Øyvind has gone from Norwegian special operations to Managing Director for an investment company.

“My Transition” #25: Øyvind Fries — Norwegian SOF to Managing Director at Folkeinvest AS

Norway’s FSK is one of the world’s top special operations units. The hard-earned lessons there have served Øyvind well in life.

I learned a great amount about leadership, management, and self-discipline. Those have been core lessons that have stuck with me in life and made me who I am today.

Trondheim, Norway — Although military service of 1 year was mandatory for Øyvind, he came to love it and devoted himself to being a part of the nation’s top-tier unit. During his time as a special commando, he learned many lessons that helped him to start his own business and eventually allowed him to lead and manage companies.

DJS: Why did you join the military?

ØF:

Well, service was required at the time, but I quickly had a deep motivation to earn a place on our nation’s top-tier unit. One thing lead to another from there… I served one year as Paratrooper, and then attended a selection process and was accepted to join the Norwegian Special Operations Command (FSK).

Video of FSK. “Motivating” is an understatement…

DJS: What were the most important skills or lessons that you learned?

ØF:

I learned a great amount about leadership, management, and self-discipline. Those have been core lessons that have stuck with me in life and made me who I am today.

Also, hard work over time results in high quality achievements. As they say “Nothing is impossible — the impossible just takes a bit more time”. Where there is great risk and hard work, there is great reward and satisfaction because you know you’ve given your best.

Nothing is impossible — the impossible just takes a bit more time”.

DJS: Did you know what you were going to do when you left the Norwegian Special Operation Command (FSK)?

ØF:

After 12 years as a commando, I was looking for something new. Along with 3 other colleagues from FSK, we started a consultancy company. We had so much skills and experience together, we wanted to use that to contribute to the growth and success of Norwegian companies operating abroad.

Our mission at was to give advice to management teams of Norwegian international companies running businesses in conflict areas. We advised on strategic decisions, how to avoid unnecessary risk, and how to select safety measures in an expense management perspective.

Our mission at was to give advice to management teams of Norwegian international companies running businesses in conflict areas.

DJS: Did you face any struggles?

ØF:

Yes, our unit was, at that time, more experienced with geopolitical intelligence and perhaps more skilled using information to assess possible implications that would affect the common Norwegian company.

If you face limited trouble you tend to think everything is OK. In addition, those operating in high-risk areas tend to choose advice from those solving conflict rather than those avoiding conflict.

The Norwegian special operations branch has a history of avoiding contact through good planning. However, Norwegian businesses may be a bit naïve and often wait to see outcomes, instead of taking actions in due time. Rather than avoiding risk through preparedness and planning, they often tend to react after bad things happen. This was frustrating to us in our efforts to support their planning and risk-mitigation processes.

In addition, we also faced a phase of some years where we did not fully understand how Norwegian businesses were thinking and communicating, as a result of our careers having been in the military rather than corporate sector.

If you face limited trouble you tend to think everything is OK. In addition, those operating in high-risk areas tend to choose advice from those solving conflict rather than those avoiding conflict.

DJS: Tell me about your initial job search process? Was it what you imagined it would be? Were you well prepared?

ØF:

Rather than search for jobs, we used our military skills to found a new company… so this question doesn’t apply so much to me, but I can try to share what I know of transition for other military service members here.

First, gaining references for jobs has proven difficult since the audience (civilian sector) does not know what we are capable of or understand the usefulness of the skills we have. It takes balls to hire a special ops soldier rather than go with the safe choice of the main stream educated employee. However, our goal is to prove that we are every bit as effective, or more so.

I find the phase of getting to interviews to be the hardest part; after we have the chance to interview, it’s usually easy for employers to see that we are intelligent, flexible and useful. Once we have a foot in the door and people give us a chance, we just deliver what’s needed. All of the people I worked with in FSK were extremely capable of solving problems… but it might be hard to show what we are skilled at during normal Norwegian selection processes.

I hope that Norwegian employers come to develop a much better understanding of the skills that our military members bring. It’s not easy to translate what we do into a traditional resume or interview… there needs to be a better process of educating employers about the skills and abilities that come as a result of military service.

Perhaps if we shed more light on this, everyone will see that we are excellent workers, problem solvers and colleagues. Just give us a chance, and don’t dismiss our military training as “not so useful”.

I hope that Norwegian employers come to develop a much better understanding of the skills that our military members bring… there needs to be a better process of educating employers about the skills and abilities that come as a result of military service.

DJS: You have a background in management. Did the military experience prepare you well for this?

ØF:

I would say yes, absolutely. However, there are some big differences now. In war and in the military, everyone is motivated to stay alive and give their best effort for the team… in the business world, you meet a much wider range of people who may not be very motivated.

Leading and managing staff who are not motivated in general was new for me. It’s hard to build the same bonds and to create the same urgency and sense of purpose as you have in the military. As a result, it’s also hard to keep a workforce who feels a deep connection to their workplace in the civilian side. When saying this, it’s helpful to understand what you’re aiming for… Knowing how the high performance teams look like.

