Anniversary portrait of John Albertsen

Anniversary portrait of John Albertsen: "It is always a satisfaction to see that when you make a plan, that you are able to carry it out"

Anniversary portrait of John Albertsen: “It is always a satisfaction to see that when you make a plan, that you are able to carry it out”

On the Hørbygaard estate in Holbæk, AL Engineering is located with John Albertsen, who is the founder of the company. They have been here for 8 years – but in fact it is 20 years since the company was founded this year. Actually, it was intended that AL Engineering should accept small tasks that John could carry out himself, but the customers quickly came back with more tasks, and AL Engineering therefore quickly experienced growing pains.  

In the industry, you can rarely talk about AL Engineering without at the same time mentioning the founder John Albertsen, who has been at the head of the company since 2000 until he hired a director to be in charge of operations a year ago. Here he talks about his journey.

The quiet but stormy beginning

In 1998, John worked at Mork Proces A/S, where he was responsible for the development and manufacture of equipment for the pharmaceutical industry. Somewhat by chance, he began to take the first baby steps towards what would later become AL Engineering. 

“It kind of started in 98, when I designed equipment for sewage treatment plants in the evenings and at night and at weekends. It was my then brother-in-law who had a company and who had the idea for this equipment. He sat and drew it up on a piece of paper and then I sat afterwards and did the 3D design of the equipment and got it matured for production. So I did that for a few years alongside my regular job. In August 2000, I decided to quit my regular job and make AL ​​Engineering my full-time occupation”. 

The plan for John was clear: He was to be independent and thus master of his own house. “It shouldn’t be a big deal. It had to be a smaller company where the employees felt good and where the customer and the good solutions are at the center. Of course we also had to make money, but it was more important that we deliver good solutions”.

The vision was clear and John says that all his efforts were in producing a quality product for the customers and therefore he did not put much into the name either. “I had 5 minutes to come up with the name, and then I thought that AL were my initials from my first job and engineering was something with construction, and then it was”.

Growth in the staff and in the order book

After just a few months, so many orders came in that he employed his first employee to deal with all the inquiries. “Then we continued with the development of specially made equipment and made different sizes and variations of them. There were big projects where i.a. all the equipment was assembled into a large facility, and we sat and designed it. It was really meant to be just such small tasks and all of a sudden it grew to be projects worth 20-30 million. which we were a part of”.

While John Albertsen’s employees sat and designed equipment and plants, John himself began to expand AL Engineering’s product range to also apply to pharmaceutical equipment and plants. And it was during these years that AL Engineering changed its core service from designing equipment for treatment plants to validating and documenting plants, equipment and not least processes in the pharmaceutical industry. 

It turned out to be a good bet – the orders came more or less by themselves. “The first several years passed quietly. We almost didn’t even have a website and I almost didn’t even want to invest in a phone. When we were out, we got new tasks home before we finished the first one and it wasn’t necessary to do anything further to draw attention to ourselves”.

To this day, AL Engineering employs 15-20 employees, and for all 20 years has had plenty to look after. One of the most important reasons for the great success is that they deliver a thoroughness and care that is highly prioritized in the pharmaceutical industry. This means that a company within this segment meets the authority’s requirements, which are decisive for whether you can be approved for the production of vital medicines.  

When John Albertsen looks back on his almost 20 years at the helm of AL Engineering, he has no doubts about which achievement he is most proud of. “I really think that the biggest achievement is that we have made framework agreements as a preferred supplier with several of Denmark’s largest Life Science companies. Even though we are a small consultant, we actually managed to get a strategic cooperation agreement with one of Denmark’s largest pharmaceutical companies. And even though at one point the number of suppliers was drastically reduced, we were still among the chosen ones. That must be the greatest achievement”. 

That, being an entrepreneur

Becoming an entrepreneur requires both courage, lack of sleep and the willingness to work around the clock. With John’s track record, there is no doubt that he is made of the right stuff. However, he does not consider himself to be a typical “Ole Inventor” with a workshop where all kinds of projects are going on. “I’m not the type to throw a lot of balls in the air. There, I’m probably just more the type who just makes sure that they can hold water. So the balls I throw up in the air also stay up there. I try to read trends in the market and launch new initiatives in a structured manner that can support the business and I am not afraid to seize the opportunity if it presents itself. Some initiatives have succeeded, others have not. But I am not the kind of entrepreneur who has put many projects in the lake outside AL Engineering, I have only done this. And in order for me to do this, I have chosen to become an entrepreneur”. 

However, he has good advice for others who want to try their hand at life as an entrepreneur: “Do it. If you’re passionate about it, do it. Seek some sparring. Get connected to a network. Go to the local business council, which offers assistance to entrepreneurs. They usually have an environment where you can be with others and get support and guidance in the first years. At least that’s how it is in Holbæk. Or get some sparring from someone who has tried it before.

Congratulations on the anniversary!