Helping Migrating Workers Settle Into Everyday Life Is A WIISE Decision

In late-2018, I was approached by my friend, Jiuliano, to help him on the project he was running. Working on this project led further collaboration in an area in which I’ve developed a strong interest; helping other immigrants to Finland to network, settle and integrate into our new homeland.

Promotion of Immigrant Entrepreneurship -hanke 2017-18

Mark Wiltshear sitting in a row, with other immigrant entrepreneurs, watching a man give a presentation.
Photo. Henna Leppinen, Suomen Yrittäjäopisto

Jiuliano was working with Suomen Yrittäjäopisto, managing the Promotion of Immigrant Entrepreneurship project in our region, Etelä-Pohjanmaa. My work involved getting at least 100 immigrants in the area to complete a survey, then analyse the responses and present the results at the end of his project.

I completed the first part with a total of 102 responses (it would’ve been 103 but I forgot to do it myself!) and in analysing the results, a few clear themes became apparent

  • Only 4% currently identified their self as an entrepreneur
  • 62% said they were interested in starting their own business.
  • 70% said they ‘know nothing’, ‘know very little’, ‘need to know more’ or ‘don’t know what they need to know’

Something is preventing people with entrepreneurial skills from becoming active entrepreneurs in Finland. There is a lot of information about what to do and places from where to get that info. More could, however, be done to help people understand how to do it.

At the end of the project, I said to Jiuliano “It is clear what is required, but what is the next step? Who is going to DO something with this?” He replied simply “Maybe we do.”

So in early-2019, three of us, Jiuliano Prisada, Paul Fairchild and I started planning. How can we offer our experience, networks and knowledge as immigrant entrepreneurs to help others that have to moved to Finland for work, study or for family reasons. That is a wide selection of people, situations and experiences and we wanted to find a way to help all of them, if possible.

“The initial assessment offered by WIISE can be offered to immigrants in various situations: employees moving for work, families of migrating workers, international degree students and potential entrepreneurs.”

Work Integration for Immigrants Service (WIISE)

The Conception of the Work Integration for Immigrants Service (WIISE)

The Act on the Promotion of Immigrant Integration (1386/2010) emphasises the role of guidance and initial assessment as soon as the foreigner has moved to Finland. The persons eligible for an initial assessment are the foreigners that live in Finland: employees, graduate students, spouses and job seekers. The municipality organizes initial assessments to immigrants that lived in Finland less than three years and which are not registered at the employment office (TE-toimisto).

The initial assessment is publicly-funded by KEHA-keskus (ELY-keskusten sekä TE-toimistojen kehittämis- ja hallintokeskus and administered via Municipalities. You can read more about the alkukartoitus in Finnish or initial assessment in English. This is the starting point of our Work Integration for Immigrants Service (WIISE). By carrying out an initial assessment when someone moves to Etelä-Pohjanmaa, we create a personal action plan for each person, giving a checklist of suggestions, including activities and services whose goal is to help them integrate to the local community and settle into working life.

The Work Integration for Immigrants Service (WIISE) Experience

Mark Wiltshear sitting around a low table coaching a young man and a young woman.
Photo: Nadia Haapanen TMI

The initial assessment offered by WIISE is flexible enough to be offered to immigrants in various situations:

  • Employees moving for work within large companies
  • Families of these migrating workers – a happy homelife will help create a settled worklife
  • International students taking a full degree course (not short-term exchange)
  • International students at Aikuiskoulu (so long as they are not already a customer of the employment office (TE-toimisto)
  • Immigrants interested in becoming entrepreneurs

During the past five years, I have worked alongside several international degree students who are doing their compulsory work placement. By this time they are close to completing their degree and they are starting to consider ‘what’s next?’. During their studies, some have decided they want to stay in Finland; for the lifestyle, for a relationship etc. Having some guidance to prepare for life after school would be invaluable

Our process is tailored to each person or group and consists of:

  1. Individual initial interview
  2. Group workshop sessions
  3. Individual summary discussion
  4. Creating a personal integration plan

This will provide each person with a checklist of suggestions, activities and services whose goal is to help them, as a newcomer to life in Finland, to integrate to the local community and settle into working life.

