Varusteleka on their campaign reminding people about the typical Finnish mid summer festival hazards
Varusteleka reminding people in their Midsummer Bingo competition and marketing campaign video about the typical Finnish mid summer festival hazards: Don’t be a statistic!

Originality – the ability to express one self and be creative in an independent manner. Originality is very hard for money to buy, and it takes courage to express such quality. Originals also also inspiring, because as the most of us do what we can, the originals do what they want.

Having said that, I simply couldn’t picture a better place for a FTD, than a true original such as the Finnish army and outdoor store Varusteleka. Getting on my FTD gears again yet another Friday morning, little did I know about the treat I was about to be served – not only in terms of originality of public image of the company, but the passion and professionalism behind the scenes.

As a side mark, at this point it’s probably fair to note that it was once again my trusted sales agent Henrik from D&B, who hooked me up with this opportunity. With a little help I got introduced to his old business acquaintance Teemu Tervashonka, a Logistics General Manager at Varusteleka.

While sometimes there might be some initial friction to get things going with the FTD‘s simply because of.. – we’ll, I guess certain level of originality, this was certainly not the case with Varusteleka. Turned out, they had exceptionally fine tuned processes to adopt temporary workforce and also mentor young trainees. I have to say that, throughout my entire career, I have probably not seen so well thought out work introductions.

By far and large and even despite the complexity of their product portfolio, thanks to their streamlined processes I was up to speed working independently with all their fancy warehouse gear in an hour after checking in. Amazing! However, it’s worth noting that this was not possible only thanks to their processes, but also their Manager on Duty Miro Koivunen and his superior, Assistant Warehouse Manager Jarmo Tyni, who got me super charged with all necessary information from A to Z sooner than I was able to tie the laces of my special safety shoes everyone working there has to wear.

As a cherry on top of the cake to enable the quick ramp up, their whole logistics solution (processes and IT applications) was remarkably well designed. In fact, this is the part where Varusteleka seems to take a lot of well justified pride in. A little later on, while chatting with Mr. Tervashonka, it appeared that the Toyota Production System had been well studied. These guys know what’s up when it comes to Lean processes!

Updating collected items on an order to the logistics system. Streamlined, easy and efficient - they way IT systems should be
Updating collected item information on an order to the logistics system using touch screen pad on a side of a collecting cart and a kind of brass knuckles style wireless bar code reader. Streamlined, easy and efficient – they way IT systems should be!

In general, one of the best parts of the FTD‘s is that you get to meet new people. On a morning coffee brake I met Maria, who was in charge of Varusteleka‘s recycled product line Jämä, kind of their version of what Globe Hope does. No questions asked, having done a bit of handcraft myself, I could easily see myself spending another Friday at their Jämä-workshop – or even a year, high on Scho-Ka-Kola for that matter. To give you an example, they had some pretty cool designs, like the bottle carrier below:

Carry your favorite brews to a park with style and environmentally conscious choice - the recycled Jämä bottle carrier!
Carry your favorite brews to a park with an environmentally conscious choice – the recycled Varusteleka Jämä bottle carrier!

Later in the morning and towards the afternoon, Mr. Tyni took me under his wings to work a little on the actual store side too. He also took me around the see other parts and departments of the company.

As it would not be very exciting drain down all the activities and revenue streams of Varusteleka, the Sotima bar inside their store with full alcohol license, serving hip micro brew products among a couple of other specialties (Remember, this is Finland we are speaking about!!) deserves to be put in a limelight. They also bolster an impressive uniform and other military surplus rental collection that has granted them collaboration with various movie projects.

Looks familiar - yeah, this is a prop used in the crowd funded cult classic movie Iron Sky
Looks familiar? – yeah, this is a prop helmet used in the crowd funded cult classic movie Iron Sky

Touring the rest of the building, we also managed to pop by at the marketing department. After some brief introductions, almost instantly we engaged in an interesting discussion about the economics of digital marketing. Analytics play a huge role obviously in marketing, but also having a closer look at some of their most current campaigns, it became clear that having a proprietary rich media content repository and in house production capabilities not only saves you a lot of money, but it also accelerates execution. Funny enough when extending the internal capability discussion a little further, since their most recent clips have had the tendency to be rather explosive, a conclusion was reached that gaining a certificate in pyrotechnics (!) would be very much of use.

The time for wrapping up things for one of the best FTD‘s so far  came once again much to soon. As a nice coincidence I got to participate a end of week meeting where some current topics were discussed, but we also had a short debrief about my FTD. I felt also good that I had an opportunity to thank at least some of the people I had met and worked with during the day.

Plane and simple, the day had zoomed past at the speed of light still show casing a colossal amount of interesting things. I also had gotten an opportunity to take a peak in an exceptional working environment both in terms of culture and actual people. One could literally write a book about all the things that took place and got discovered throughout the day.

Nevertheless and just to keep my findings short, a couple of aspects shone through different situations that seem to be the nominating factors of a thriving and growing company. It’s about having the right people trusting and respecting each other while doing things together to achieve shared goals with a sense of passion and pride for their work. Ideas are always welcome and nothing is impossible before you try it.

These are the days that easily make up the late hours sometimes both at my daily work, but also home to pave the way for the FTD‘s. Stay original and hope to see you again soon!

Bravo Varusteleka, Bravo!