Lessons from 20 years in business

April 2024 marks 20 years since Koala Consulting and Training was registered in Finland as a business entity and started operations.

I’ve learned a lot along the way, and I’d like to share some of that learning with you here.

When I started in 2004, I was new on the market, and it was challenging to find anyone willing buy my services. Then a contact from the Finland-Australia society introduced me to Valtasana, a small translation agency where she worked, and I had my first customer! They wanted me to proofread translations from Finnish to English. Sadly, that agency no longer exists, but it was a wonderful place to start.

Lesson 1: Networks are very important.

I wanted to expand my offering to attract more customers. I could do a lot of different things: proofreading, writing, academic research, data analysis, management consulting, group facilitation, professional coaching, language teaching, psychological assessment – the list was very long. Although I had a lot of skills, it was hard for customers to understand what I could do for them. I had to pick something and highlight my expertise with that.

Lesson 2: Specialise so that your customers know what you do best.

I started teaching English through some agencies, and I got a couple of private clients as well. My students liked it, but they were sometimes restless – they didn’t want to practise small talk, do grammar exercises or play silly classroom games. They wanted to use their second language in a real, practical way. Several businesspeople and scientists asked me to help them make better presentations. I started to market presentation skills training as a new product.

Lesson 3:  Listen to what your customers want.

I had my company logo printed on some pens and keyrings and sent them out to people in my business network. I made phone calls, emailed companies, and connected on LinkedIn. Eventually I found some good new clients. When I asked them why they chose me, they said that they liked my trustworthy references, solid experience, and the fact that I happened to contact them at the exact time they needed my services.

Lesson 4: Be patient and persistent, because timing is crucial.

In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic took over the world. I’d just developed a new presentation skills programme, and signed a contract with a long-term repeat customer to run that programme. We had to cancel it. Everyone went online, and demand increased for written work. Presentation training had been my main product for some years. Now it was writing services.

Lesson 5: Adapt to the situation.

Of course, this isn’t everything I’ve learned over two decades. I could probably write a book about that, and maybe I will! But if someone new to business came to me today and asked my advice, these five are what I would start with. And I learned them all from my own experience.

I would like to thank all of my customers, business partners, mentors and friends whose continuing support has made this learning possible, and helped to make Koala Consulting and Training a success. I truly enjoy working with you and facing our business challenges together.

Here’s to the next 20 years! I’m sure they will be just as interesting, educational and fun, and I look forward to seeing you along the way.