21 Aug Passion for Nordic
With almost 50 years of experience, the cooperative Viexpo renews its dedication to the internationalization of Finnish SME’s. In order to increase Finnish SMEs presence in the international market but the Nordic in particular, Viexpo started NordicHub. During the first official NordicHub event, which was organized by Viexpo, we discussed how Ostrobothnia can become and gateway to Nordic export. This gateway is being branded as NordicHub.
NordicHub is a national competency hub coordinated by Viexpo. Its mission is to brand Ostrobothnia and the adjacent coastline as a Nordic Hub. Creating a network for collaboration partners who can offer their “Nordic know-how” and export experience in order to create a hub for Nordic Collaboration and facilitate joint export in the Nordic market and eventually the world.
On the evening of the 13th of June 2017, business people politicians, University representatives, influencers, entrepreneur and journalist joined to discuss the concept of NordicHub and the opportunities that it brings with it.
According to Marja-Riitta Vest, former CEO of Viexpo and the current Director General of the Centre for Economic development, Transport and environment (ELY) of the region, the NordicHub region has a natural link to the Nordics. As we have strong trade connections, half of the population is fluent in Swedish, we are culturally more similar to the rest of the Nordics than any other Finnish region. We also have the education resources and “know how” to be beneficial to Finnish SMEs.
The discussion during Passion for Nordic, was led by Mari K. Niemi, the head of Innolab at Vasa University. Many topics were discussed such as, how the Nordics can be joint-region of economic growth, our strengths in the international business sphere, and also how NordicHub should proceed. The discussion was passionate and diverse in opinions and voices. We also had a session where the audience could voice their opinions via the internet.
Current and interesting topics, fuelled the discussion
The evening resulted in many new opinions. For example, according to Anna-Kaisa Pusa, governor of Kurikka, the linguistic abilities of Ostrobothnia, and first and foremost the Swedish language, is an irreplaceable asset in the Nordic market. Earlier, the spokesperson for ”Föreningen Samarbetsforum”, Olav Jern, emphasised how Ostrobothnians are one step ahead, “We have an ability to take full advantage of collaboration with other Nordic people. This is due to the fact that we are not nervous too, as we have already collaborated for hundred of years and we understand the culture as we are part of it.” According to Sture Udd, CEO of UPC Consulting Ltd, “us Ostrobothnians are already good at what we do – we just need to demonstrate our experience to the rest of the world”.
Another topic of discussion was how to market “Nordic quality” more. Sture Udd also emphasised how important this is due to the buyer needing to trust the seller. He has found that business communications work when we are ourselves, but at the same time genuinely Nordic. John Nyfors, CEO of Wärtsilä Marie Solutions, brought up how it is typical of people in this region to work effectively and get things done. He also mentioned how useful it has been for customer relations to communicate in the customers own language.
The importance of networking was another theme of the evening. Stefan Råback, CEO of Vasek, said that networks are more important now than ever before. We should become better at networking and developing them, which is something that us Finns are famously bad at. Our regions business mentality has a rather different approach to this however. The Vasa-region does have a tight existing network, which has strong ties to a nation-wide network and by extension to the world. However, a Nordic network has a lot of untapped potential and needs to be focused on. Sture Udd later challenged everyone in the audience to constantly be conscious of building networks.
The third theme was the importance of language. We discussed the language abilities that are already present but also how we can become better. Also how to increase consciousness amongst youth of how important language is in life. The younger members of the NordicHub team who were interning at NordicHub as part of the “Young visionaries” project, featured heavily in this discussion.
During this discussion we also discussed how to motivate Finland to learn the other local language, Swedish. For us Ostrobothnia’s it is natural to know both the languages, but how can we increase the perceived value of Swedish in the rest of Finland? Max Jansson, CEO of Visit Vasa, stated that we often forget that learning a language is about speaking, not grammar. “We should learn to have the courage to speak and to not care if what we are saying is grammatically incorrect. As long as the message is conveyed, that is all that matters”. Katja Rajala, CEO of Finhow Oy, pointed out that language also opens new doors and opportunities. “In Ostrobothnia we clearly see how languague abilities are appreciated by others, this is without an asset for our region”. Vaseks CEO Stefan Råback pointed out that the Sweeds are most often not aware of the fact that people here can conduct business in Swedish and are often pleasantly surprise.
In what areas do we have to improve and get our act together?
The speakers all agreed that it is time for Ostrobothnia and the adjacent coastline to establish a stronger public presence within Finland as the gateway to the Nordics. We are quite capable but there is a lot that can be improved upon. We are already good at export, we have Nordic networks and Nordic know-how.
According to Max Jansson it is of upmost importance that SMEs are aware of the fact that they need to make a lot of preparatory work. Sture Udd emphasised that each and every one of us in business should take a step back and make sure that we are taking advantage of all possible collaboration possibilities and networks. In the spirit of NordicHub. “Let us take advantage of all our mutual contacts that we have in the region!”. The discussion makes another conclusion, that we should listen better to our customers and bridge the gap that our region has with the rest of Finland. Also, the students coming to the region should be more included and guided in order that they stay here after their studies.
As a whole we want to show the rest of Finland, the reasons why things go so smoothly and efficiently here, and that people may use our region to reach the Nordics.
We have organised a second event on the 9th of August. Let’s continue the discussion then! Welcome!