Tight conceptualisation liberates

Every year, Finland loses a large number of companies and jobs. Entire business sectors and clusters have in effect completely disappeared. For some reason success does not stay in our hands and slips out of them like wet soap.

As I see it, common factors in business failures have been growing pains, becoming dazzled by success and the difficulty of staying at the top. Companies have been developed on the basis of products or services and both customer demand and the approval of financiers has been sought for various innovations. No time is left over for other monitoring of the environment or reacting to developments when you wrestle with the daily difficulties of updating a software version or renewing a worn-out production machine.

It is not really possible to find internationally or even domestically successful chain or concept businesses. Even as close as Sweden, you can find many of them in different sectors of business. However, it does seem that concept businesses manage and cope with their growth well and are also often able to maintain their position for longer in both doing business and providing service. Industrial activity can also be conceptualised.

For us Finns, conceptualisation and concept-based entrepreneurship do not seem to be natural. The character Koskela in ‘The Unknown Soldier’ commented that ”What needs to be done will be done, otherwise we’ll be like headless chickens”. Our culture does not support a disciplined and purpose-driven approach to life. Even children at home or at school are no longer taught, or demanded to show, manners or to follow rules.

However, in business life, acting like headless chickens causes ineffectiveness. When a company finds its own concept (its own operating model and competitive advantage) and itself firmly believes in it, there is nothing to conceptualisation and concept-based entrepreneurship except strictly – uncompromisingly – holding on to this operating model and competitive advantage. We Finns are just so ready to start adapting and believe that, by doing so, we are creative and aware of the situation. The concept, however, falls apart if it is continually ”adapted”. Five different operating environments, shops or production facilities under the same company and logo are no longer a concept. Managing five different operating models is more labour-intensive and expensive than five identical ones. In the case of five hundred units, the difference in the amount of work and costs is already huge between the conceptualised and unconceptualised operating models.

Of course, the concept needs to develop too and it must be localised in different areas, for example. But the decisive difference is that a company, and its personnel, that have a strong concept will have more time left over just for developing and localising. Basic routines and basic growth will run significantly more smoothly than for the competitors when there is a solid concept in the background. Operating models and practices are clear to everyone right from the outset and not too much time needs to be sacrificed to thinking about what kind of logos, shelves, computers, forklift trucks, properties or door handles are needed. Conceptualisation is not only the replication of details which are visible to the customer but above all the replication of invisible background processes. These background processes are the parts in the company’s business activity that cause the greatest expenses or, correspondingly, the greatest savings.

In many ways, it would be necessary to have a movement for pulling oneself together and a return to basics and basic values in Finland. Industriousness, persistence, keeping one’s promises and assertiveness would bring us a lot of added value in politics, education and officials as well as in economic life, compared to the current mired lifestyle. Is it any coincidence that all of those are also the everyday nature of successful concept-based entrepreneurship and the cornerstones of success?

What body would we have here in Finland that would teach and spur on strong concept-based entrepreneurship? Or do we already begin at home and in basic school and conceptualise good habits and an assertive approach to managing one’s life as a part of a person’s life trajectory? Perhaps we too in Finland would then later on grow to be strong international concept entrepreneurs in the various sectors of sales and industry. Through that, perhaps the public sector too would have to learn something about conceptualisation and managing costs.