A young, energetic, sales-oriented person who can bring a new perspective and the latest lessons. These were the criteria Chief Business Development Officer Jarno Verso had in mind when looking for a new recruit for PAL Finland's sales. When Simo Kettunen walked in the door, the master felt that he had found the right apprentice.

Let’s start with A – Albio. Albio is a tool for measuring blood alcoholic content directly from a patient’s blood. Albio is PAL Finland’s first own product, a patented blood alcohol test. The tool is based on an electrochemical reaction and its measurement. Similar technology is used in blood glucose monitors, for example.

The initial idea for the development of this product came from a question posed by Riikka Pyhäluoto, Jarno Verso‘s sister. Pyhäluoto, who worked as a supervisor in emergency medical care, needed a reliable and quick way to measure a patient’s blood alcohol content at the critical first moments of treatment. Getting this information quickly has a decisive impact on what type of treatment is most appropriate in acute situations.

– We searched, investigated, and asked questions. We found that there was no such testing method anywhere, says Jarno Verso, who worked as a health technology consultant in Kuopio at the time.

The background work showed that there was a demand for a blood alcohol test. In terms of speed, reliability as well as cost, the test beats traditional methods – smelling the patient’s breath or doing time-consuming and expensive laboratory and saliva tests. Patients who need help are not nearly always in a state to be able to do a breath test. Albio gives a result within seconds.

B as in business

In 2014, Riikka Pyhäluoto, her father Ilkka Vartiainen, who worked in the pharmaceutical sector, and Kari Kolehmainen, a serial entrepreneur from Kuopio, established PAL Finland Oy. With the leadership of Jarno Verso, product development progressed, networks were created and faith strengthened – the company had a chance at a promising international business.

– Initially, resources were small. We had help from VTT and the University of Eastern Finland for our research work. Another new partner was Reagena Oy from Siilinjärvi, a company that develops and prepares diagnostic tests.

In 2016, PAL Finland set up a presentation stand at the EMS World Expo fair in Copenhagen. A big international fair –emergency care professionals, doctors, all kinds of emergency response people, describes Verso.

– There we were, between the two lecture halls. With Albio’s simple product promise, we managed to stop a lot of people passing by. People were wondering if a product like this could actually be in the works.

The day after the exhibition, phones started ringing. Pharmaceutical device representatives around the world were competing to represent Albio. It was a bull’s-eye for PAL Finland – now the company has a comprehensive reseller network in Europe as well as representatives in South America and Asia.

C as in Covid-19

While finishing touches were being made on Albio’s product development and testing with a partner in Taiwan, the world turned upside down. Coronavirus, Covid-19, became a reality. In an instant, there was a shortage of personal protective equipment – face masks, protective suits, gloves. For PAL Finland, the crisis meant an opportunity for growth.

– We had good contacts in Asia. We were able to respond promptly to the demand for PPE in Finnish hospital districts.

The panic caused by coronavirus had many kinds of businesses stepping up – some more opportunistic than others. PAL Finland was on the move with a totally different agenda.

– Our focus in the PPE business was first and foremost to help, to be involved in upholding health care services. Our organization is small and our costs are low. That is why we have been able to offer high-quality PPE with modest profit margins.

From apprentice to top salesman

In spring 2020, PAL Finland moved from Kuopio to Joensuu, although they still have an administrative office in Kuopio as well. Verso, having worked in Josek for a few years and later at Business Joensuu, took up the role of PAL’s Chief Business Development Officer full time in the spring. The company had come to a point where it had to shift focus from product development to sales.

– As a small company, we were hesitant about traditional recruitment. I had heard about the master-apprentice training, and it seemed like a suitable operating model for us.

Simo Kettunen arrived at PAL Finland’s office in Joensuu Science Park in the spring. With a nearly-finished Bachelor of Business Administration degree under his belt, Kettunen came to measure the window decals for the new office.

– I had met Simo previously at Spark Joensuu, a meeting place for entrepreneurship and studying. I knew what his skills were. While he was taking measurements, I said that we would be recruiting in the near future. And so it happened that a little later Simo contacted us. We set a meeting, discussed everything, and have now been working in the same office since early August, says Jarno Verso delightedly.

For his part, Kettunen is also delighted to have the opportunity to solve international challenges that match his education.

– The goal is to get sales rolling! So far, our main focus has been on supply sales in Finland. In the future, I intend to also make an effort to look into potential new sales products. I feel that this work is inspiring and matches my personal values. It is about helping people, Simo Kettunen summarises.

The expansion of product range that Kettunen mentioned is one of the growth directions of PAL Finland. The plan is to get flagship product Albio on the market within the current year. Final testing is now ongoing. With increased sales due to coronavirus, PPE will also remain in the company’s product selection.

– Among other things, we have researched new and improved portable ventilators and other diagnostic equipment.  We are interested in innovative equipment that facilitates work in emergency care. Of course,our goal in the future is also to develop our own new products.

” I had heard about the master-apprentice training, and it seemed like a suitable operating model for us”

FACT: Master–apprentice training

  • Strong competence support in situations of change of ownership
  • Also suitable for situations when a jobseeker is looking for employment and the company is looking for competent workforce
  • Duration: 10-100 days, defined according to objectives at the beginning of the apprenticeship
  • Support and assistance from a Business Specialist at Business Joensuu starting from practical matters
  • Partners: European Social Fund ESF, South Savo ELY Centre, Riveria and the TE Office of North Karelia
  • Master–apprentice training until 30 September 2020 – seize this opportunity NOW!
  • Further information: Business Specialist Satu-Minna Piiroinen, Business Joensuu Oy, +358 400 287 787

Text: Sirkka-Liisa Aaltonen/Viestintä Ässä Oy

Images: Jarno Artika