Antti Koponen is the CEO, member of the board and partial owner of Kiho. Working as the company’s CEO for ten years has provided him with special expertise, some of it learned the hard way.
At Kiho, Koponen has done practically every kind of work imaginable related to the company’s operations. He has written code and installed positioning devices. Koponen knows the practical side of the work and its everyday contexts through and through.
“The biggest challenge for me has been learning to trust that others know how to manage the tasks I’ve previously been in charge of as well as, or better than, me. People often think that it’s easy to delegate assignments, but when you’ve grown accustomed to doing things in a certain way over the years, this is no simple feat in real life. You just have to try and trust in the competence of others.”
The work days of the CEO are extremely diverse and the contents of his work are versatile. He typically devotes a lot of his time on partners and distributors as well as managing large clients. What has changed from previous years is a brighter vision of what the future may bring.
“More and more now, I am beginning to tap into true strategic management and taking the company forward. On the other hand, I would not have the tools for this without having experienced the more challenging years. We have always competed with bigger companies in the telematics business. We’ve been forced to constantly evaluate our position in the market and consider how we can stand out from the rest.”
Koponen believes that the most significant value he brings to Kiho is his ability to perceive which direction the company should pursue and to engage the motivation of the people around him to work towards reaching a mutual goal.
“My verbal skills are my absolute strength, it’s what I feel most at home with. People have said that I’m like a hurricane that comes over and sweeps people in its vortex. I find it important that I can genuinely motivate my team. I cannot do everything related to Kiho by myself, but I can spread my enthusiasm to others. Indeed, I have surrounded myself with people who find my message particularly effective. I do not see myself as a boss as much as someone who works here just like everyone else.”
According to Koponen, Kiho’s business culture has taken shape endogenously. A genuine desire to solve the customer’s problems underlies all operations. Despite the fact that the services sold by Kiho have been highly productised, the company nonetheless wishes to dive deep into the business of its customers and determine what Kiho can do to help each specific customer as well as possible.
“I get my biggest kicks from hearing clients say how much they have benefited from Kiho and how our service has even made their entire business operations possible.”
Koponen has worked for Kiho for as long as he has been an engineer. He initially came to the company as part of a coding project and became a shareholder at an early stage. He was initially somewhat reluctant to take on the role of the CEO.
“At some point, we noticed we were starting to run out of money and all everyone was doing was coding with no one there to sell the products. Someone had to do something about this issue and get the company back on its feet. This was a really tough situation, we owed everyone money and were about to go bankrupt.”
Koponen says he has grown into his role as the CEO the hard way. The first, and the most important, lesson is that you must constantly take things forward or all your efforts will go down in drain.
“I’ve had ten years to learn how to be a CEO. My development is also visible in the company’s results. Back when times were tough, I set our aim at obtaining the AAA credit rating. This goal became reality around one and a half years ago. This was a major accomplishment and served as concrete evidence of our ability to do something right.”
The experience has proven Koponen that the only thing you can really know is that you do not actually know anything about anything.
“The work of a CEO consists of constantly learning from errors. It is evaluation of failures and critical observation of the solutions you’ve made.”