Saturday, October 15, 2011

Lessons of life and work

In 1980 Heikki "Hessu" Salmela opened the first Hesburger fast food restaurant in Turku Finland. The chain grew fast and in 1988 he sold it for almost 200 million finnish markkas.(At that point the reason for selling was exhaustion and stress.) Only a few years later during the recession, he bought it back for 25 million. The chain has grown ever since and expanded to other countries as well. The things that have made this possible are: hard work and self sufficiency. Almost everything in the production process apart from farming is done in-house. That and little luck is a recipe for success. Marketing helps, but only if you've done everything else right.

I have always been interested about how one makes a business really successful. The stories that tell the history of great successes often are stories about personal sacrifice and hard labour. Very few people have the qualities this requires. I believe one has to learn how to fail many times before the lessons that enable one to be truly successful are learned.

The first lesson is: don't take shortcuts. The quality of your work is that much less when the product you offer is not exceptional. Only by offering truly worthwhile stuff you and your customers can believe in the work you do. With bad products/services no one has any incentive to turn to you.

The second lesson is: know when to take shortcuts if absolutely necessary. Sometimes the situation just needs for quick action. There's not very much time to think things trough in situations like these and unless you are a very seasoned expert you are going to make bad decisions.

Third lesson is: how to avoid situations when you have to take shortcuts. When you've been doing something long enough you start to develop an eye for situations that tend to escalate towards an unwanted result. Experience and hard work are the only ways to get this foreknowledge.

Anyone that has some experience in business or other serious undertakings that take time and effort should have learned these lessons at some point. It's just too easy to forget these things when you're obsessing about one specific detail about your work. I hope to remember by having this text as my personal reminder.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hesburger
http://www.city.fi/artikkeli/Heikki+Salmela/468/ (finnish)
http://fi.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heikki_Salmela (finnish)

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