“Entrepreneurship will keep moving forward, and you have to face challenges like an apprentice,” says Janne Vihervuori, as he recounts his experiences with Business Joensuu and VV-Sähkö’s journey from a one-man limited partnership to what it is today.

As part of our Business Whisperer campaign, we visited VV-Sähkö’s entrepreneur Janne Vihervuori in the company’s offices on Tolopontie, Joensuu. Janne Vihervuori spent eleven years in Helsinki, where he studied to become an electrical engineer. He moved back to Joensuu in 2005 and spent a year working as an employee for a company in that field. However, the young man yearned for greater challenges, and the very next year he founded his own company VV-Sähkö. During those early days, he tried to make a go of it on his own.

– I would’ve needed help, for sure, but the Finnish nature is all about not asking anything about anything. Maybe I felt it difficult for me to seek help back then. I didn’t go to any entrepreneur courses and didn’t apply for startup funds. I think getting help and applying for grants is easier nowadays and services for entrepreneurs have been improved. They still needs improvement, Vihervuori tells.

The company started off with electrical contracting. After a year of solitary entrepreneurship, Vihervuori hired his first employee with a pay subsidy.

– The same guy is still working here, Vihervuori laughs.

Little by little the scale of the contracts grew, and today the company’s line of business is HVAC. To offer some examples, the company deals with power grid installations, water pipe and heating repairs as well as heat pump installations. Vihervuori states that the purpose of VV-Sähkö is to be able to service clients in building services engineering as comprehensively as possible. The expansion of the company’s line of business took place in 2020 thanks to the financial support the business received because of the COVID-19 pandemic. This was also when Business Joensuu and Timo Hartikainen stepped in.

– This Business Joensuu thing got started because my acquaintance Lasse Immonen works there. He encouraged me to apply for financial support and informed me that Business Joensuu helps entrepreneurs with the application process. It was good to join that circle and to realize that they have all these ludicrously good services available free of charge. Thanks to the financial support, the company found new opportunities I was not aware of. Business Joensuu was instrumental in getting that subsidy. Expanding into pipe fitting had been on the table for years, but turning it into reality had been a little difficult, since I only have an electrical engineer’s education, Vihervuori tells.

Hartikainen found a template for a HVAC employment contract, briefed Vihervuori on the regularities of job interviews, and explained how he should compose job advertisements. He maintained a close dialogue with Vihervuori throughout the recruitment process. In autumn, the company hired HVAC installers, and VV-Sähkö’s company form changed from a limited partnership to a limited company. At present, the company is looking for a HVAC supervisor. Vihervuori feels that above all Business Joensuu treated him as a human being.

– The people of Business Joensuu are very client-oriented. When a person has an entrepreneurial background, and they have worked in a place where they really had to serve their clients, you can see it in their behaviour.

Vihervuori sees people and short distances as the upsides of running a business in Joensuu. There are no traffic jams in a city of this size, the networks are functioning, and the atmosphere in the construction trade is good. When you do not have to drive hours upon hours to reach the site, the services are cheaper for the client as well.

– There are plenty of good people and client in Joensuu, and people know one another, Vihervuori states.

Nowadays the company has around 15 employees, and the desire to develop the company further keeps the entrepreneur going. Both technology and the art of entrepreneurship are progressing fast, and an entrepreneur has to keep up to prosper. There have been bumps on the road, but according to Vihervuori the most important thing is to approach challenges like an apprentice.

– There were problems along the way and we’ve paid the price for those. But that’s what entrepreneurship and technology in general are about. Things will keep moving forward, and you have to face challenges like an apprentice. You shouldn’t be overconfident. Problems can do some good too. In a way, the road to success is rocky, and you’ll inevitably run into trouble, but you just have to get over it and learn from the experience. That’s how I’ve thought about it.

The company’s ongoing collaboration with Business Joensuu has already lasted for over a year. The prospect of hiring new employees is on Vihervuori’s mind. Currently, the field offers plenty of employment, and according to Vihervuori, finding good employees has been challenging. He emphasizes the value of a good employee:
– You should hold on to good people by any means necessary. The bigger the company grows, the more it matters. That’s how it is. The employee’s position is crucial especially in this field, and the importance of a good employee can’t be stressed enough. I’d say that any electrical engineer or pipefitter, that kind of a professional, will get hired immediately, and there are many companies here that have work to offer, Vihervuori remarks.

Vihervuori hopes that services aimed at entrepreneurs will be made more approachable, and that when a new company registers at the Trade Registry, the public administration would reach out to entrepreneurs first, and not the other way around.

– You’ll need help in the beginning the most, and at that time you most likely won’t have a lot of contacts to or networks of fellow entrepreneurs. There might be people out there with a really good business concept, and they might be very hard-working and would make a capable entrepreneur, but the need for early assistance gets completely overlooked.

Vihervuori subscribes to the well-known proverb “you reap what you sow”. This is why it is important to work responsibly and to treat your clients and your fellows in the trade with respect.

“The people of Business Joensuu are very client-oriented.” – Janne Vihervuori

Text: Hanne Hynynen
Photos: Stefan De Batselier
Translation: Lauri Vuori