International experts provide SMEs with growing power

Immigrants still remain an unused resource for many small and medium-sized enterprises. An exception to this rule is TTS-Ciptec; this company derives 90 per cent of its turnover from abroad, and internationality is integrated into the work community.

TTS-Ciptec optimises the washing of dairy process equipment and produces measurement equipment for dairies. 90 per cent of the company’s turnover comprises export. In addition to Tampere, the company has sales offices in Spain and France, and resale channels to 20 countries.

The CEO, Tuomas Pahlman, says that the company has striven to build a team that is able to operate internationally. At the moment, the working community of less than 20 persons is a combination of French, Spanish, Swedish, Finnish-Swedish, and Finnish origins, the Finns making up approximately half of them.

– Some five years ago I found a French sales manager who had moved to Finland in the early 2000s and who was familiar with both Finnish and French business culture. This was a lucky break on the company’s path to growth.

– In other aspects as well, we have successfully benefited from foreigners living in Finland while entering new markets With their help, we can avoid cultural bumps that can otherwise easily cause a deal to fail.

For a long time, Pahlman thought that the best salesperson for a technical product was a technical expert - the Finnish engineer.

– However, experience has proven otherwise. Nowadays, we always use a pair of salespersons: the native person familiar with the cultural aspects of the country, and the technical expert. This kind of team can obtain more sales.

One eye-opener was a young Spaniard who worked in another company in Tampere. He used his perseverance to take TTS-Ciptec to Spain.

– Alongside his own work, he wanted to help us do business in his own homeland at his own risk: we would pay for the trips, and any reward would be paid as commission if any deals were made. He had a technical education, but no knowledge of our special field, which we considered to be the largest risk for the project. However, he was so motivated and quick to learn that he absorbed the matter sufficiently, and was already fluent in the language and culture. The results were excellent, says Tuomas Pahlman.

In accordance with Pahlman’s experience, the people who have moved to Finland have a strong motivation to become deeply integrated into Finnish everyday life and working life.

– They are eager to show their skills and they consider it normal to be paid in accordance with results. When they get the opportunity to showcase their talent, they are really motivated. Small- and medium-sized enterprises should take more advantage of this resource.