Sounds good, doesn’t it? You can read more about Work Integration for Immigrants Service (WIISE) If you want to discuss implementing the Initial Assessments for new immigrant workers in your area, reach out and we can discuss your requirements…

Inside Sales Know-How To Convert Your International Leads From A Distance

Extending the theme of taking small steps to international business, in this article I share some of my experiences as a HappyOrNot Reseller. Five years of following-up on inbound leads from the UK and converting to repeat orders while being located in Finland.

When we founded Xport in 2014, one of our first customers was HappyOrNot, with whom we signed a Reseller agreement for the UK. This would involve us actively prospecting for new leads and handling inbound leads via HappyOrNot has an active marketing schedule to create interest and generate leads, so inside sales became the main focus of our activity.

Respond To The Lead Quickly

Mark Wiltshear sitting in front of his laptop making a phone call

Nowadays, with information at our fingertips on the internet, no-one wants to wait very long for information. HappyOrNot pricing is not displayed online, we have a price structure but always make a personal offer to each potential customer. In that case, when we receive a lead, it is important to react to it quickly. If they have expressed interest, then I don’t want that interest to go cold, just because I was slow to respond. Making that first contact quickly will create a good first impression and demonstrate that you are interested in them as a potential customer.

Speak With The Lead In Person, Create A Connection

My first contact at HappyOrNot taught me his technique at the beginning. ‘As soon as the lead comes in, pick-up the phone and give them a call.’ At first, this seemed a little too forward, I thought that if someone has sent an enquiry they might not be ready to discuss it voice-to-voice. I soon learned that I was wrong, making a call early-on can have positive effects:

  • You can assess if they are a realistic prospect, or just curious.
  • You can ensure you offer the correct product/solution for them.
  • You can start to answer their questions, understand their need and explain options (perhaps even start to upsell)
  • You make a person-to-person connection, you are no longer an anonymous email address.

“As soon as the lead comes in, I pick-up the phone and give them a call. To convert leads into customers, I respond quickly, engage the customer to make a personal connection and then keep in regular contact.”

Converting Leads To Customers Requires Perseverance & Patience

Prospecting for HappyOrNot leads at a conference requires the same follow-up work

Sometimes there is a benefit to arranging a video call, so we can ‘meet’ face-to-face and I can share my screen to help the customer understand the HappyOrNot offering. Even when you have incoming leads, those you might expect to be closer to placing an order. There is no guarantee they will commit quickly. Often I find that after I have a spoken to them, provided the required product information and sent a price quote, that is when time seems to slooooow down.

If the initial contact is making an enquiry on behalf of the decision-maker, then there is a matter of waiting for that decision. It is not an ideal situation, but it is not unusual to be at a distance from the decision-maker/budget-controller. It takes time and there is no easy way around it other than to patiently keep in regular contact, send additional information if, or when, it is relevant and be in a position to get the order when it is finally agreed. This can take 3, 6, 9 or 12 months, depending on the product or service and the size of the purchase, but this perseverance often pays-off.

Using Customer Service To Create New Leads & Repeat Business

Once the lead has become a customer my work is not finished. HappyOrNot has a minimum service agreement of one year and I benefit when my customers renew their agreement. During the year, I try to make regular contact with my customers to check that everything is going OK. It gives me an opportunity to troubleshoot any issues, answer any questions and make sure the HappyOrNot service is an integral part of their business, so they will want to continue in future years.

Quite often, the customer will reply with a quick email that ‘everything is fine, thanks for checking’ but the regular contact makes it a lot easier if there is a problem and when it comes to discussing the service renewal. It also leads to this customer being a reference within their organisation. I’ve received emails saying ‘I saw your machine and got your contact details from…’ If the aftersales service was not good enough, then maybe these introductions would no come quite so easily.

If you are receiving international leads/enquiries and need an extra pair of hands to convert them into customers, then I can help. Use the button below to reach out and let me know how I can help.

