Valuable lessons learned: Father and daughter mentoring each otherZoran Kanti-Paul set up a new business immediately after selling the previous one.
After selling up the family business TekMiL, which provided language and culture training services, Zoran Kanti-Paul immediately moved on to the car business.
At TekMiL, Zoran worked with his wife, whereas in the new company, Kokonut Cars, he has joined forces with his daughter Saana Kanti-Paul. Kokonut Cars imports American cars to Finland. The father and daughter both have specific roles in the business.
– Determining roles was the easiest task at the company set-up phase. I handle the car imports, and Saana manages customer relations in Finland. In my native country, Australia, I worked several years in car sales. I know a whole lot about cars, but I don’t speak flawless Finnish. I understood that shortcomings in language skills can hamper sales, Zoran Kanti-Paul tells us.
The father is also a mentor for the 19-year-old daughter.
– I have learned tremendously about sales and gained a lot of valuable experience. Car sales involve big money, so the salesperson must be really professional. In addition, the fact that we have partners in different time zones adds certain challenges: You can’t close the office at 5 p.m., because it’s still business time in America, Saana Kanti-Paul explains.
Mentoring has been a two-way street; the father has also learned a lot from his daughter.
– Saana has taught me that car buyers in Finland are very different from Australia, and a different kind of conversation is needed with them. For Australians, purchasing an American car is more of an emotional decision, whereas Finns are more concerned about money, Zoran notes.
Growing up in the family business world, Saana Kanti-Paul found entrepreneurship with her father to be a natural choice.
– My parents’ company was almost like a sibling to me: it was part of everything we did. At a very early age, I understood that entrepreneurship is a way of life.
From the outside, the partnership between father and daughter may not always look purely amicable.
– We have some head-to-head conversations. Both of us have very strong opinions, and neither of us likes to give up easily. In a way, we have to sell our ideas to each other before they are accepted for implementation. As entrepreneurs, we are more equal, as we are both at the same level, Zoran Kanti-Paul says.
Zoran Kanti-Paul understands why it is said that you should never go into business with a family member, but for the Kanti-Pauls, family always comes before business.
– Sure, we have differences of opinion, but a company is something you can get rid of – unlike your family. No matter what, Saana and I are family. At the end of the day, we sit down at the same table at dinner time.
Part of life
In a family business, it is inevitable that you sometimes talk shop at the dinner table. The Kanti-Pauls have accepted this, as they see entrepreneurship and the family business as a natural part of life.
– It is an asset that both my daughter and I are quite passionate about the business and about cars, Zoran Kanti-Paul says.
Zoran Kanti-Paul criticizes the tone that is often associated with entrepreneurship in Finland.
– Even the Finnish word for ‘entrepreneurship’ is based on the verb ‘to try’ which, in my opinion, is almost offensive. As if we were just trying a little something here. The word entrepreneur is much more descriptive.
Zoran Kanti-Paul points out that entrepreneurs must also remember to take time off.
– Your business must work in such a manner that you can also leave it. Many entrepreneurs say that they keep hard at work all year round, but that is not a sensible way to operate.
4 x Family business
Set clear goals. Zoran Kanti-Paul emphasises that the business owner must always set clear operational goals, which are backed by all company employees. The company must generate revenue for everyone involved.
Make the business part of your life. Running a business is easier if you don’t even try to squeeze it into the nine-to-five regime. Entrepreneurship can be difficult and scary – but it can also be extremely fun! Make entrepreneurship a way of life.
Prioritise Saana Kanti-Paul’s advice to entrepreneurs is to prioritise. Sometimes this means that you have to be brave enough to turn down work. In addition, you should look at your own performance from a critical perspective. While it is important to feel passionate about entrepreneurship, common sense must never be forgotten.
Secure your financing. Setting up a business requires funds, but the Kanti-Pauls recommend avoiding loans whenever possible. Money is the biggest source of family disputes, so the smaller the financial risk related to the new family business, the better for the business – and the family.