As a child, Suvi Hassinen thought all men had black hands. At that time, she thought her father's work in the metal workshop in their yard was “traditional men’s work”. She discovered an entirely new dimension when, as an 18-year-old, she travelled to Sweden with her father to interpret for him at a forestry fair. The trip made her realise that the work involves much more than welding, and eventually she found her place at the helm of the family business that sells products abroad.

Suvi Hassinen grew up with a professional workshop in her home yard. HAVEL Oy was founded by Suvi’s father and uncle, Seppo and Timo Hassinen, and it specialises in manufacturing hose guards for forest machinery. The person employed the longest at the company has known Suvi since she was four years old. Growing up, Suvi also started working at HAVEL in her free time.

– It wasn’t until the fair trip to Sweden that I discovered how versatile HAVEL’s business was, and after my studies in youth counselling I decided to head towards international business studies with the aim of taking over sales and marketing at HAVEL in the future.

But as it turned out, sales wasn’t the thing for Suvi; she found her strength in leadership, making future plans, and setting goals. Little by little, her responsibilities at HAVEL grew, and the company was passed over to the next generation in 2014 when Suvi and her brother Mika became part owners of HAVEL. In 2018, Suvi officially became the CEO.

Answers from coaching programmes

HAVEL entered international markets already in the 90s when Seppo started to boldly do business at forestry fairs in Sweden, not letting his lack of language skills stop him. Most of the sales were made to private companies manufacturing forest machinery, and related wholesalers. At that time, the kind of hose guard manufactured by HAVEL was produced by very few companies; there were only two companies producing them in Finland.

– We had sales to twenty countries, the biggest contracts were in German-speaking areas. There’s more competition now that Asia is in production as well. In recent years, we’ve really had to think about how we can offer something new to the product, because we can’t endlessly compete with price, says Suvi.

According to Suvi, a company planning to export their product should forget their fears. Ultimately the principles of sales are the same; you have to find demand and customers. Suvi has received support and new tips for increasing HAVEL’s competitiveness from Business Joensuu’s GROW growth coaching programme and the Go Global coaching programme. Suvi feels that the programmes help broaden your world view and give you a new perspective, which is why she has made it her goal to participate in at least one programme every year.

– After the latest Go Global coaching programme, I felt reborn. The coaches shook up my usual way of thinking. We found an answer to the biggest challenge our company is facing today. If we just try to see what others are doing, we’re trailing behind. We have to offer something that’s not available anywhere else, says Suvi and explains that it’s a new service added on to a product.

Appreciation for Finnish work

The last five years of HAVEL under Suvi’s direction have been quite the turmoil. The company has carried out several development projects, clarified processes and created ERP systems, renewed the brand and brought HAVEL to the present day in every way. And then came COVID-19, which prevented the company from reaching the turnover goals for 2020. Despite COVID, HAVEL’s long-standing team was joined by two new hires for export sales last year.

– With emergency funding from Business Finland, we stayed afloat despite COVID, and what’s important, we didn’t need to lay anyone off. The good drive that we had going on didn’t peter out entirely. Without financial support, we would’ve been handicapped going forward, and the negative impacts would’ve reached years forward, says Suvi.

– Now we have all the pieces that we’ll be putting in place next. After the reforms, our goal is to stabilise our operations and establish a routine, says Suvi and adds that the plan is to go full steam ahead once we get past COVID-19.

For Suvi, the appreciation of Finnish production and expertise is about values that each individual and the society can influence. At HAVEL and in her everyday life, she wants to support local businesses and keep her region competitive by supporting companies that employ people in North Karelia. At a global scale, Finnish products are considered high quality, but above all, the Finnish mentality of delivering on your promises is a competitive advantage, according to Suvi.

– Our society should be supporting Finnish expertise and entrepreneurship even more and we should be moving to a more positive outlook. I think I’m following in my father’s footsteps in many ways, as an entrepreneur and an active member of the entrepreneurs’ association, says Suvi.

If you just try to see what others are doing, you’re trailing behind.

HAVEL Oy

  • Established by Seppo and Timo Hassinen in 1989.
  • Family business owned by Seppo, Timo, Mika and Suvi Hassinen
  • Manufactures hose guards and accessories for forest machinery
  • Employs 13 people
  • Sales to 20 countries
  • https://www.havel.fi

GROW growth coaching programme

Intended for entrepreneurs and managerial staff who are interested in developing their company in a target-oriented manner.

  • The coaching involves identifying the most important growth factors and putting together a growth plan. 
  • The result is a clear overall understanding of the current state of the company and its opportunities for growth.
  • Is growth coaching the right choice for you? Find more information and take a test:  https://www.businessjoensuu.fi/kasvuvalmennus/tee-testi/

This story is made possible by a project securing companies’ economic operating conditions during COVID-19, funded by the European Union Regional Development Fund and the Regional Council of North Karelia.