Maximise your Messut. How to get more when exhibiting at international trade shows.

Continuing the theme of taking small steps to international business, this article features a small, additional task you could outsource when attending an international trade show or messut.

When attending an international trade show, most companies can handle the organisational basics; booking the stand, making travel arrangements, staffing the stand for the show. There are several ways to build upon that hard work and expense.

Market Research at a Messut

I recently worked on a project with Xport. Our customer is launching a new product and needed market research among their potential consumers. This is important for them to understand how to position their product and to develop the correct marketing strategy. As it is a new industry, the required research does not currently exist, it has not been done before so, along with Marja at Xport, I was hired to attend two consumer messut; one in Milan, the next in Valencia.

Consumer Research at the Messut

Two people entering info on a tablet.

They were due to attend the show for the launch of their first product, but the team was expecting to be too busy to do this important market research while at the messut. They were correct, they were too busy, this is where we came in. While they introduced the product to potential customers, we went to other parts of the exhibition centre asking questions. Armed with tablets and an online questionnaire, we focused only on getting responses from consumers.

“When you have invested in attending an exhibition, what is the next thing you would do if you had enough time or people? THAT is the task that I could help you with.”

We were approaching people as they moved through the exhibition halls, explaining the product and the survey and asking them to spend one minute giving some anonymous information. Also, as we were in another part of the messut, we were introducing the product to some consumers for the first time. We were able to explain the core features and encourage (even) more people to visit the stand.

Speaking Spanish at the Valencia Messut

The following week, at the show in Valencia, I started to improve my technique. I taught myself a few words in Spanish so I could explain what I was doing to the local consumers. I have to say it made a difference – the consumers seemed amused by my bad Spanish, they took time to give their opinions and I managed to get a lot more responses per day at the second event. This work will continue in 2020, when we will attend two more shows to collect more market research data.

What are your plans for attending messut next year? What is the one extra task I could help with at your next trade show? Reach out, let me know…

Seinäjoki Entrepreneurship Society ‘Entrepreneurial Spirit’ Award for Mark Wiltshear

On Friday 29.11.2019, at the NEXUS event hosted by Seinäjoki Entrepreneurship Society – SeiES ry, Mark Wiltshear was awarded the Yrittäjähenki award for Entrepreneurial Spirit. As a member of the South Ostrobothnian Community that has assisted students and SeiES with entrepreneurial mindset.Yrittäjähenki award for Entrepreneurial Spirit

SeiES certificate for Yrittäjähenki / Entrepreneurial Spirit, presented to Mark Wiltshear
Continue reading “Seinäjoki Entrepreneurship Society ‘Entrepreneurial Spirit’ Award for Mark Wiltshear”

Speak English Like A Native To Communicate To Your Global Customers.

The first article on the theme of taking small steps to improve your international business…

You will have heard the (very) old joke, how do you eat an elephant?

I was talking recently to a prospective customer, the MD of a micro company that is starting to stabilise and grow. ‘Yes, we really want to work with you and think that one day per week won’t be enough – there’s so much to do. BUT we are waiting for this large order to be confirmed.’

All of this is true, but as we continued talking, it became clearer that there were several small tasks that I could start to work on, that might only take a few hours a week. This could have an immediate impact and would be easier to build into their budget. For example, while it is a company small in numbers, but they have an international business with customers around the world. Their newsletter and social media posts, however, are written mainly in Finnish.

“Well,” I said, “I’ve done quite a lot of writing over the past few years. I could write your SoMe posts and newsletters in English for you. Give me the original Finnish texts and I will transcribe them into natural, native English. I’ll even try to find a way to translate the jokes!”

“I could write your social media posts and newsletters in English for you. Give me the original Finnish texts and I will transcribe them into natural, native English.”

One idea for my new company, Mark Wiltshear TMI, is to offer myself to Finnish companies for small periods of time, for example, half-a-day per week, making it easier to provide the help required by Finnish companies. Fours hour every week isn’t too much of a financial commitment but can start to relieve the strain on company owners, by focusing on tasks like:

  • Creating international newsletters, social media or blog posts
  • Creating content or updating your website
  • Handling the weekly demands from a large retailer
  • Processing incoming orders

I’m sure you can think of more tasks that you would be happy to share. Use the button below to let me know. We don’t have to do everything all at once, we can start eating that elephant together, one bite at a time.

