When I announced, back in October 2019, that I was now working via my toiminimi (sole trader company or self-employed) I had a few people ask “Are you still working at Xport?” or “What happened? Is everything OK at Xport?” so I thought I’d answer this question directly: Why did I start my own company and start working separately from Xport?
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The International Business from Finland theme music was devised and created by Dodobones www.dodobones.co.uk
The Xport Associates Assemble
Over the years, as Xport grew its network, we connected with many other non-Finns who were living in the area around Seinäjoki. This group became known as the Xport Associates and we tried to get work that utilised their experience or language skills. In early 2018, I had four different people (Associates or interns) say to me “I don’t know many people around here” or “My network is really small” or, even, “I’m lonely”. This made me think, all of these people are telling ME, maybe I should introduce them to each other.
During 2018 and 2019, we arranged for the Xport Associates group to get-together every three months to keep in touch with each other and to network. Xport arranged for guests from local organisations and companies to present to the group. The idea was that the Associates would learn more about the local business community as well as the opportunity to meet people face-to-face and growing their network. During this series of meetings, we invited Lauri Lindholm from OP Bank to meet the group. He presented OP’s Kevytyrittäjä (Light Entrepreneur) service, which is designed to make it easier for gig workers, or those with side-work, to start a toiminimi and invoice for this additional work.
Forming A New Company
This made me think. I had a few small pieces of side-work that I wanted to invoice directly. I decided to start Mark Wiltshear TMI for this purpose and I decided to do it using OP’s Kevytyrittäjä service. I wanted to learn how this service worked and how to run a different type of company, so I could advise others in future. During the first half of 2019, I used it to invoice for some blog-writing, some start-up mentoring and a voiceover gig – all of which came in very useful when I got married in summer 2019!
Working For Myself
In the second half of 2019, we decided that I would start to look for work directly for my toiminimi. At first, this was a scary proposition but it also offered opportunities to work on other business ideas that are not really aligned with Xport, for example, the Work Integration for Immigrants Service (WIISE). I would continue working on project work that Xport has for me and would invoice Xport from my toiminimi. I focus on finding customers for the work that I can do personally:
- An additional sales & marketing resource working an agreed number of days per month for a company.
- English Conversation coaching
- Native English voiceovers for international marketing videos and corporate videos
- Business Coaching/Mentoring similar to what I’d done in 2019
- Official UK Partner for HappyOrNot – following-up on inbound leads from the UK and converting to repeat orders
But Still Working WITH Xport
Of course, just as we made this change Xport started to get busy again. The project work really picked-up and has continued well into 2020. Through Xport, I have:
- Carried-out market research across Europe for an American company, as well as accompanying them at their first trade fair in Europe.
- Attended several trade fairs in Europe carrying-out consumer research as part of their product launch and marketing planning.
- Hosted a Sales Pitch workshop for a group of companies travelling overseas as part of a ‘trade mission’.
- Completed a ‘Netnogrpahic’ research of consumer attitudes as expressed in online forums, blog comments and on social media.
- Carried-out market research across North America for a Finnish company looking for new importers and retail partners.
Another question/comment I’ve heard is ‘Oh, how does that work?’ or ‘How are things in the office?’ Relations with Marko and Marja at Xport have continued to be very good. We are still working as a team. I still have a share in the company and it benefits me if Xport succeeds. Also, I am still based in the same office as Marko, Marja and the stream of students that take a temporary internship position at Xport. The main difference is that I now pay to rent my desk.
Naturally, there are certain areas that Xport as a team can offer more than I can as an individual, for example, on the larger group projects (yritysryhmähankkeet) and also in helping companies apply for funding and development support. There have been a couple of times recently that I’ve introduced opportunities to Marko or Marja. I know that any work that is suited to me, will eventually come my way.
- Spotify: International Business from Finland with Mark Wiltshear
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- YouTube: Mark Wiltshear TMI
- Website: markwiltshear.com
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