Jani Nieminen is very clear, direct and measured in his approach to business, and expects the same from Kojamo and its employees. This is just one reason he will celebrate 10 years as CEO of Finland’s biggest real estate investor this year. “Operational excellence has always played an important role for me,” he says.
“I have a saying that it’s good when people do things right, but it’s a totally different ball game when you do the right things right. “We’ve been focusing on that – doing the right things and doing them efficiently.”
It seems to be paying dividends. Founded in 1969, Kojamo was already one of the country’s biggest companies when Jani joined, but he still saw room to improve and modernise its functions and operations. And he still sees room for further growth.
“We’ve changed a lot during my time and, today, we are a stock exchange-listed company and the biggest real estate investor in Finland,” he shares. “But we believe that urbanisation here in Finland will continue creating growth in the bigger cities, so there will be a need for more new apartments, and we are investing between €200 million and €400 million a year.”
Jani says he expects that growth will come from multiple sources. “There are projects based on our own land and projects that we buy from construction companies. That’s an important part of the strategy,” he explains.
“We now have 2,600 apartments under construction in the Helsinki region. In addition to that are binding agreements with construction companies to provide an additional 1,000 units. “Of course, we are also working on a daily basis in order to find new projects, such as converting buildings into apartments, office space or premises used for educational purposes.
“Acquisitions are the third angle. If and when we find something suitable within our parameters, we are able to move fast and buy.” It’s a huge supply of apartments, but the demand is always there because of Kojamo’s attentive approach to customer care and relations.
Even though we have been quite successful, we are still hungry.
“Our aim is to provide added value and easy and effortless living for our customers,” Jani reveals. “We are combining a lot of technology and services for our clients.” That technology includes the ability for customers to find and rent an apartment, as well as receive the keys, in a single day using the company’s online system.
“We are the only player providing a web facility for our clients to be able to rent apartments 24/7 using Nordic banking codes,” Jani says. “In the last couple of years, half of all new customers have been coming from online.”
The way it works, he explains, is by having customers log in using their bank details. “The client only needs Nordic banking codes in order to log into the system, which then automatically checks out the credit rating,” he points out.
“And then the customer is able to choose the apartment, pay the first month’s rent and say where they want their keys to be delivered. In many cases, they are even able to move in the next day.” Jani is heavily involved with technical innovations within the organisation, and the next iteration of that includes the use of artificial intelligence.
“We already use AI in a couple of places,” he says. “For example, we have 29,000 apartments in buildings with sensors inside and outside, collecting data and combining that against the weather forecast, so we are able to optimise the heating. These kinds of new innovations provide really easy and effortless living for our clients, which of course is important to me.”
Also vital are Jani’s employees, and in particular, that they understand where the company is going. “I make sure everybody working in Kojamo actually knows the strategy and what it means in our day-to-day operations,” he stresses.
“Everybody needs to really understand their role in the strategy and how they are adding value to it. Everything we do is connected to our strategy – all the business plans for each year, all the projects.”
Jani spends a lot of his time attending meetings at all levels of the company so that he can understand what’s going on throughout the organisation, and answer any questions that may arise. “It’s like combining all the capabilities from the company and all the best ideas,” he confirms.
Sustainability is another important measure of success and something Kojamo embraces, according to Jani. “It’s easy to argue that sustainability is a part of our company DNA. It’s always been present in all our operations. For example, four years ago, we were the first player in Finland to start providing low-energy buildings,” he states proudly.
“Of course, there is room for improvement, so we have made two big commitments: the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the Net Zero Carbon Buildings by 2030 initiative.” The clear and direct nature of all Kojamo’s dealings also extends to its partnerships, Jani adds.
“We are known as a solid buyer that really looks after its partners,” he says. “We are a strong buyer but also a demanding buyer. However, we are fast and clear with our decision-making, so all the big construction companies and mid-size construction companies feel that it’s easy to operate with us.”
Alongside construction, partners in the world of cleaning and building maintenance are also vital to Kojamo’s operations, and the company is very transparent in letting these partners know how they are performing.
“Ten years ago, we already had a system in place to measure the quality of service companies are providing, as well as the individuals providing the service,” Jani points out. “We provide that data openly to all our partners, so they are able to follow not only their own business, but also what their peers are doing. We have ongoing discussions with our service providers to ensure the highest quality.”
Jani should be very satisfied with Kojamo’s achievements, and although he is, there is always the desire for more. “I think we have been quite successful in creating something new – a new approach,” he reflects.
“But it’s also important that you believe in improving your business on a daily basis. So, even though we have been quite successful, we are still hungry.”
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