Mika Tienhaara is the CEO of Rocsole, a smart process imaging company focused on aiding the improvement of product quality for operational teams using AI software. Mika describes himself as a "serial entrepreneur" and is an expert in the Energy and Automotive field. He is a best-selling author and host of the See Beyond podcast.
Tell us a little bit about your background.
I’m based in Oslo and I’ve been working internationally, located in various European countries as well as in the US. I’ve had offices and plants around the world have and built globally leading companies.
I’m a serial entrepreneur. I love innovation and being an underdog. My goal in entrepreneurship is to actually make waves and manufacture change with my team. We succeed in growing companies, scaling them up, and introducing them as market leaders.
How would you describe your management style?
My style is about engagement. I believe in hand-on leadership, which includes supporting my team and offering guidance. I don't want every decision going through me -- I need to empower my management team and bring their talent to the surface. I try to create that trusted environment where we can challenge each other because we're solving complex problems.
If I worked with 20 copies of myself, we would never succeed with anything.
A successful team is made up of a variety of personalities who each offer diverse ideas to push the company forward.
How do you facilitate healthy communication among your team?
I would say two things here: one thing is, of course, engagement. We have to work together solving problems. Engagement is crucial in any project our company works on, from designing products to sourcing the components. How are we going to assemble this? How are we going to succeed with that?
Second, we need to have core values that guide our communication. Our team stresses integrity, openness, and willingness to share.
What are some "pro tips" you may have on building start-ups, both culturally and strategically?
First of all, you need to have passion about what you're doing because you might set up what you think is the perfect plan but it will always to take longer than anticipated. It's going to require more resources and funding etc. So make sure that you're loving what you're doing because otherwise it will grind you down. At some point you are going to realize that this is not fun because you didn't choose something that you're passionate about.
It's critical to build that big idea with your co-founders from the beginning. What are we aiming at? How can we work together effectively? Of course, we’re creating a culture. You don't need to be best friends but at least there should be mutual respect and collaboration. You should be able to bring up difficult topics that you won't agree on all the time.
It's a journey, building a start-up. We begin with an idea, a solution to a problem. Eventually we start climbing the mountain: getting funding, developing a prototype, and finally reeling in paying customers.
How does your team navigate failure and shortcomings?
The people on your team need leadership to navigate failures and provide assurance through transparent communication. I’ve seen many examples with my team when we didn't succeed but then we start to communicate what went wrong and we were actually able to learn something from it.
Every business experience offers new challenges and obstacles. Even though I've been a part of many start-ups, it's not a copy and paste plan that succeeds. We have to collaborate and be creative in each business in order to insure success. I preach to my team persistence, grit, and never giving up. Never give up.
It can be uncomfortable for employees to admit and present failures. Of course, we’re going to fall short, we're going to fail, but we try to focus on talking about the failure in a constructive and non-accusatory way to try to understand the root cause of the failure.
What does your hiring process look like?
In many ways, I am fortunate when it comes to our hiring process. We gauge the market and use the brand recognition of our previous, successful companies to attract great candidates from various countries and industries.
Of course, I've make plenty of mistakes too. Not every hire works out; each one is a leap of faith. What I look for is an intelligent person who can make quick decisions and is willing to learn.
What are some intrinsic qualities that you think have helped you reach this level of success?
First of all, I can thank my own silliness in wanting to work abroad. My first job was abroad right away so I had to learn very much by myself but that that I think that builds character. I absolutely don't regret it because it's been fantastic learning.
I can also credit my curiosity and hunger to learn. I want to engage with new people and take on challenging tasks.
If you started from the beginning again, what would you do differently?
I don't know if I would change very much. I’ve experienced so much and have had so much fun. Of course, it's been a lot of hard work, and I’m not finished yet. I enjoy work and the work is actually engaging with people and seeing how we shape the future and that's what I really enjoy.