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Stronger through coaching

Maarakennus Niemeläinen - Riku Alitupa 2023 - Business Joensuu yrityspalvelut, liiketoiminnan kasvu | Mies seisoo kadunrakennustyömaalla kypärä päässä

The year 2019 was a turning point for Maarakennus Niemeläinen. The construction sites became quiet, which in itself was not unusual in a sector sensitive to cyclical fluctuations. Riku Alitupa, who became the site manager in 2014, and Mikko Vatanen, who was hired for measuring services a couple of years later, accepted the challenge. Now they are moving towards profitable growth with Business Joensuu's lessons. 

Maarakennus Niemeläinen's business operations began already in 1956. They drilled rocks, soon they also sold excavation contracts. Founder Uki Niemeläinen's entrepreneurial path was later followed by his son Kari Niemeläinen. It was Kari, who saw the potential in Riku Alitupa.

- I had already worked for Kari as a schoolboy during summertime. In 2013, work was carried out on the plot of my single-family house, and cooperation came up. Destia's construction and bridge operations changed to site manager position at Niemeläinen, recalls Alitupa. 

There were many sites, even relatively small in size. More workforce was needed, and Alitupa was given a more responsible role as the supervisor of site managers. Kari Niemeläinen had steered the company since the early 1990s in a competitive, cyclical and volatile sector. He thought that it would be good to get new energy for developing the company.

Special construction

In difficult economic conditions, some employees sought work elsewhere. Riku Alitupa and Mikko Vatanen, who had become an effective work pair, trusted Niemeläinen's future. The turning point in 2019 proved to be a new beginning; Maarakennus Niemeläinen signed major contracts with the City of Joensuu.

- The first test was the renovation of Torikatu in 2019. After that, they got involved in larger contracts in the centre of Joensuu, on Siltakatu and Koulukatu. The current contract on Rauhankatu and Koulukatu is the fifth consecutive contract, say Alitupa and Vatanen, explaining how their company became the city's trusted partner in special construction.

No wonder that during the fastest construction period of the central infrastructure in Joensuu, Maarakennus Niemeläinen's logo seemed to be on every corner. 

To learn and become a shareholder

Riku Alitupa graduated as a construction engineer in 2011. Work tasks have carried him forward in the career. In December, Alitupa googled the Business Joensuu website. He remembered that good experiences of GROW growth coaching had been gained in various companies.

- I sent a message asking whether it is possible to apply for a coaching programme even if you are not an entrepreneur or the company's managing director. I discussed with Business Coach Mervi Leminen from Business Joensuu. She said that I was already responsible for many matters of CEO level and encouraged me to participate, Alitupa remembers.

Committing to GROW coaching proved to be one of the best decisions. 

- I gained confidence in my work, and I also found ways to achieve profitable growth. After the growth coaching, I participated in Business Joensuu’s Lead management coaching. Skills in both company management and HR management were strengthened.

Alitupa's GROW growth coaching period ended in spring 2022. The coaching sealed the deal for Kari Niemeläinen, who wished to get Riku Alitupa as not only the CEO of the company but also as a shareholder. 

-  Kari is now not only the chair of the board, the main owner and the background support, but also a man who jumps to the controls of a machine if necessary.

Prospects for growth

In the organisation shaped by Riku Alitupa, a core team of five professionals is responsible for the management of operations. There are 15 construction professionals working at the construction sites. The aim is to hold on to skilled people, and this also requires a development approach.

- Management is about dialogue and contacts. The group has a lot of good ideas, and we listen to them. When challenges arise, they are discussed. Listening skills are important, we should not draw too sudden conclusions. 

It is of utmost importance to refine the company's operating method throughout the line so that the client is heard and understood.

-  We put a lot of thought into quality and the service package. It all starts with listening to the client. Our job is to include our own professional perspectives and possible suggestions for improvement. 

In Business Joensuu's coaching programmes we have also looked at numbers and dug into the core of profitability. In a construction company, this means the ability to synchronise work. Good planning will improve efficiency and increase profitability. 

Riku Alitupa also wants to point out the cleverness of Business Joensuu in alleviating the busy daily life of the CEO. For, at some point in the Lead coaching, Alitupa recognised and admitted that he was running on empty and did not have enough time for everything.  

- A solution was found. Corporate Specialist Satu-Minna Piiroinen from Business Joensuu prepared a job advertisement, for a management assistant. That is how Päivi Meriläinen joined the company. 

Text: Sirkka-Liisa Aaltonen/Viestintä Ässä Oy
Photo: Jarno Artika

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