Koskisen Group09.01.2012

Markku Koskinen turns 50: From the school yard to head of family business

Markku Koskinen.

Markku Koskinen.

The middle one of the Koskisen owner trio, Markku Koskinen, celebrated his 50th birthday on January 28th. The industrialist in the third generation and the Chair of the Owner Board, who has devoted his entire career to Koskisen, dreams about creating new business for Koskisen.

- My entire childhood we lived in Järvelä, next to the village school, Markku says.

- Most of my friends were teachers’ children or other school-yard kids. Dad took up responsibilities with Koskisen already in the 50s and mum had her own dental practice. They both worked long hours. It was still common to have maids in the 60s, and for us children they were like family members.

Markku had clear plans for his future from early on.

- I often gazed at smoke plumes from the mill in the school yard and thought that that was where I would work when I grew up. My choices in senior secondary school – long courses in maths, physics and chemistry – prepared me for studies at Helsinki University of Technology. Though afterwards I’ve often thought that psychology and Russian would have been even more useful than physics and chemistry, he says.

Eventful years

After graduating from senior secondary school Markku Koskinen studied for a Master of Science degree at Helsinki University of Technology but returned to work for Koskisen before his graduation.

- I asked my father if there was any work available at Koskisen, and he told me that there was a vacancy as assistant to the sawmilling industry,  he says.

I accepted that gladly. At some point I asked for better pay, and he told me that I already received better pay than many other secondary school graduates. That really motivated me to finish my studies.

1991 was an eventful year for Markku. He took charge of Koskisen Timber Industry, got married, graduated and became a father. The first years as the head of Timber Industry taught him valuable lessons, as Finland was plummeting into a recession.

Markku feels that the fire in the timber yard and the subsequent rebuilding in 1996 has been the most shocking, but also the most remarkable, event of his career. In the same year, Koskisen acquired the Vilkon and Herrala Houses businesses.

- In 1997, when the rebuild of the timber yard was yet to be completed, I agreed to become the Managing Director of Herrala Houses. The decision was perhaps not such a good one for the company nor for my family, and the stint became a short one. In the early 2000s, I got the chance to become Managing Director of Koskisen, Markku says.

From Managing Director to the Owner Board

After the turn of the millennium, Kalevi Koskinen was over 70 and wanted to gradually retire from business, transferring more of the responsibility to his children. In 2007 Markku left his duties as Managing Director to become the Chair of Koskisen’s Board of Management, while Eva Paksuniemi took the Chair of the Owner Board. Kari Koskinen continued in the operative side of business as the head of the Plywood Division.

Very soon after this arrangement was agreed on Kalevi Koskinen unexpectedly passed away.

- The company grew, survived difficult times and achieved great success during my father’s tenure, Markku says.

- He was closely involved in Koskisen’s operations until the end of his life. Working in the family business with father taught me many a lesson, but at times it was also quite taxing and challenging. He wasn’t easy on anyone and always wanted to take part in all the decision-making.

In 2010 Markku and Eva swapped their chairs, and Kari became Koskisen’s Business Development Director. The Owner Board has a unanimous view on Koskisen’s future and development of the business. The owners do not get involved in the operative management of the company, but they do wish to be a part of the everyday work of the employees.

 - There are many kinds of leadership. Often just being there and talking with people is enough to steer things in the right direction. A family business in our opinion is about being there in person and interacting actively. That’s something listed companies can’t do, Markku says.

Moving forward with gratitude

Markku Koskinen says he is thankful to his parents, grandparents, siblings and friends for the chance to live a full, interesting life. He feels he has already, at the age of fifty, experienced a whole lifetime’s worth.

Markku names Erkki Salmenlinna, Koskisen’s ex-Managing Director, and Kalevi Eronen, head of the Timber Industry, as his professional role models.

- Both Erkki and Kalevi were fine leaders and great personalities. Jukka Tamminen is my all-time favourite colleague. We took lots of memorable business trips together.

Markku’s hobbies include fixing up his old farm house and active involvement in the Finnish Sawmills Association and the Association of Finnish Sawmillmen.

- I promised myself that I would do a number of things before turning fifty, and giving up smoking was one that I succeeded in, but there are still challenges left over for the next decade. In addition to personal goals, it would be great to continue helping the company to grow, create new jobs and increase exports income and wellbeing in a sustainable industry, Markku concludes.