Jaakko Männistö is an underwater rugby player, golfer and writer from Osthrobotnia. He also happens to be the Vice-Chair of the Federation of Finnish Enterprises and spends quite a lot of time working as the CEO of a startup named Feedbackly. In this interview, he talks about good leaders, labour market structure, and ice lolly. But first, he wants You to awaken. To what?

Your main message is that we should be way more interested in the collaboration between startups and small-to-medium sized enterprises (SMEs). Why is that?

“SMEs are flexible, their decision-making is fast, collaboration with them is easier than with bigger corporations. We have talked about this type of cooperation quite little although it’s something that happens a lot: 18% of SMEs in Finland have co-operated with startups and 7% of SME entrepreneurs have invested in them. SMEs and startups have a wide variety of ways to work together.”

You have your own startup. Tell us, what is the idea of it, and how do you collaborate with SMEs?

Feedbackly is, simply put, an application that a customer can use to give instant feedback on her/his experience wherever s/he has visited. Earlier, I was running an SME that was surveying CW (Customer Experience), and I paid attention to the lack of a CW application in the market. Feedbackly app aims to automatize customer experience surveys. The idea for it came from the feeling and fact that enterprises cannot turn customer experience into sales. We have now eight paid workers in Helsinki, Barcelona and Mexico City, and 400 units or offices which use our application. After three years, we will talk about thousands of units.

A large part of our customers are SMEs. With some of them we develop products – and we talk with each other daily.”

You have chosen a life where you deal with startups and business organizations. That’s a quite hectic way of living. Why do you work – for success, fame, money or something else?

“I want to do something meaningful and change things. The most essential issue to me, in life, is to get to do something that is my own labour and that has some meaning to someone. If that brings success at some point, it’s a plus.”

“Besides, in this work, I develop a lot. I have always been flexible but now I feel I’m even more; that is because everything from tools to timetables is changing all the time.”

Let us discuss SHIFT. Why are you coming to join us this year?

“SHIFT is, I think, a unique milieu where it’s easy to network and where people want to help you. Last year, we got a few new customers from there. This year, I’m looking forward to new possibilities and customers, as well as the Keynotes where I seek inspiration for myself. I wait for the chance to go and discuss with the people there.”

There were 100 Grand People coming to the SHIFT 2017. What would you have liked to tal about with them?

“We live in the same society, but different worlds. Many, including me, have prejudices about the elder business generation. Their experience might be good but outdated: what worked in the 70s doesn’t work anymore. Even my own know-how cannot keep up with all the new in the field. What I think could be the most fruitful point in the connection between the young and the old business generation is the sharing – sharing of vision and understanding. For example, the experience of good leadership is ever-lasting.”

What is a good leader like? What type of a leader are you?

“A good leader listens, communicates, and leads by example. Her/his task is to make the organization work and reach the goals. Myself, I feel best and most comfortable talking to people and making compromises.”

What is the most essential thing that one should keep in mind when meeting people and talking to them?

“I would say that please, let’s genuinely try to give the other a chance, and a second chance. We are so animal, we make our judgment about the other person in a nanosecond.”

You do quite a lot of sports. How have they boosted you in business life?

“In golf, there is no one else than you. You cannot escape the responsibility that you have for your own performance, you need to take responsibility for yourself. Sailing is a team game where you learn to handle your own place and task. Underwater rugby is still the sport that I want to highlight: there is no way to communicate underwater with your team. You need to knit into your team so well that you can play a team game without team communication.”

What’s the must-happen SHIFT in the Finnish society that would boost companies in the future?

“I talk now as myself but also as a representative of the organization that I chair. The next SHIFT in Finland should be the change of the labour market to a more flexible one. That would benefit all. Currently, the work structure in Finland is too stiff, and that prevents the economy from growing and small companies from developing into bigger enterprises.”

SHIFT 2017 discussed the impact of Artificial Intelligence on us. What do you think the AI will do to our society?

“With the AI, small parts of our economy will get automatized, and also customer service. Services and applications become even more intelligent, up to the point where the only valuable thing that still stays in human hands is creativity and leadership. In my opinion, the coolest application of artificial intelligence is Tesla and its intelligent devices. According to studies, a Tesla driver is 60% safer than a human.”

Does your home have some more or less intelligent device that you like especially?

“A device that I like the most in my home is the freezer because there’s ice lolly inside. The cactus-shaped multi-flavoured one is my favourite.”

You for sure also come to Kakola, right? How can SHIFTers recognize you on the dance floor at the Afterparty?

“My best dance move is my aggressive staring gaze. I can be recognized by my looks: I’m a tidy hipster. I can have combinations like a pullover and a blazer.”

You already told us before that you don’t actually have any idol in business. However, do you have any motto to finish this interview and start the SHIFT with?

“Yes, I do. I have made it myself: ’What you say or do is not important. What is important is how you make people feel.’”

Check out Männistö’s SHIFT video message (in Finnish):

Photo: Roope Lehmuslehto/Betta Digital Oy