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Vincit: From bankruptcy to Europe’s best workplace

“The goal of our organisation is to have more satisfied employees and customers tomorrow than today,” says Vincit’s founder Mikko Kuitunen.Vincit

Finnish software company Vincit is not your typical IT specialist. Over the last nine years, it has risen from near bankruptcy to a stock-listed company and was recently chosen as the best workplace in Europe. How did the company engineer such a turnaround?

The core philosophy of Vincit is that everybody should be ready to work hard, but also love what they do and find their work meaningful. Behind this is a line Mikko Kuitunen, founder of Vincit, wrote on a napkin in 2007 saying ‘going to work on Monday should not piss you off’.

“And this is what I set out to do. To build a company where working is fun and I thought later what we will actually do,” Kuitunen recalls with a laugh. “Now our only goal is that our customers and employees are always more satisfied tomorrow than today. All actions that can lead to this are a priority for us.”

This means Vincit and its over 300 employees are happy to tackle almost any software challenge. The company offers a complete digital production chain from idea and service design to infrastructure and maintenance for customers of all sizes, from startups to global giants like GE Healthcare.

“The only things that limit us are that we want challenging projects, happy customers and to offer the best employment,” Kuitunen explains. “Besides that we do not care what the industry or the project is, whether it is a resource management system, a mobile app or software for hospital equipment.”

Openness to the rescue

2016 has been a big year for Vincit. The company has just closed a successful IPO and after three consecutive ‘Best Place to Work’ titles in Finland (chosen by the Great Place to Work institute), Vincit won the Europe-wide category in June. It is a huge change from eight years ago when the company was on the brink of bankruptcy after losing its biggest customer.

But instead of panicking, Kuitunen explained the situation to his team and invited everyone to openly discuss potential solutions. The commitment of the whole team got the company back on its feet.

“We operate using a model based on fair play, openness and a belief everybody can lead themselves. There is no micromanagement,” Kuitunen says. “This has allowed us to have very open discussions even in tough situations. It is everyone’s responsibility to think about what to do in those situations.

He also strongly believes wellbeing at work and life cannot be separated. For example Vincit’s employees are offered mental health services and personal trainers when needed. Even a sleep coach has been hired to help employees with small babies sleep better.

“And what underpins everything is that a person feels they can have an impact,” adds Kuitunen. “We make sure everyone will be heard and give them the opportunity to influence major decisions”

The allure of Silicon Valley

An example of this people-oriented approach is Vincit’s recent decision to open an office in Silicon Valley, California in August. The idea stemmed from company employees who wanted to try out working abroad.

“We started to map out what it would require and decided to start a small office, where employees can be stationed for a year or two and take their families with them,” Kuitunen explains. “This makes our employees happy and can bring more business to us. If it flies great, but there is no heavy pressure.”

For now the office is occupied by six Finns with the potential to employ locally in future. The Silicon Valley office has already signed its first customers and, while the company is still trialling how much of the Nordic work culture it can apply in the US, Kuitunen does not see any reason the office should not succeed.

“Finland is such a deeply rooted engineering country that if you can make it here as an engineer, you can be outstanding elsewhere,” Kuitunen concludes.

Vincit opened its first foreign office in Silicon Valley, California, in August. In October, the company received a warm welcome in New York City’s Times Square. Image: vincit
By: Eeva Haaramo