Leading and managing staff who are not motivated in general was new for me.

DJS: Did you use any veteran networking strategy to find your initial jobs in security and consulting? If so, how did you make those connections?

ØF:

We used our connections, but what we really needed was to establish new relations. To infiltrate the new life, the new arena, we needed to meet new people and build new relationships. Of course, connecting with old colleagues who were engaged in business was also beneficial because they had so much knowledge and experience to share and tips for us.

Going from being one of those who gets to see the big picture, pull strings and select strategy to transforming this knowledge into a new business was a very interesting challenge.

I’m very thankful for all of the friends and colleagues who helped me find my way in this civilian life… it was not always easy, but they certainly helped make it less difficult.

I’m very thankful for all of the friends and colleagues who helped me find my way in this civilian life…

DJS: So, you’re the Managing Director for Folkeinvest AS, what is the mission of this company?

ØF:

Folkeinvest’s mission is to support the nation’s effort of brining forward more Norwgian companies with more jobs. We do this by making it easier to 1) fund expansion of new-startups and 2) ensure everyone has the opportunity to invest in good ideas, such as those being created by young Norwegian companies. The merge of these two segments will lead to a more entrepreneur-friendly society.

Folkeinvest’s mission is to support the nation’s effort of brining forward more Norwgian companies with more jobs.

DJS: Tell me about what you do on a daily basis?

ØF:

We connect startups with investors. Our mission, as described above, is solved through digitalization of the Crowd Funding for equity platform. Currently, we are finalizing the Beta version of the platform and contacting companies who are searching for funding, in order to build a pipeline of campaigns for the investor-groups interested in investing in new start-ups.

DJS: Is this job related to your military training in any way?

ØF:

I would say yes. Through special operations, I learned to really listen and not just hear. I learned also to understand unique challenges that different people are facing. In addition, I think in general that the ability to give rather than take energy is the key to success.

Through special operations, I learned to really listen and not just hear.

DJS: What skills from the military translated into your current role and made you successful?

ØF:

Putting good effect on target, simplicity, risk management and being 100% present where you are, are some of the most important factors. “Brilliance in the basics”, as some would say.

DJS: If you knew one thing before the transition process that would have made your experience easier, what would that be?

ØF:

I would like to have had better knowledge of what processes give profit in my initial years. It’s critical to understand what will give you a return on investment (ROI) that is greater than the money and energy which you spend to create something. Otherwise, you are working backwards.

Networking is important. I was lucky meeting businesses connections through my work. This gave me confidence and self-belief.

I think greater cooperation and insight in each others’ workdays would also have been beneficial.

It’s critical to understand what will give you a return on investment (ROI)… Otherwise, you are working backwards.

DJS: What was the hardest piece of transition?

ØF:

Realizing that some are only at work to collect their paycheck was shocking. I struggled to understand how some people are willing to put forward so little effort. Why not try hard? Why not give more effort?… It’s the same hours in the workday either way, so why waste your time being ineffective?

It was challenging to go from a culture where everyone gives 110% effort 100% of the time to a culture where people give some effort some of the time… if they feel like it. (Maybe this sounds bad, but my point is that some get away with the mentality of not giving their full effort. This was a bit new for me.)

Realizing that some are only at work to collect their paycheck was shocking.

DJS: What one piece of advice do you have for anyone reading this?

ØF:

Build a mission. Get to know the business you are wanting to join. Start building a network relevant for the future. Do it systematically and be open for other options, but at the same time believe in yourself and the fact that your ability of working hard over time will make you achieve every goal you set.

Build a mission…

Background:

Øyvind Fries served for 12 years as a commando in Norway’s Special Operations Command, with the FSK. His duties included paratrooper, training wing Sergeant, maritime unit Sergeant, platoon leader in land unit and green team, and training wing Lieutenant. Much of his time was spent helping police and other units with counter-terrorism.

Since leaving the military, Øyvind has been an entrepreneur, consultant and manager across a variety of industries to include risk consulting, oil and gas, and IT.


Øyvind during maritime operations.
Øyvind today.
Crossing the finishline at Vasaloppet, a 90km cross-country ski race.
Cross country skiing — one of his favorites
Sailing — makes you relax.
Mountain trips in the winter.
Stock photo of FSK in different kit.

Are you interested in sharing your story of transition? Or are you a military transition specialist who would like to share some tips? Send me an email at MilitaryTransitionStories@gmail.com

The goal of this series is to bridge the military-civilian divide in three ways: 1) Highlight the incredible skills and value that military veterans of all generations and backgrounds bring into the workplace. 2) Help transitioning veterans understand their true value and therefore aim as high as possible in their employment and educational goals. 3) Discuss the common struggles, pitfalls and indicators of success in veteran transition, in order to provide better transition assistance from both military and civilian sides.

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