Motivators also need to be motivated. I’ve been lucky to work with multiple inspiring bosses, all of them influencing heavily into who I am today as a leader. One of my previous bosses had a strength of vision, encouraging us all to see beyond the ordinary. Among my favourite examples of that time is our “Finns deserve to know their oat bread” campaign and the whole philosophy behind it. It was a conclusion of carefully studying the perceptions of Finns regarding oat breads. It turned out that they had no idea how much oat their oat breads contained, but they wished for it to be more than it actually was. The learnings took us to claim the amount of oat very visibly in our breads – despite if it was high or low. That kind of transparency really spoke to consumers and was received very positively. After that, we have been actively increasing the amount of oat we use in our oat breads. Nowadays, Finnish Food Authority also instructs a minimum oat content for oat breads. 

I joined Vaasan in Finland in 2007 when it was owned by an investor company. In 2015 Lantmännen Unibake acquired Vaasan from the investor company, and that was an important shift for me. To my experience, investors tend to focus on short-term optimisations whereas Lantmännen Unibake has a more holistic, long-term perspective. Today, you can feel that there is a strong strategy behind everything we do – for example developing products that are healthier or developing our operations into a more sustainable direction. The core values of the company give me a sense of purpose that is important for my personal and professional drive. 

Three years ago, I moved from a Finnish commercial team focusing only on the Finnish market to another working with category strategies and innovation for multiple markets. It was the outcome of me taking the time to think about my career and my strongest interests, and it was also the result of me having an open discussion with my boss about the things I’d be interested in next. After working with the same tasks in the same market for a long time I needed to widen my horizon. Otherwise, I would just repeat myself.  

One of the biggest learnings from working with multiple fresh bread markets is that – even though it’s easy to sometimes think that way – people in the neighbouring countries are not the same at all. Each country has its own culture and heritage, and that plays into their respective bread markets. For instance, Finns are really into the health and nutrition aspects of bread whereas for people in the Baltics it’s more about good taste. Of course, that is a broad generalisation. But I have learned that small nuances and cultural variations are important for how we tell our stories to consumers. 

The core values in the company are the glue that keeps me here. Especially during tough times. Many of us have experienced bakery strikes giving room for small bakeries in retail. Many of us have battled a trend to avoid carbohydrates from bread. And now we are fighting COVID-19. But the team spirit always pulls through. We laugh together, share stuff from everyday life and try to support each other in good and bad. I think that is what team spirit boils down to for me. How much you notice your colleagues, and how much they notice you.