“All small businesses deserve to know the secret to get more sales”, Antti Leijala – Lean-sales pioneer & CEO at UltraLeanBusiness Oy Ltd

It’s hard to imagine there’s “free” senior consultancy for business owners and solo entrepreneurs in Finland. But Antti with his unique passion and profound knowledge has managed to make such things happen in a very creative way. He did it successfully in Vihti, now the business is growing all over Finland.

I want to improve the competitiveness of 350 thousand small businesses in Finland

I’m born in Kuopio, raised in Espoo, and have lived in Vihti since 1997. Although I have technical education, my passion and skills have always been in business. When I was young, I got excited about selling insurances or meat at the local supermarket. I also dreamed that one day I could make my living from the 100-year-old family tradition of leather handcraft. This never happened, but entrepreneurship has always been my passion and now I’m living my dream.

My passion is to change the world from two angles.

1. Improve the competitiveness of 350 thousand small businesses in Finland and 300 million globally.

There’s a massive and global knowledge gap especially in selling and entrepreneurial skills of business owners, for example, building the sales processes that work, building strategy that brings the companies closer to its vision, understanding customers better, and many more. I can’t just witness entrepreneurs failing to achieve their goals. I want to help by offering them the outside view and my expertise in problem-solving and Lean-sales model.

2. Improve B2B companies WinRate via the establishment and deployment of the “Internet of Competition” (IoC) model.

The IoC model will be launched in August 2020. The winner of tomorrow’s business is the one who can learn fastest and IoC brings this closed-loop learning to virtually all B2B companies.

Lean Six Sigma could increase operational efficiency by 50% in small businesses

When I attended Lean Six Sigma (L6S) green belt training 17.9.2013, I had 2 “flashes”. It was a shocking experience and I still remember vividly writing down the time in my notebook. It was 11:37 AM when I realized that L6S is a fantastic business engine for all companies, but for some reason was only used in larger corporations. Small businesses easily have 50% waste in their operation and this needs to be fixed. To mention a few examples

(1) The sales processes are typically far from efficient,
(2) Companies are led by instinct rather than well planned and executed approach,
(3) The lack of clear direction and priorities lead to huge waste in terms of entrepreneurs’ own time management.

The end result is often chaos, stress and poorly performing business.

Also, L6S is massively used to improve production and services processes effectiveness (i.e. costs), but very few use it to improve the sales process and topline of companies. I knew that I needed to jump on it and I set myself a 3-year target to make this happen one way or another. On the same evening, I called my boss in India that we need to change my job description at Nokia (just signed it a few weeks earlier for something totally different), and next week I contacted the first small business owner – start executing my plan.

I’ve built a network of over 20.000 entrepreneurs

The forecasting process is absolutely the most challenging area and while I help others in creating it I sometimes also suffer from it myself. My target is to know future demand with ±20% accuracy six months ahead. If I can reach this target, it does not matter whether there’s a high peak (or sudden slowdown) in demand. I have enough time to plan and prepare.

The most satisfying moment is when I can link two small business entrepreneurs together. Over the past few years, I have created a massive personal LinkedIn entrepreneur network (over 20.000 direct connections to entrepreneurs, i.e. “the largest LI-entrepreneur network in Finland”). It’s great to be a matchmaker between two entrepreneurs who would not otherwise have a natural place to get connected and to create joint business opportunities.

As an example, I’ve just connected a professional photographer from Vihti with a supplier of LED-screens from Vantaa. Exciting new business business model was innovated and now planning how to launch that during the next few months.

Another one happened a few months back when professional musicians from Kokkola were connected with an IT expert in Vihti to develop a new live streaming service for musicians. Now all of us can enjoy a live jazz-concert at our summer cottage dock – a cool experience, isn’t it!?

I avoided the typical financial challenges of young companies

I started my company as a hobby and only quit my day job when my own company’s processes were finetuned and market demand tested. This way I avoided the financial challenges which are typical for 0-2-year-old companies.

I believe I was born to be an entrepreneur, even though I spent 20 years as an employee. Full-time entrepreneurship is a “career 2.0” for me and I especially like the fact that the time from idea to implementation is 1000x faster than in bigger corporates.

I have never found a role model entrepreneur

I would like to find a role model entrepreneur or sales executive who has the following skills (1) analytics and data reading skills, (2) process-driven sales leadership skills, and (3) sufficient knowledge on linking Artificial Intelligence to business. Unfortunately, I’ve not found one yet. I did receive support from my loved ones when starting out. Although my jumping to full-time entrepreneurship came as a surprise for many.

Entrepreneurship also brings possibilities to balance one’s own personal life. One of my most favorite aspects of being an entrepreneur is to help local small businesses. For this purpose, I established YritysVihti ry with a few like-minded entrepreneurs. Within only two years, we have created an expert community (30+ experts from different domains) providing business development support services for small businesses throughout their whole lifecycle.

YritysVihti’s target is to be the best quality, most cost-effective, and most agile service provider for small businesses in Finland. After successfully piloting this in our hometown, we’re now rapidly extending services across Finland with an innovative and highly digital service portfolio. How does this affect my personal life? Via close collaboration, networking, and joint ambition, we have all created tens of new business relationships, and many of them also at a personal level.

My tips for entrepreneurs

Below are absolutely the three most critical skills for today’s and especially tomorrow’s entrepreneurs.

  • Data reading skills
  • Sales skills
  • Process skills

The key activity I’d recommend entrepreneurs to invest their time in learning and start with learning from your customer’s buying process and criteria. If you’re a first-time entrepreneur, remember you’re not alone, use mentors, external consultants, entrepreneurship communities, etc. to challenge you and to give an outside-in view.

One lesson I have learned a hard way: Don’t get stuck with multiple parallel challenges. Solve them one by one. And always use your “best time” (when you’re fresh and energized) to analyze the issues and work on solutions. Otherwise, the continuous flow of daily “critical routines” prevents getting the most important things done.

For me, early morning is the best time for deep work. Thus, I try to reserve 7.00 – 9.00 for the most important things and troubleshooting. Select 2 topics per day and within a few weeks you recognise that the endless backlog of challenges has reduced or even disappeared.

Antti Leijala is an author of four books about business strategy & CEO of UltraLeanBusiness Oy Ltd. He makes use of his 20 years of experience in international business management and 15 years of expertise as an entrepreneur to help people achieve bigger success for their career or organization. One of his biggest achievements is the invention of the Internet of Competition (IoC) model.

Edited by

Ha Nguyen

Ha Nguyen

Co-founder & Head of Operations at Entrepreneurs of Finland - Ha is a social entrepreneur & writer who cares about children, education, fairness, the environment, and sustainability. For more info, kindly check http://bit.ly/Connect_With_Ha
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