Stories from a Senior Mentor: Markku Saarinen

Markku is a local businessman who has retired but keeps his passion for people and business alive by mentoring. He is wisdom, kindness, and has a sparkle in his eye. Today, he shares a little bit of his story and what mentoring means to him - he also shares the value for students to get involved in mentoring now!

Markku is a local businessman who has retired but keeps his passion for people and business alive by mentoring. He is wisdom, kindness, and has a sparkle in his eye. Today, he shares a little bit of his story and what mentoring means to him – he also shares the value for students to get involved in mentoring now!

Hi, Markku! Tell us a little bit about yourself – what would you like us to know about you?

I am now retired but I worked in international business over 35 years. I have a background as a mechanical engineer and worked in one public company, lived in several countries, and traveled the globe too many times. The last role I had was part of the equipment sales in EMEA (Europe, the Middle East, and Africa). This means I understand many cultures and how to do business in many places. If I can help somebody somewhere to start business somewhere it’s a great pleasure.

What is the most important lesson that you learned during your years in international business?

If you don’t look at the culture and understand it, you can make a lot of mistakes. In order to do good business you have to be present and build relationships.  Many people think that the way business that works here will work somewhere else, but often it is different. The USA is a bit easier, but moving to central Europe is a very different business culture plus the language is different.

I lived for fourteen years in Germany, where business is one way. When you go over the border to France – just 2 kilometeres – the culture is suddenly different. I feel very strongly that understanding the culture and especially understanding what you may NOT do is so important and will save you from many mistakes.

How did you become involved in the Junior/Senior Mentor Program?

I am a part of the Yrityskummit to mentor small and medium size companies. The junior senior mentor program was brought to us through the Yrityskummit.

Why do you choose to mentor entrepreneurs and businesses?

I have a passion to teach the young ones how to do it and not to make the same mistakes we have done. If somebody can make one mistake less than what I have done, then it’s already won.

When I retired I wanted to stay involved in business and understand what is going on. By mentoring, I still get to be involved in what is happening around me. I get to see what the young ones are trying to do and how they can avoid mistakes – I wonder how can I challenge them? Question them? Normally it helps the entrepreneurs to talk and share where they are to understand why they are doing what they are doing.

The role of the mentor is to ask questions and try to guide them the entrepreneur in the right direction. The ultimate responsibility is always taken by the entrepreneur. As mentors we share our experience and give guidance, but in the end the entrepreneur takes ownership of the vision and decisions.

From your perspective, what is the benefit of being a junior mentor? Why should students decide to join this mentoring program?

If you want to be in business one day, even if you don’t want to be an entrepreneur, you need to have experiences doing these things. Being a part of the junior/senior mentor program helps you understand exactly what you need to do to build a business.

This is great opportunity to practice developing a business and to learn to see things from different perspectives.

The way of working is changing. People today have some kind of relationship with their employees and rarely do you work with only one company, especially in IT and service projects. If you are in direct sales, you interact with customers from everywhere. If you don’t have customers, you don’t have a business. This opportunity provides a way to work with different people.

I learn many things, too, because students today know a lot of things that I don’t know, and by challenging them and asking questions I get to learn, too.

What are the most important things a junior mentor should be ready for?

  • Junior Mentors should be ready to understand the goal very clearly. Don’t be afraid to ask questions!
  • Junior Mentors should be ready to be succinct and efficient. This is an opportunity to step out of the academic world and into the practical world.
  • Junior Mentors should be ready to be a part of a team and participate fully. This is a chance for them to get so much practice, but you can only get it if you participate in meetings and teamwork.

What is your greatest gift that you receive from mentoring?

When the entrepreneur has success. When I see that there is success behind the discussions – that the open, wild conversations are getting through and they are digging into it and moving forward. When they hear even the words that I don’t say. Most of all, when you see the change in ther smile and see that life is a bit easier, even with the challenges of entrepreneurship, this is the reward.

The reward is when people find a way to make what they want happen.

 

Are you interested in working together with and learning from a senior mentor like Markku and offering your insight to a local entrepreneur? Contact Ramona Bilmez at ramona.bilmez@tampere.fi
Did you know that you can get credit for being a junior mentor! Learn more at https://www.y-kampus.fi/en/studies/business-mentoring-program/

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