Project business: The backbone of Forenom

An accommodation solution in 48 hours, anywhere in the Nordic countries

In his position as the head of Forenom’s Nordic project business, Ville Kämäräinen is able to enjoy the two things he loves most: his family and international work with enthusiastic people. Valtteri Karjula talked to Ville to find out why project business is known as the backbone of Forenom, and what the near-impossible customer promise they offer actually involves.  

The project housing team is typically asked to help arranging accommodation where it is difficult to find suitable options, mostly for large industrial building projects. The latest mega project was in Äänekoski Finland where the Finnish project housing team led by Juho Hyry arranged temporary accommodation for over 1000 people. The Project team follows the contractors across the country borders to arrange housing. Ville has been privileged to have very committed managers building project housing operations, Juho Hyry in Finland, Saku Nissinen in Sweden and fresh talents Mari Ingalsuo in Norway and Fredrik Raastad in Denmark. These guys speak with their actions.

Converting large buildings – selling a vision

One of the Project team specialties is arranging larger accommodation units for clients. For instance, a postal office in Finland and a mental hospital in Denmark have been converted to serve as accommodation space for the projects. In these projects, the team basically sells a vision to the client. When client contract is made, the team might not even have a rental contract for the building, the remodeling has not been started and the furnishing is just a plan in the designer’s head.

The Project team is tasked with presenting a complex concept that is crystal clear to them, and simple enough to convince the customer to buy it. The team leader’s job is to identify anything that is not an integral part of the vision presented to the customer, and nip it in the bud. Besides internal discipline, selling a vision requires consistency and uniformity. The customer is in contact with several different team members, which is why the message must be clear and consistent.

Near-impossible customer promise

The project business has ballooned from two to eight million euros in just two years. Ville’s project team currently consists of 16 people, each with their unique personalities. They speak 10 different languages, represent five different nationalities, and come from four different countries.

The most recent project Ville and his team worked on involved landing on yet another island off the coast of Norway – the third one, to be exact. Their customer promise – to provide an accommodation solution within 48 hours anywhere in the Nordic countries – was just about impossible to keep.

“Customers trust us to keep our promise, and it encourages them to ask for accommodation solutions in unusual locations, like on an island.”

According to Ville, the first island they set foot on in Norway had no rental apartments available, but the project team still managed to arrange accommodation for the customer’s 20 employees in no time. Despite the challenging conditions, the project team’s goal was to create 30% savings in the customer’s accommodation budget, and to offer a place to stay in a comfortable, home-like setting. To do this, the project team left no stone unturned – literally.

Ownership in a league of its own

The fact that the team visits each new property and spends a night or two there to see for themselves what it’s like to stay there aptly describes their dedication and ownership. Most recently, Teresia Poola spent a week in a modular accommodation unit in Pyhäjoki, just to get a feel for the place and to understand how to market the Porvoo and Pyhäjoki units to customers.

“The problem in the accommodation industry is that us service providers too often offer superior four-star solutions, when all the customer needs is reasonably priced two-star accommodation.”

The project team wastes no time, forcing others to take quick action, too. An architect once said he had set a personal record with Forenom, having drawn up the plans for building permits in three cities and completing all the projects within the next two years. These plans were for Forenom’s 180-bed modular hostels, which were built in three different locations.

Another record was broken in Porvoo, where the receiving inspection of the modular hostel was conducted at 2:00 p.m. and the first guest arrived just two hours later.  The occupancy rate of this particular hostel was zero for no more than two hours. Here, the accommodation solution matched the customer’s needs perfectly.

What is essential?

The need to act quickly in challenging conditions puts the project team to the test. There have been times when the team has emptied apartments before the customer has decided to extend their agreement. Ville speaks highly of the dedication and ownership of his team members, such as interior designers Melina Kirvesmäki and Emmi Hänninen, who returned to refurnish the unit they had almost emptied the very same morning.

As I was finishing this article, I suddenly remembered what Ville said about the best way of finding common ground with the customer. It is to listen, but also to offer alternative views. Every day, Ville and his team try to identify areas that are not of primary importance – things that could be left out to eliminate everything but the necessary.

If you never stop to ask yourself these questions, you end up spending the customer’s money on the wrong things, leaving Forenom with no profit margin. A lose-lose situation, which nobody wants. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Ville!

To get in touch with Ville, send an e-mail to ville.kamarainen@forenom.fi or call +358 40 731 7413.

Valtteri Karjula, the author of this blog, works in Barona Group’s marketing team. He is passionate about the small changes and major transitions in working life. More blog posts by Valtteri at barona.fi blog, and in his private social media channels – @valtterikarjula