Can you build your entire business strategy around providing everyday help to customers?

Working in different parts of the world broadens your horizons. Sometimes you have to go far away to see what’s right in front of you. Grano is a company that combines traditional handicraft and state-of-the-art technology in an intriguing manner. According to CEO Kimmo Kolari, the company is like a miniature Finland.

“The service attitude and exceptional expertise of Grano’s employees are the cornerstones on which the company is built. Without this expertise and the pride that our employees take in their work, we could never reach our lofty goals,” Kolari states.

The world is growing more service-oriented as rapidly as it is becoming smaller. As a result, we are nowadays well aware of how other companies in our industry are developing, even if they operate on the other side of the world. “As a returnee, I can say that here in Finland we are in many respects right up there with some of the top companies in the world, and even ahead in some areas.”

Kolari has had a long career abroad, affording him an interesting perspective on Grano’s strategy. Grano’s journey from a manufacturing company to a full-blown service company is already well underway. The goal is to change the entire industry and claim the position of the best partner for successful marketing.

The Finnish printing industry has long been characterised by companies’ in-depth knowledge of their own products. However, Kolari’s view is that it is now time for the entire industry to move forward. Turning product features into competitive advantages is difficult, but there is far less competition in areas such as customer support, responsible production and comprehensive solutions, meaning that these are the areas that you should focus on to gain an advantage over the competition.

Being able to make your customer’s everyday operations easier and improve their performance is a competitive advantage anywhere in the world. Your strategy does not need to be complex, as long as it is effective.

Assuming a 360-degree view

Grano has set its goals high. In the printing industry, globalisation is often viewed as a trend that steals jobs and investments away to countries with lower production costs. After all, digitalisation has provided everyone with easy access to services produced halfway across the world. But what if we could offer something with which to challenge the rest of the world instead of constantly being on the defensive?

“What customers want is a deep understanding of their own industries and solutions and ideas that make their operations easier and more efficient. These are the needs that served as the basis of our Grano 360 concept, which provides us with a broad perspective and an understanding of larger wholes,” Kolari says.

Companies in different industries have shared needs, of course, but they also have plenty of industry-specific characteristics and demands. “We cannot assume that the same solution will serve all of our customers. Instead, we have to approach each customer insightfully, understanding the special characteristics of their industry. In a way, we need to be like old-time apothecaries, who listened to each patient’s ailments and then proceeded to mix a suitable medicine: a bit of this and a dash of that. What we need to do is assemble the right mix of products, know-how, technology and services. This is the idea behind the 360 approach that serves our customers in an all-encompassing manner,” Kolari explains.

More effective marketing

Change is not something that happens at the flick of the wrist, however. The process of changing from a manufacturing company into a service company has been gradual. The first step was the re-building of Grano’s service portfolio.

“Grano has acquired dozens of companies over the years, providing us with a wide range of services and an extensive range of expertise. More and more often, however, our customers have expressed their demand for comprehensive solutions from a single supplier. So we started combining the pieces. The 360 concept is a comprehensive approach.”

The second step was to change the company’s operating logic from being production-oriented to being customer-oriented. To this end, Grano was organised into operating clusters, and decisions began to be more strongly steered by customer needs. As cliché as it may sound, the company began building its customer experience into a sustainable competitive advantage.

The third step of the change, which is currently in progress, is all about strengthening Grano’s capacity to provide continuous, comprehensive services across organisational boundaries that meet the needs of the digital age. The goal is to assume overall responsibility for the customer’s internal process.

“Our goal is to unburden our customers’ marketing and ensure its performance. If a customer contacts us to order a sign for a trade fair, we tell them that we can of course supply them with a sign, but what we would actually like to do is organise the entire event for them, from design to implementation – and thus provide the customer with more comprehensive help,” Kolari clarifies.

The new Grano 360 service concept is designed to provide measurable benefits to customers.

“We can do meaningful and impactful things with our customers. The Grano service attitude bears comparison anywhere. This is why I like to toy with the idea of changing the entire industry,” Kolari says, smiling. 

“Grano’s journey from a manufacturing company to a full-blown service company is already well underway. The goal is to change the entire industry and claim the position of the best partner for successful marketing.”

Kimmo Kolari, CEO, Grano Oy

This text was originally published in the customer magazine Grano Magazine in 2021. Text by Pirkko Soininen and photos by Meeri Utti.

“Our goal is to unburden our customers’ marketing and ensure its performance,” Kimmo Kolari states.

Any thoughts on the text? Do not hesitate to ask, praise or challenge – Kimmo will reply: 

Kimmo Kolari
President & CEO, Grano Oy


The article was originally published on 15.02.2022 and has been updated on 6.02.2024.