesses
At 23 years old and just after two years of working, Lars established Spaceworld, the first Danish IT retailer, together with his former boss, Mogens Merlin. His business venture almost coincided with the launch of the Disk Operating System (DOS) in 1986.
Less than two years after he established Spaceworld, he moved to Kodak A/S as a Business Consultant, where he implemented Kodak-based enterprise document management solutions for the commercial and industrial market segments.
Lars was promoted as Solutions Marketing Manager for the airline industry after four years to handle the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region. With his capability to grow the business in the EMEA region, Lars was again promoted after three years to Business Manager at Kodak Near East Inc. in Dubai. At Kodak Near East Inc., he was given the task to increase the Document Imaging channel sales throughout Middle East and Africa.
It was on 1999, during the peak of his 10-year career in Kodak when he co-founded Valuevad, an information capture technology company in Middle East. He considers this move as the biggest free fall and upturn of his business career.
His career gamble eventually paid off, as after five years of leading the company, Valuevad became one of the leading companies in information capture technology. Another document management specialist giant, Dicom Group, saw Valuevad’s potential, and acquired it on 2004 to enter the Middle East market. He maintained the post as the Managing Director for the company until the acquisition was completed in 2007.
Driving the business at Tech One Global
In 2003, Lars, together with his partners Wasantha Weerakoone, Rakesh Wahi, and Ali Bagash, founded Tech Distribution, which rapidly developed to become the leading value-added Microsoft distributor. For five years, the company was led by Wasantha, Rakesh, and Ali, while Lars served as director since he worked full time in Valuevad. During these five years, the company grew to having more diverse services outside software licensing and distribution and included services such as IT learning and certification, software development, document imaging, and professional photo retouching. In 2008, Lars started to work full time at Tech One Global.
In 2009, after seeing growth over a span of six years, Tech Distribution was rebranded to Tech One Global in 2009.
In 2012, a major merger with document management solutions company Sanje Pvt Ltd has allowed Tech One Global to expand its products and services offerings to offer software trainings, systems development, and mobile applications development.
The success of Tech One Global did not stop Lars from pursuing other business ventures. With its merger with Sanje Pvt Ltd and the addition of mobile applications development and document management, Lars and his team developed two more products – Enadoc, a document imaging system, and Etikado, a mobile-only app that helps organize photos through tags.
Moreover, drawing from Lars’ passion in photography, he started ImagePerfekt, a photo retouching and image processing company. To form this service, he partnered with Cherie Steinberg Cote, one of the world’s most published wedding and boudoir photographer.
To strengthen the ImagePerfekt service, Lars formed a team of Filipino artists who worked on image retouching, image and color correction, and image selection for wedding photos, portraits, boudoir photography, and photos of kids and pets. This service is delivered from the office in the Philippines, where it services clients all over the world.
Based in the Philippines, Lars continues to drive the business forward at Tech One Global as Chief Executive Officer. He leads close to 500 employees at Tech One Global in its offices in six countries. Believing that the people can drive a business forward, he gives guidance to the management teams of other locations in the company while based in the Philippines. He also shares his marketing expertise by being a hands-on manager to the marketing team, which he formed after seeing the potential of Filipino talent.
Going into the tourism business
Having relocated to the Philippines, Lars recognized how special and beautiful the country is. Together with his partners in Tech One Global, he decided to invest and promote the Philippines as a tourist destination and established Ananya Farms, an eco-retreat and wellness resort located in Cavite.
The resort embraces nature and hopes to sustain it with green architecture and natural resource management. For the farm to be truly sustainable, Lars’ vision is for it to provide livelihood to the local community.
The farm will feature several individual luxury villas with five-star eco-friendly facilities. Moreover, the farm features Ayurveda Wellness programs, a holistic wellness program.
Giving back to the community
Following his belief in developing people, Lars and his team at Tech One Global have a vision of giving back to the community through education. The team’s special mission is to equip the youth with IT skills especially in developing countries in Asia.
In Sri Lanka, Lars and his company have taken steps in improving education of the youth by partnering with the Ministry of Education. The company has launched a number of IT trainings for young people, where over the past six years, more than 10,000 academic licenses were given across the country. With Lars’ vision to improve Sri Lanka’s technological literacy, the company engages the youth through computer education and prepare them as future global leaders in a technology-driven environment.
In the Philippines, Tech One Global empowered prisoners in the School of Fine Arts of Camp Sampaguita, New Bilibid Prison, Muntinlupa City to express themselves through art. Lars and his wife, Michelle, donated art materials and encouraged them to hone their skills by creating more artworks and paintings. A small art collaboration was also organized with the Muntinlupa inmates in 2013 with Iris Sidler, a Swiss lawyer and artist.
Aside from education as its main corporate social responsibility, Lars and his company participate in relief operations. Specifically in 2013, Lars and his wife received special recognition from the Philippine Red Cross for the company’s support during the aftermath of typhoon Yolanda.