Towards growth and international markets – that’s the plan for Ficon Oy. Joensuu-based Ficon designs and manufactures property management equipment for pickup trucks. In Finland, the company's equipment is well known for their quality, durability and usability. Going forward, this reputation will be extended to the export market aswell – the company is taking internationalisation seriously and is working hard to make it happen.

– The first time was nerve-racking, of course. But immediately after the first PowerPoint slide, the representatives of the Swedish customer wereengaged in the presentation. We had a great discussion that supported our message, says Kasimir Sandman, Sales Manager at Ficon Oy.

Sandman’s and Ficon’s paths crossed when Sandman was studying at Karelia University of Applied Sciences and his study group started working on a market survey for Ficon.

– The student group visited us. We started chatting with the teacher about Ficon’s plans to start exporting to Sweden. So the teacher had us talking to one of the students, Finland-Swedish Kasimir Sandman. It was a sum of many coincidences, says Pentti Hyttinen, Managing Director at Ficon.

Tinkerer and visionary

Even though Pentti Hyttinen modestly mentions these instances as coincidences, Ficon’s purposeful growth and development is far from a coincidence. Since he was a little boy; Hyttinen has loved to work on motor vehicles. He became a private entrepreneur in the late 1990s and worked as a subcontractor. Since the beginning of 2006, Ficon has operated as a limited company.

– Our strength is in design and product development. Our premise is to produce high-quality, reliable and fine-tuned products – kind of like the Mercedes-Benz of our field.

Thanks to his passionate approach, this visionary has developed his skills in the art of cooperation and networking over the years. The company has carried out student cooperation with Karelia, tested an electric pickup solution with the University of Oulu, sought business advice and aid from development companies, and used Lean operating methods for improving the company’s internal logistics. There has been constant development on various fronts.

Getting started with the master-apprentice model

Kasimir Sandman speaks fluent Swedish and will be finishing his BBA degree soon. He arrived at Ficon through Business Joensuu’s master-apprentice training. Ficon started training Sandman as their export sales representative.

– Ficon operates in the engineering sector, and their customers consist of property management professionals. Without an introduction to the technical aspects I would not have been able to start working on sales assignments. The master-apprentice model gave me an opportunity to thoroughly study the operation and structure of the products. Of course, hiring an employee is a big investment for the employer, too. The master-apprentice model gave me and the company an opportunity to find out if I was up for the task, reflects Sandman.

Business all year round

The snowploughs, sand spreaders, grader blades and pressure washers designed and manufactured by Ficon are well-known in the Finnish market. One insight has been the fact that there is business all year round; maintenance needs are never-ending with clearing ice, leaves and weeds, ploughing snow and washing roofs. With the coronavirus epidemic, various cleaning and disinfecting needs from gates to shopping carts are an opportunity worth exploring.

New market in Sweden

Ficon’s position in the domestic market is strong, with a focus on southern Finland and the largest cities.

– The domestic market is still significant for us, but we think that the possibilities are even greater in Sweden. They only have one notable operator in the field, so there is virtually no competition.

When Hyttinen was invited to join the GoGlobal intensive programme last autumn, the decision was made quickly. It just so happened that Kasimir Sandman arrived at Ficon at the perfect time for the start of GoGlobal. Hyttinen has trusted Sandman to be in charge of the intensive programme.

Sandman approached the challenge thoroughly, to say the least. For example, he did careful background research before the first sales mission in February this year.

– I researched all potential customer companies in the Stockholm area. It turned out that, compared to Finland, in Sweden it is easy to find material on companies’ financial information, how the market works and what the market situation is like. Following certain criteria, I created ratings for each company in Excel and used them to make a top 10 customer list. Then I used the list to contact and set up meetings with potential companies that were just right for us.

Sandman’s prospect list model has since become a practical example for everyone else participating in the GoGlobal programme.

– As GoGlobal coach Valtteri Tuominen always says: do your homework thoroughly and spend time on preparation!

Ficon’s export journey is only starting out. Both Hyttinen and Sandman want to remind everyone that entering new export markets requires intense work and patience. After struggling with some nerves, sales representative Sandman handled his first trip to Sweden with flying colours. Since then, they have made several more trips, and Ficon has started to build installing and maintenance partnerships in Sweden as well.

– The best thing about GoGlobal has been concrete actions. Compared to UAS studies, this has been like an effective intensive course. Your coach is with you literally from start to finish. You get to think about your export message and how to find an insurmountable customer benefit, explains Kasimir Sandman excitedly.

Do your homework thoroughly and spend time on preparation!