The man behind the productisation of Kiho’s services is Lari Tirkkonen. The roles of Tirkkonen and the company’s CEO, Antti Koponen, are clearly distinct in the company. The dynamic between Tirkkonen and Koponen could be compared to one you might encounter in a buddy cop comedy – with the exception that one of the partners excels in talking and the other in writing.
Lari Tirkkonen became involved in Kiho’s operations in 2013. According to Tirkkonen, there were “slight profitability challenges” in the company’s activities at the time: the company showed major losses and its risk rating was 99. The company began tackling these problems by enhancing its sales. Productisation rose to the forefront and, little by little, the endeavours succeeded in saving Kiho from the brink of oblivion.
“In practice, the different services of the company were put in distinct “jars”, which were then labelled according to their contents. We created clear descriptions and, most importantly, fixed prices for these services, and this enabled us to sell the products for many target groups.”
In fact, Tirkkonen singles out productisation as the one area many companies often end up treating like a stepchild. For instance, even through companies may have a lot of expertise in coding and ability to utilise technology effectively, it might be very difficult to buy their services.
“Without a price, which is an indication of a well-thought-out product in practice, customers can only purchase a project. While you can keep getting work with this kind of an operating model, you cannot build a business from it. Instead of providing customers with a project, you should always create a scalable business, i.e. a product that meets the needs of as many potential customers as possible. This approach underlies Kiho’s product development.”
Customer always comes first
Tirkkonen’s work history is “very entrepreneurial” and involves many different industries. Even now, he is a shareholder in three different companies. Tirkkonen spends “99 per cent of his waking hours” on working for Kiho. The contents of his work have changed as the company has grown bigger. Most of his time is spent on customer projects and in general on communicating with customers.
“In practice, I spend 8 hours of every work day on the phone, 3-4 hours visiting customers in person, and around 5 more hours in the car. In between, there is time to sleep for a few hours.”
Tirkkonen singles out his ability to express things in an understandable and clear way that lends itself for easy communication as his core competence. While this skill is particularly related to productisation, Tirkkonen also says that it reflects his solution-oriented approach on sales. He also considers his persistence very important, a characteristic highlighted in working with customers.
“I will not give in the moment I encounter difficulties. Kiho’s products have been designed by listening to the customers’ needs. When one of our customers faces a problem, we will come up with a solution. It is of utmost importance that the service offered by Kiho truly works. All of our products have been developed with practical work in mind.”
A breakthrough awaiting Kiho in the future. Automatization and robotization will profoundly transform the nature of work. On the other hand, this will also put increasing strain on the economic conditions. This is why Tirkkonen has set his sights on the foreign market.
“It is undeniable that growth will be difficult in the future. In the domestic market, we can increase our turnover to around 10 to 20 million euros; however, if and when we intend to accomplish something greater, we must embark on the international market. In the near future, our greatest challenge will be to find investors who believe in Kiho to an extent that they are willing to invest enough money in us for us to make our company internationally successful.”
Keeping up with the transformation of work requires an ability to sniff out future trends. According to Tirkkonen, Kiho has already taken its first step towards automatization, as data on the customers’ business processes has already been collected in the company’s database for analysis purposes.
“You might say that we are already as close to the core of the matter as possible at this point. But how to maintain this position, that is quite a challenge, as there are many others doing the same thing. Kiho can stand out from the rest with its agility, as we offer solutions that work in practice for our customers.”
Keeping the hurricane in check
Tirkkonen describes himself and Antti Koponen as an unusual double act. The business approaches of the two men might not work separately, but put together, their inventiveness produces curious chemistry. This is the very reason why there is potential in Kiho’s future visions.
“As they say, Antti is a kind of a hurricane twirling and whirling in at times very broad spheres. As for me, I perhaps have my feet set more firmly on the ground and will sort things out and arrange them in clear packages in practice. Nonetheless, the vision we share is clear: we want to make work easier with the help of artificial intelligence, augmented reality, mobile interfaces and big data. We can see which direction the development is heading towards, develop Kiho accordingly and also expressly state our views.”
So far, the aim towards clear communications rests mostly on Tirkkonen. The cooperation works as in the old buddy cop comedy trope. Antti is the one who speaks, while Lari writes everything down. The “storming” between the two results in Kiho’s products, vision and conditions for growth.