What makes a business successful no matter where they are in the world?

I’m in Vierumaki Finland. I arrived in Finland a week ago to bring my son to his new home where he will spend the next 3.5 years attending university. A very exciting time to say the least. I pondered what I might write prior to the departure and thought a reflection on my learnings from the experience might be appropriate. As it turns out, I morphed right back into my favourite observation: people running business and engaging consumers.

I have traveled extensively throughout the USA (last count: 38 states), all across Canada, the Caribbean, significant travel throughout Southern Asia; I spent months in the UK and I’m well traveled in many other areas in Europe. And of course, now most recently Finland.

All this travelling has taught me clearly that how we conduct business in one part of the world is only marginally different from another. Of course this observation is coming from the perspective of a consumer (as well as a business man). But in my opinion the best way of determining the vital signs of any business is by being the consumer. My research (anecdotal, I didn’t write a paper) I didn’t find a secret formula in Finland; I found the same issues/solutions I’ve seen in Calgary and New York, and all around the world: at the end of the day if you want great results employ good people. Follow these steps: hire well, train consistently, react to things as they happen, treat everyone with respect and recognize great performance.

Use the six primary satisfiers I’ve written about previously when hiring to ensure that you match talent with the position in every way. You need to become a professional interviewer. Learn the skills of behavioural interview techniques. Stop reading a resume in an interview. The resume got them in the door. The interview is their opportunity to showcase and your opportunity to discover. This is as good as it is going to get. Everyone should be on their best behaviour. Make this experience the most rewarding hour digging as deep as possible to establish the fit. The investment you are going to make based in this hour is the most significant one you will make. This person will touch customers, other employees and ultimately will impact your success. Do not under estimate this exercise.


Spend twice as much time as you think you need to in training, orientation and on boarding. Your first introduction to your business is so important to a new employee. Set the stage properly. If you spend time orienting and training new hires from the start, you establish a place of self-awareness, continual learning and a clear message that people are the biggest asset. Don’t just say the words. Demonstrate it by your actions. New employees are ripe to learn when they start. They are the most attentive and willing to develop great habits. The habits that you want them displaying to your customers.

Treat all with respect.

When you know you have done your job and have hired correctly treat the great ones like family. You have spent so much time, energy and money finding great people to service and attend to your business and customers now for the easy part. A little simple daily application of respect to your people will go a long way to ensuring retention and commitment to you and your operation.

React sooner than you think.

When you make a mistake in the hiring (and you will) deal with it. in other words, got a bad one, get rid of them as quickly as you see it. It is not going away on its own. I have heard of many reasons why employees are kept in employment when they are clearly defined as incompetent, inadequate and simply not working out and none of the reasons are good. It is simple, once you recognize the error, terminate and move on.

Recognize great performance.

You need to say thank you (or kiitos in Finnish) frequently and with the right rewards. A thank you to a well deserving employee is never wrong. I am surprised by the number of employees who tell me they just don’t seem appreciated. When asked when was the last time their boss said thanks, they can’t remember. What’s wrong with us?? Just say thanks. There are plenty of other ways to recognize but thanks seems to go a long way.

Yep that is what my travels have taught me. Most recent trip to Finland where I watched the exact business and customer interactions, as I’ve seen on many of my other world travels. Some are so good at what they do. Others miss so badly you wonder how they survive. Truth is they don’t. Failure rate in business in terms of bankruptcy is on the rise. And to think about how many operators spend carelessly because they don’t pay attention to the things above. Completely ridiculous. If you are in business, pay attention to the small stuff and you will be amazed at the return.

The real power is in choice and you have the ability to choose. So start making great choices today!

“There’s a fine line between piety and wack-ass obsession, and people have been landing on the wrong side for thousands of years.” - Jennifer Traig

© 2013-2014 R. Todd Millar. All rights reserved.

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