Kai Kaasalainen: Balance in management is comprised of stability and change

10.6.2020 11:01
Tasapainolaudan molemmissa päissä saman kokoiset metallinhohtoiset pallot.

The pandemic and the ensuing crisis situation...

... have not influenced our strategy. We work with our customers and partners in order to improve the health of Finnish people. At the heart of the strategy is our basic role as a pharmaceutical distributor.

To be sure, the scale of the COVID-19 crisis came as a surprise to the pharmaceutical supply chain. In March, demand exploded. Our daily order volumes were as high as 50 per cent above normal, and we operated at maximum capacity for several days. We had to constantly prioritise shipments with health authorities and in accordance with their instructions as the industry was not scaled for surges in demand of this magnitude.

In my office, I have a flip chart that I have used to write down my cornerstones of leadership years ago: a common and shared understanding of goals, ways forward and the resources necessary to achieve these. When these things come together, even global crises cannot erode our work. The model applies to both business strategy and individual projects – even COVID-19.

Our daily lives were changed by...

...working remotely from home. Our company has had a strong culture of remote work for a long time, though not quite in the present scale. At first, I was naturally somewhat worried how things would play out – how were our employees coping, would our work slow down, could we communicate in such a way that ensures that we hold our shared course.

Even as early as after the first week, I was pleasantly surprised  as my concerns turned out to be unfounded. Employees were hard at work in our internal channels and were also able to discover totally new forms of social interaction. Tamro’s employees brainstormed ideas over morning coffee and kept in touch with each other with determination and an open heart.

So far, I have not noticed a single thing left undone due to the fact that we have been working remotely from home.

I have hired several new experts and managers remotely without ever meeting the candidates face-to-face.  

The global changes...

...have raised concerns during the spring over the availability of medicines. In Finland, we are dependent on the ability of international pharmaceutical companies to deliver products, which in turn depends on the production of raw materials and supply chains in China and India. Still, Finnish pharmaceutical service has demonstrated its ability to cooperate effectively in a crisis, even as international supply chains are beyond our control.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, a phenomenon known as selfishness has also entered the discussion. We have witnessed how, for example, certain countries consider only the needs of their own citizens in terms of the supply of pharmaceuticals, and there have been disruptions in the free movement of medicines between countries. This phenomenon is a dangerous one. Fortunately, it has already been addressed by the EU.

Within the industry, we have discussed how could influence European legislation and the attractiveness of the EU as a location for pharmaceutical manufacturing. Could it be possible to relocate the production of raw materials to Europe as there is a good chance that we will continue to see similar surges in demand in the future? The road ahead is long, but I want to see the future in a positive light: the solutions can be found if the political will is there.

During COVID-19, I have come to understand that...

...people who get the job done are the key to everything. In all our operations, it is essential that our important work for the health of everyone in Finland is done by people who are competent in their jobs and have the courage to overcome any obstacles in their way. Exceptional circumstances call for exceptional flexibility and resilience. We are building a culture in which employees are not tied to a specific role or department but instead free to bring their special expertise and talent to use where they are most needed.

We will continue to foster a culture of innovation and experimentation focused on open-minded cooperation, customer insight and the ability to be proactive without fear of failure.

In recent years, we have developed our ability to understand how our customers’ business is developing and what the future holds. The key is to understand how we can do our part to best deliver value to our customers and the society as a whole and improve the health of all citizens. We want to influence developments and prepare for the future together with our customers in a rapidly changing operational environment. Our discussions with the management teams of our partner companies on ideas about the future have been particularly rewarding.

Our work as an essential link in the pharmaceutical supply chain and as a healthcare service provider has real meaning. Our motto, “with determination and an open heart”, illustrates the passion and drive that we have for our work. Through our work, we ensure better health and wellbeing and longer lives for people in Finland.  


Tamron toimitusjohtaja Kai Kaasalainen

Kai Kaasalainen

Managing Director, Tamro Corporation

My role at Tamro: Managing Director of Tamro Corporation and board member of several of our subsidiaries and associate companies.

I live in: Officially in Espoo, but temporarily working remotely from the shores of lake Puulavesi in Kangasniemi.

By training, I am: Executive MBA from Aalto University. Along the way, I have also earned degrees in information technology and business studies.

My getaway from daily routines: immersing myself in hobbies, including putting the finishing touches on a book on leadership to be published later this year, do-it-yourself projects and spending time outdoors.

What I’ll never give up: lifelong learning.

My motto: ”There’s a lesson to be learned from everyone if you keep your ears and mind open”