SSL’s Midsummer @ Finland
The unique business culture at SSL, is something that truly defines us as a company, a family. In this article, we want to draw your attention to our Finnish friends: the Kotka office and Antti Linteri, SSL’s Sales Director. As a truly diverse company, 52 employees and 19 nationalities, and since it’s Midsummer: we want to acknowledge their hard work and the wonderful people they are.
We interviewed Antti for some insights into SSL’s operations in Finland, the Finnish culture, and Antti himself!
Antti at a 10 km race, he tackled last year.
As the sales director, what are some specific challenges you encounter and how do you overcome them?
The markets we operate in are complex and constantly changing. We need to ensure we stay on top of not only development but regulatory change in these areas which is possible due to our network of offices.
When a problem arises, we propose a solution, take the EU sanctions towards Russia, our reaction time on assessing exactly where every kg of freight is, is practically instant, this is as much due to our bespoke in-house track and trace system which allows us very close monitoring.
In case of strike, we always have a contingency which we keep open, our markets are volatile, we therefore have to be creative at all times, proactive and not reactive. Staying one step ahead of the market is our speciality and a valuable asset.
Of course, there are many challenges attached to sales and business development, but we strive to remain competitive and continue adding value to our customer’s supply-chain.
What was your background before joining SSL?
I started working in the container shipping industry in 1993 until 2012 when I joined SSL.
How does SSL compare to your previous job?
Like SSL, all my previous employers were also private companies. I’ve never worked for a massive multi-national public company. In SSL, however, it truly feels like we are family, the comparison between a container shipping company and a logistic service provider is vast, the scope of services we offer is much wider. There are many restrictions in the shipping industry, but an LSP affords much more service flexibility with a broader target market.
Could you describe your average day at the office?
Every day is different in this industry. Typically, my average day consists of, supporting my colleagues with their sales efforts, servicing the customers I’m personally responsible for, studying possible new leads in our operating areas, planning for the next day/week, and responding to client requests as they come in. Work keeps me on my toes; there is never a dull moment.
Additionally, since we have offices in the UK, Belgium, Russia, Finland, Turkey, and Kazakhstan, our customers are widespread, as a result, I’m frequently in continental Europe, be that in our Belgian office or wherever it is necessary to meet customers and colleagues.
What are some advantages unique to Finland?
Firstly, Finland is a great transit hub into Russia, a choice of border crossings; avoid congestion without augmenting the overall transit time. Moreover, if you want to hold Russia-bound goods in the EU, storage in Finland is ideal due to its proximity to the market. However, you can also turn around and sell it in the EU if the demand in Russia drops.
Many people think Finland’s ports can get disrupted during the Winter months, but their port system operates efficiently. The shipping lines that we work with particularly have fantastically designed schedules that are followed to precision. There’s very little deviation even when it’s a hard winter or bad weather. Furthermore, our trucking companies are also accustomed to the winter conditions, so we can keep the cargo moving all year long.
Finland has very stable Unions, never 100% perfect but one can at least plan around them. There have recently been strikes in Sweden and Spain for example, but Finland remains “workable”, unlike most others in the supply line.
A breathtaking, aerial view of Kotka.
What’s it like to be a Finn living in the UK?
Well, everything was okay until last June. All jokes aside, I’ve always felt like this is my home since I moved here in 1997. Nobody is sure what’s going to happen after the Brexit talks, but I generally believe the UK is a remarkable place to live and work. It is very welcoming to foreigners which makes it so easy to settle in and feel at home.
What is your advice for creating business relationships with other Finns?
I would say, firm handshake, look them in the eyes, be genuinely interested in their business, and build trust from the very beginning. We at SSL have strong business relationships fundamentally based on mutual trust not only with our Finnish customers but our entire client base.
Sapokka water garden, in Kotka, Finland.
What are some market or economic trends in Finland?
The Finnish exports are really picking up, so we are trying to increase our share in that export market. In terms of market trends, e-commerce is increasing in Finland, raising the requirement for local distribution centers or warehouses, another reason we hope for growth in the country.
In comparison, what types of products does SSL export and transit out of Finland?
We operate in many sectors, but generally everything we transit into Russia is either high-value, time sensitive, or both. We export a lot of paper in nearly any format, and ship a lot of chemicals in different formats; regularly packed. We also do a lot of automotive, construction machinery, retail and FMCG.
What do you expect will be SSL’s next move in this region?
We are aiming to expand our cargo-handling, warehousing, and local distribution capabilities in Finland and in the wider region such as, Russia and the Baltic states. Our goal is to better organize our customers’ last-mile dynamics from the warehouse to the end-queue of their supply chains. Alongside that, we endeavor to boost our sales from Finland, both imports and exports, with the UK. I am confident that, despite the Brexit uncertainties on the horizon, trade between these two countries will continue.
In your opinion, what is SSL’s greatest achievement?
Being the extended arm to so many multi-national companies, support their growth markets which is our core expertise., particularly in Russia. Also, being able to maintain and expand on our flexibility to react to our surrounding business and economic environment. Our new developments in Turkey, Israel, and our expansion into Iran’s market are very exciting alongside expansion to our current trade areas.
What do you believe to be your biggest achievement? Professionally and Personally?
Adapting to this environment so quickly from a different industry and feeling at home within the company is something I’m extremely proud of. More specifically, being able to contribute and become an established member of the team.
I wouldn’t like to state any material things, trying to be a good husband and father to my two girls is a great challenge for anybody, but so far, I think I’ve managed well.
Could you describe the Finnish mentality?
A typical Finn cannot do small talk. We can tolerate silence longer than anybody else in the world. You should be prepared for a meeting that has little or no small talk and one which can handle a few silent pauses.
Thank you Team SSL Kotka for your continuous hard work and dedication; SSL hopes you are all enjoying the midnight sun!
Also, thank you Antti for having a great taste in music, being an outstanding Sales Director, and an even better friend!