Advance payments and VAT due, cash empty and the COVID-19 cloud will not disappear. It is time to contact Business Mentors North Karelia and get help. On time.

– COVID-19 is testing us all, but it is not in anyone’s interest to kill a milking cow, sums up the chair of Business Mentors North Karelia, Juha Pyykönen, as they help companies cope with acute distress.

‘Help on time.’ This is the message of Business Mentors North Karelia to the companies in the region that have had trouble during COVID-19. In total, eight of the 20 active mentors are now specifically addressing the problems caused by COVID-19. The members of the group are people with extensive experience in entrepreneurship, retired accounting professionals, bank managers and business managers in different competence areas. Experienced and reliable professionals ready to refine the company’s survival strategy to cope with COVID-19.

According to Juha Pyykönen, business mentors are primarily experienced experts. Nearly all of them has experience of what it is like to be stuck and how to cope with it.

– I don’t know a single entrepreneur who hasn’t encountered difficulties in their career. We’ve all lived through our recessions and devaluations, problems with staff and cash flow crises. After going through all that, one learns a great deal and becomes tougher, Pyykönen describes.

Better faster

Juha Pyykönen started as the chair of Business Mentors North Karelia a year ago. That’s exactly where the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Business Joensuu, which helped companies in trouble, switched gears once more and turned to Business Mentors for help. The aim was to prepare for the growing need for help. The fear was that after the end of the bankruptcy protection during the COVID-19 period, the number of bankruptcies would start to rise rapidly.

– Business Mentors Finland had already agreed to participate in the Early Warning project led by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment before the COVID-19 pandemic hit in spring 2019. The idea of the project is to help profitable companies cope with many kinds of crises and get back on track for growth. Tuomo Roivas, Director of Business Services at Business Joensuu, described the project as good, but too slow for COVID-19, Pyykönen explains.

Business Joensuu and Business Mentors North Karelia joined forces and launched the “Help in Time” business mentor group at the beginning of this year. The fast local application of the international operating model is unique in Finland. By mid-March, half a dozen companies have turned to them.

The game is not lost

Bankruptcy does not make the entrepreneur a loser, but unnecessary bankruptcies should be avoided, says Pyykönen. Much can be done even under the most awkward situations, as long as the entrepreneur seeks help early.

– It is absolutely essential that, in a difficult situation, the entrepreneur contacts the Finnish Tax Administration, their own bank and pension insurance company in good time. Here a business mentor can also help to open doors.

When the entrepreneur and the business mentor sit at the same table, the list of concrete matters to be examined is long. Pyykönen summarises the process stages: Identifying the problem, recognising possible errors, understanding the situation and taking the necessary measures. Financial issues often rise to the top of the list.

– The balance sheet and profit and loss account is examined in sufficient detail. Who are the most profitable customers in the end? And what is the situation with suppliers, are there alternatives on the purchase side? When expenditure exceeds revenue, what can be eliminated? Would more modest facilities suffice, would you consider smaller facilities instead of a fancy entrance? Is the price of products and services is correct, can the price be increased? Looking at the price level may also be a very difficult issue for many entrepreneurs, Pyykönen says.

Matters related to human resources management or marketing may also be at the centre of the review. Money not circulating may also be one of the pitfalls, as invoicing is dragging behind. The entrepreneur may be doing things out of love for the field, instead of from a business point of view.

– Good relations with the bank, a good accounting firm and an auditor – with this composition, we can go a long way.

Confidential

Business Mentors North Karelia is part of a national business mentor network. While in the so-called normal times, the business mentors helped companies in matters related to development, growth and internationalisation, the team of eight mentors is a targeted aid for the current pandemic situation.

Confidentiality will be upheld.

– The mentorship is voluntary. For companies, their help is free of charge. The activities are strictly confidential in all respects, Juha Pyykönen points out.

The choice of a mentor is made by the entrepreneur. If necessary, the entrepreneur can utilise the competence of more than one entrepreneur and also several times. The necessary measures and schedule will be agreed with the entrepreneur.

The regional business mentors’ base is the North Karelia Chamber of Commerce, where the regional coordinator is Mari Tuovinen, Head of Education and Service.

Let’s open a conversation!

  • Business Joensuu On-Call Business Service +358 10 419 8011, Mon–Fri 9–17
  • Business Joensuu Business Specialist Veikko Tahvanainen, +358 50 408 8696, veikko.tahvanainen@businessjoensuu.fi
  • Chair of Business Mentors Juha Pyykönen, +358 400 527 500, juha.pyykonen@yrityskummit.fi
  • Regional Coordinator Mari Tuovinen, +358 50 516 5208, mari.tuovinen@kauppakamari.fi

 

Identifying the problem, recognising possible errors, understanding the situation and taking the necessary measures.

Text: Sirkka-Liisa Aaltonen / Viestintä Ässä Oy
Images: Jarno Artika

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.