First stop, ‘Finnished!’

Well, we’ve just finished our first stop here in Finland! We’ve had an amazing past few days getting to experience it first hand both Finnish culture and business practices. Since our arrival Saturday night, we’ve had the opportunity to visit Nordea, the biggest bank in the Nordic Region; Aalto University; Valio dairy farm; and Aalto’s entrepreneurial society. It’s been so interesting learning more about how Finnish culture has affected how businesses operate here. After our company visits, we found three major differences between Finland and the U.S. The first is Finland’s major aversion to risk in comparison on the U.S., second is the education system here in Finland both how it is set up as well as how it’s viewed; and lastly, the lack of drives for increased profit margins and more focus on things such as sustainability and supplier satisfaction.

Risk vs. Reward

It was during our first business visit at Nordea that we came to the realization that unlike in the U.S., risk aversion seemed to be their number one priority. Throughout the entire presentation, the importance of minimizing risk was mentioned time and time again and truly seems to be a major foundation for their business model. One example of this was the low amount of LTV loans Nordea takes on especially in comparison to the U.S. in order to minimize pockets of risk. They have also developed a business model that implements 3 lines of defense in order to avoid risk. It was really interesting to us that rather than focusing mainly on profits and returns they prided themselves on making investments and business ventures that both provided a decent profit while still maintaining low risk.

Our business visit at Nordea

Education

With education included within two of the twelve pillars of global competitiveness, one major difference between the two countries is not only the emphasis on receiving an education, but the price. Education is an important factor to take into account when examining businesses since students are the brains behind future business development. After visiting and hearing from students and faculty from Aalto University, we noticed that by offering a bachelor’s degree absolutely to no cost to students, Finland is highly encouraging its population to earn a degree. This, in return, results in a higher percentage of individuals receiving a degree with over 80% of the population having graduated with their bachelor’s degrees. While at Aalto, we also met with Aaltoes which is the university’s entrepreneurship society where they showed us how much money and support the school puts behind students within this field. Where is the difference? Universities and colleges in the U.S. do not offer free education to the entire population, but rather to just those who earn specific scholarships. This makes it hard for many to even attend a higher education simply due to not having the money for it, with only a little over 30% of the population earning their degrees. Aalto also showed us that it is normal to take a longer time to earn a degree by allotting time for work and gaining experience while also earning an education. Americans, on the other hand, are more known for being in a rush to earn a degree so that we can then enter the workforce as soon as possible.

Our first visit to Aalto university

Our second visit to Aalto University at their startup entrepreneurial lab

Low Drive for Profit Margin

At Valio, it was an interesting difference to see how their major focuses were sustainability and satisfying suppliers rather than increasing profits. Valio believes heavily in “purity and respect for nature.” Some of the ways they have pursued sustainable substitutes for business practices is producing eco friendly fuel through manure as well as getting rid of all black plastic for all products. In addition to sustainability, Valio has developed a unique business model that focuses on paying suppliers maximum amounts for their products in order to keep the satisfied due to the fact that Valio’s suppliers actually own Valio limited. This shifts Valio’s business model away from a typical profit driven model you would typically find in the U.S.

Our company visit at Valio dairy farms on the outskirts of Helsinki

Adventure Time!

What a trip! We learned a lot from the three companies and university we were fortunate enough to visit; but beyond the business aspect of this course, we also took the time to immerse ourselves into the Helsinki lifestyle. Below are some photos of us experiencing this incredible place to the fullest.

Dinner with the girls and our local Finish friend Kalvin at Lungi which translates to ‘chill’ in English on our first night in Finland!

Traditional Finnish food Skagen

Enjoying our boat ride to a nearby island to explore for the day!

On the steps of the Helsinki Cathedrel

A variety of traditional food including reindeer, bear salami, and pickled herring from Lavotta!

Beef and Lamb stew with potatoes from Lavotta

Cafe Regatta

Traditional cinnamon bun and coffee from Cafe Regatta

Exploring Suomenlinna, the Finnish sea fortress!

Exploring the city with the girls!

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