‘Regional Developer Prize 2015’ Awarded to Mark Wiltshear’s Explore Finland Radio Show

On Friday 13th May 2016, I was given an award by Etelä-Pohjanmaan aluekehittäjät ry, EPAK, (a Regional Development Association in Etelä-Pohjanmaa.  This was in recognition of the work I have done with the Explore Finland Radio Show and the Finnish Football Show. This is how EPAK announced the award:

Regional developer prize winner of the year 2015 is Mark Wiltshear

The regional development association of Southern Ostrobothnia EPAK has chosen Mark Wiltshear, the voice of the Explore Finland Radio Show and Finnish Football Radio Show, as the winner of the Regional development prize of the year 2015. Mark Wiltshear works as a Project Manager in the internationalization and export development company Xport. He is also the Co-founder of the company. Wiltshear has moved to Seinäjoki from London.

The board of the association was unanimous about the decision. ”Mark’s podcasts, notes and pictures represent South Ostrobothnia lifestyle and the characteristics of the region in an exceptionally the warm, creative and professional way. The genuine enthusiasm and fire in Mark’s work inspires respect and joy in all of us. The podcasts offer the listeners interesting and eye opening true-life experiences and perceptions that make us return to the show time after the time. Most of the podcast also have local people as visiting guest speakers. We warmly recommend the shows to everyone.”

The prize is being awarded now for the seventh time by regional development association of Southern Ostrobothnia. The prize is awarded annually. Previous award winners are:

  • 2014 Researcher, Chairman of the Board, Jussi Rasku, Game Developers Association of Seinäjoki (Sepeli ry)
  • 2013 Managing Director Sami Heinimäki, Härmä Transport Ltd
  • 2012 SELMU, Live Music Association
  • 2011 Development Planner Eira Hakola,Regional Counsil of South Ostrobothnia
  • 2010 Executive Director Sinikka Koivumäki, The Development Association of Seinäjoki Region (Liiveri)
  • 2009 Research Director Juha Alarinta, UCS (University Consortium of Seinäjoki)

Regional development association of Southern Ostrobothnia is registered association (2009) whose aim is to promote South Ostrobothnia’s independent and unbiased development and regional development at its various aspects and procedures. It’s aim is also give recognition to succesful regional development work by granting the regional developer prize annually.

Press Release / Lehdistötiedote

I want to say a huge THANK YOU to Tytti Isokangas, Chair of the Board of EPAK, and everyone that was involved in this decision. The award came as a complete surprise and, needless to say, I am very proud and humbled to have been recognised by my peers; people who have similar opinions about raising the profile of Etelä-Pohjanmaa.

It was presented at the opening of the new office space that Bstr Advertising Agency shares with Xport in Seinäjoki (yes, the swing is part of the new office furniture!) The fact that I was in the company of so many friends, colleagues and business contacts made the moment that more special.

Brit Enjoys Nature. How the news was reported in Ilkka Newspaper
Brit Enjoys Nature. How the news was reported in Ilkka Newspaper

I hope now that this can be a springboard for starting to take some concrete action to benefit Seinäjoki, Etelä-Pohjanmaa and the neighbouring regions. I have a vision that I’ve started sharing with people and I’d love to start working to make this a reality. My company, Xport, is well-positioned to help local companies that want to become more international, and this can includes developing tourism ideas and preparing local businesses for receiving overseas visitors.

If you want to learn more about this vision, please make contact and I’d be happy to meet with you in person

Finally, I want to say thank you to YOU; for reading this and being interested in the podcast; for being one of the regular listeners to the show – there is no show without listeners; or if you have appeared in the podcast –there is no show without the people of Etelä-Pohjanmaa agreeing to be interviewed and generously giving me their time! Thank you all.

◊◊◊ Mark Wiltshear ◊◊◊