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Happy Birthday DSV - 40 years today

On 13 July 1976, DSV was founded as a “co-op” between 9 independent trucking companies and a business developer. As it turned out, it was the beginning of an adventure none of the original founders could have ever imagined…

Over the past 40 years, DSV has grown to become one of the world’s top five freight forwarders – employing more than 40,000 people across six continents: It’s been 40 years of hard work and overall success, which is not least due to the many loyal and hardworking employees.

One of them is Annette Hansen, Domestic Trucking, Denmark, who has been with DSV almost since the beginning. She joined DSV in January 1983 in Skuldelev, Denmark, the birthplace of DSV. In her time with DSV, she has experienced the transformation from a small, local “family business” to a global corporation:

“I started in Skuldelev, in an extension to the garage next to Leif Tullberg’s [DSV’s first MD and original co-founder] private home. There were 11 of us in total – four freight forwarders, five in accounting plus Leif and his wife. Our lunch room was the size of a small children’s room… And we used to work around the clock to get the invoicing done.”

From domestic dirt to international groupage

Annette describes a very dynamic workplace, where the ever present Leif’s ideas came fast and furious and quickly materialized into new business areas and more employees – from transport of gravel and dirt, over building materials to groupage, tankers and heavy-lift transports.

By the early 1980s, the company outgrew the extended garage, and the staff moved into a new “big” office built on the neighbouring lot. “Within two months or so, we were outgrowing that office space too,” Annette remembers.

 

The first new built DSV office in Skuldelev, Denmark
 The new (and only) DSV office in Skuldelev circa 1984-85

By the end of the 1980s, DSV added an international transport division to the existing domestic transport business through the very first acquisitions. Annette was moved to the new international Oem office, leaving the domestic business and her Skuldelev “family” behind.

Over the years, depending on where her accounts were managed and the general business development of DSV, Annette moved to the Rorup office, back to the Oem office, to the Broendby office and then finally to the new global headquarters in Hedehusene:

There hasn’t been a dull moment, although I have to say that I sometimes miss the old days when we were less specialized and got involved in all aspects of the business. I really enjoyed talking to the truckers and the customers on the phone. You know, we used to call around to try and fill our trucks. There was no IT.

The new built global DSV HQ The global DSV headquarters in Hedehusene (Greater Copenhagen) 2014-

The business model stuck

Interestingly, DSV came into existence because of a poorly handled business merger… In early June 1976, a number of independent trucking companies were left more or less unemployed following a business merger that favoured the subcontractors of the buying company.

The deserted trucking companies, led by Henning Petersen, very quickly devised a plan to strike back, and by 13 June 1976, 9 independent trucking companies with Leif Tullberg as MD set up shop under the name DSV (De Sammensluttede Vognmænd af 13-7-1976 A/S [the united trucking companies]).

It was Leif Tullberg, who had suffered bankruptcy with his own trucking business, who came up with the DSV business principles that still prevail in more or less the same form today:

  • Owned by trucking companies (shareholders)
  • No company-owned trucks (asset-light)
  • Make the money before you spend it (cost focus)

No master plan

For many years, DSV operated solely based on these principles and did not have a grand strategy or master plan. However, in the years 1997-2000, when the first big acquisitions were made, the by now well-known DSV growth strategy started to emerge.

Chairman of the Board Kurt Larsen, who joined DSV with the first acquisition spurts in 1989, explains that the story of DSV was by no means a result of a carefully devised long-term plan:

“We never dreamed of how big DSV would eventually become. In fact, if we had thought too much about an end goal, we probably never would have dared to buy Samson and DFDS Dan Transport. I would say that we were conscious of some opportunities, which we were able to seize at the right time. It wasn’t until after the successful acquisition of Samson we realised that growth through acquisition should be an integral part of our strategy. Even then, the acquisition of DFDS [quadrupling the size of the company] was out of this world. And that really was the first glimpse of what DSV has become today”.  

Illustration of DSV history through acquisitions A history of growth from 1976-2016

Celebrating a diversity of companies and cultures

Many of the companies that are now part of DSV date back even further than 40 years – Samson Transport was founded in 1934, whereas DFDS Dan Transport and Frans Maas have roots as far back as 1866 and 1890, respectively. ABX Logistics takes the prize dating as far back as 1816 via the acquisition of Saima Avandero. And UTi Worldwide, last but not least, dates back to 1926.

Most of the employees from these companies are still part of the DSV story and journey, and they have added significantly to the development of DSV’s business over the years. DSV is a melting pot – the best of many worlds – and so today’s anniversary is also a celebration of a diversity of companies and cultures now united in operation under the DSV name.

Happy 40th birthday DSV

 

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