In the first part of my ‘creating a business in Finland’, I wrote about my first appointments with the business counsellors. I described my fight to persuade them that I’m not creating another grilli kioski or a pizza place in Helsinki and definitely not another Greek restaurant.
And now I was going to my last meeting with one of these companies. As I mentioned in the first part in which you have to go through if you want approval for your new business and, most of all, if you want to take the help of the starting money, which keeps you afloat for the first six months until you have your customers and an income.
After the last meetings, I had prepared myself for the worst. I was expecting to face another bored civil servant ready to tell me that I have no hope opening a restaurant and I was not going to spend one more hour trying to explain that I’m not opening a Greek restaurant.
But the first impressions softened me. An old red brick building in the centre of Helsinki, clean rooms with nice pictures on the wall from the building’s history and, I have to admit, reading the text under the photos I nearly missed the voice behind me telling me to enter office number three.
I had decided this time to have the first and the last word in this meeting despite all the warnings that I got that I needed these people. So, after entering the office and while the man was standing up to shake my hand and say something nice, I said, “I’m Greek and I’m not going to open a Greek restaurant.”
Ok. It’s my Mediterranean temperament as people say but I’d had enough and somebody was going to pay for that. It was like a Western film, I was John Wayne and everybody around me had to pay for my anger.
Well, nothing worked like that. Unfortunately, the man continued to have a smile on his face while I was telling him that. The only move he did was to show me a chair next to his desk and he asked me how I take my coffee.
Then we spent another ten minutes talking about the Finnish weather, favourite topics for all the foreigners get for small talk and finally we got to business. He explained to me that I had to go through this and he let me analyze to him what I was thinking to do, who were my possible customers and what opportunities my idea had.
The man was brilliant. In the first meeting, I had to explain about all my ideas and in the second I had to put everything on a piece of paper, making it all somehow more official so he could sign underneath that my company was worth the starting money.
He was friendly enough to give me the database I needed to fill and explained to me some things, with examples, since everything was written in Finnish. Was it so difficult? No!
The weird thing is not that he was nice, the weird thing was that I remember him and mention him often. The weird thing is that I remember the person for doing nothing more than just doing his job, he did exactly what he was paid for and did it with a smile.
After our second meeting finished, I was coming out of his office thanking him when I saw two boys waiting outside. They were in their mid-twenties and had no interest in the architecture or the photos on the wall; they were softly arguing with each other in a language unknown to me. Unfortunately, the first thought that passed through my mind was another grilli kioski, but that lasted until I turned back to the man again seeing him looking at them with his smile and telling me, “Excuse me, my next appointment is here.”
I was so embarrassed. That was what made this man different. He didn’t let the work get under his skin. He was there to help and he is doing so. I ran out of the office and had a cigarette screaming at myself, stupid, stupid, stupid!