Business Kuopio


Change and development are the driving forces behind POK Group


POK has followed a recipe for success that has involved making radical changes to its operations at the right times. The company has pursued these changes with courage and determination, despite facing obstacles along the way.

Today, POK Group supplies electricity distribution systems for hospitals, industry, energy, shipping and homes. The company has come a long way from the time when Tapani Vepsäläinen, father of the company’s Business Development Manager Teemu Vepsäläinen, roamed along the shores of Pielinen as an electrical contractor.

“In the late 1980s, about ten years after starting an electrical contracting company, my father started thinking about other options. Back then, the Pisara project was underway in North Karelia, supporting industrial production. My father ended up manufacturing switchboards under the name Pielisen Oma-Keskus Oy and sold his contracting business,” says Vepsäläinen.

This was the time of the boom before the recession, but luckily the company did not have any large foreign currency loans, despite investing in starting the new business and obtaining facilities. Switchboard production was undergoing a transition, and in the post-recession years, there was potential to grow the business even more, but Tapani Vepsäläinen settled for a growth rate of one person per year.

Generational change through acquisition

The company continued its steady growth until the turn of the millennium, and the idea of the next generation taking over the business first came up in 2004. Teemu Vepsäläinen had dreamed of becoming a professional ice hockey player, but when this did not work out, it was a no-brainer for him to continue his father’s life’s work. His sister Tiina Pietarinen also got involved in the business. However, expanding operations in Juuka was seen as somewhat problematic.

“Eventually, we started planning the change of generation through another company. We acquired Mega-Kojeisto Oy from Kuopio, a company with products, customers and expertise that complemented our operations. I myself was living in Kuopio and had just started studying at the university of applied sciences, but my time as a tech student was cut short when our business started to grow rapidly,” says Teemu Vepsäläinen.

The plan was to merge the two companies together once the business of Mega-Kojeisto reached the same volume as Pielisen Oma-Keskus. However, the company experienced a time of weaker demand along the way before finally reaching its goals. POK Group Oy was eventually born in 2010. The business in Juuka was run down in the following year and all operations were concentrated in Kuopio.

Integration of company cultures has been hard work

Bringing together two different company cultures after the merger has required a lot of work. POK Group experienced this on an even larger scale when it later acquired Telemerkki Oy, which specializes in switchboards for ships, and E Avenue Oy, one of the biggest electricity distribution centre manufacturers in Finland.

“It has now been two years since we acquired E Avenue, and we’ve worked on integration ever since. It’s unfortunate that we’re now facing a downfall in the market due to the slump in the construction industry,” says Vepsäläinen.

He hopes that within a year, the market will start to improve again, and POK Group will be able to pick up its production levels and volume. The company also has its sights set on the international market. POK Group is already one of the biggest suppliers of switchboards and distribution systems in Finland, and one of the leading Nordic suppliers in terms of volume.

Need to question past practices

Teemu Vepsäläinen is happy with his father’s bold decision to jump into a completely different industry in the 1980s. That has been one of the greatest moments in the history of the company, in addition to concentrating its operations in Kuopio and the corporate acquisitions. Change and development have been the driving forces behind POK Group.

“We always try to do things better next week than this week. We have been able to hold on to our entrepreneurial spirit and the values that my father has carried with him from the very first day of his entrepreneurship,” says Vepsäläinen.

One of his father’s lessons is that you need to believe in what you are doing, but not be lulled into thinking that it is perfect. You also need to be able to make changes and question past practices. Asking for and accepting help and sharing responsibility also play a big role.

“The size of a company determines the challenges it will face to some extent. The same ‘isms’ will not serve us as well as they did in the past, now that we have become a midcap company. We have twice as many people as we did two years ago, and also twice as many challenges – but also opportunities,” says Vepsäläinen.

POK Group’s website

Educational institutions are essential partners in the region

POK Group has two main factories in Kuopio and separate units in Iisalmi, Ikaalinen and Jokela. Educational institutions are POK Group’s biggest partners. The company works to improve and develop growth paths, and young talent from local educational establishments are vital for its operations. According to Business Development Manager Teemu Vepsäläinen from POK Group, educational institutions provide great employees and talent that the company needs to compete for with other employers.

Photos: POK Group
Text: Minna Akiola