Get Knocked Down, Get Back Up

Johanna Kuisma, Fortaco’s Group Financial Controller, loves contact sports. They’ve taught her a few things about how to approach her professional life.

It might have been the worst time to start a new job. It was March 2020 when Johanna Kuisma joined Fortaco, and the world was going into lockdown. At the same time, she was charged with not only getting to know a new organization, but to bring its financial accounting in house. Either might be formidable in normal times, but doing both remotely was intimidating.

In the first two years of her employment, Kuisma can count the days she’s been at the office on her hands and not run out of fingers. „The hardest part is integrating with the team and the company,” she say. “At the office, you can ask quick questions. Where’s this? Where’s that? But it’s hard to do that via Teams.” Luckily, she was able to lean on her teammate, Tuomas Ahvonen, with whom the ice was broken by exchanging GIFs.

Consolidation

Kuisma’s first challenge at Fortaco was leading the effort to consolidate its books. But having just joined the company, she was unfamiliar with the off-highway industry. (Her background was in the financial sector and the electricity business, which have slightly different reporting needs.) Corona meant she could not visit Fortaco’s factories and could not learn the business in the conventional way.

Gathering information from the field, as well as from the firm that had previously done Fortaco’s financial accounting, her task was to harmonize the books from all of Fortaco’s operations, an organization with a dozen offices and factories spread across eight countries with 2,800 employees.

“Harmonized data is peace of mind,” she says. “It means you can trust the numbers and you know where they come from. You can drill down and see what’s behind them. From the big picture perspective it’s the reduction of risk. You get things right the first time and meet the legal requirements. If we get a tax audit, we know there’s no problem. No fines, no bad publicity. Everything is in order.”

Getting knocked down

The consolidation project was supposed to take four months. But due to Corona complexities it took a year and a half. “How’d we do it? I’m not sure,” she laughs. “It was just something that had to be done.“

Although it may have been at times frustrating, those type challenges are where Kuisma is most comfortable. She likes to get knocked down every once in a while, both in the workplace as well as in life.

She’s been active in contact sports from age 12 when she took up Judo. She’s boxed, kick-boxed, and practiced Krav Maga, the self-defense system developed for the Israel Defense Forces. She also played American football. „I must like getting knocked down since I’ve been doing it so many years,“ she says. “I like pushing myself to the limit. I’m very proud of finishing this consolidation project which I thought would kill me. Yes, you get knocked down, but I know it’s possible to get back up every time.”

The next round

Kuisma’s next big challenge will be putting together a group accounting manual. Luckily, things are changing and she’s able to be at the office two to three days each week, to meet her coworkers and build more classic professional relationships, which will hopefully mean she’ll be knocked down fewer times.

Opening Kuisma’s LinkedIn profile, it’s clear she is not your typical modest Finn. She is described as ambitious. It reads, I’m a team player with no fear to take the lead. She calls herself The Finance Wizard. But there seems little wizardry involved. Perhaps more stubbornness and resilience. Knowing she’ll never give up until the job is done.