What’s his trick?

     At the time of Jarkko Härmälä’s posting to Bangkok, Finnair had just established a daily flight to Helsinki. Today, during high seasons, Finnair needs to operate up to 10 flights a week to meet the demand.
     Jarkko Härmälä had just completed a special assignment for Finnair’s to improve the airlines Helsinki-Hong Kong route when in March 2002 he was requested to move to Bangkok to do the same for the rest of South East Asia..
     “Moving to Bangkok was the natural next step” says Jarkko Härmälä.
     Towering two meters tall, Jarkko had an immediate impact. From the very first day he walked into the Bangkok office he won the personnel’s trust. Jarkko identified two matters that he would tackle before anything else.
     “The first thing was to turn everybody connected with ticket sales into specialists. I wanted them to have knowledge of the Nordic destinations rather than just issuing tickets. I wanted them to feel proud of being a part of the progress and their input”, says Jarkko.
     Jarkko’s second task would be “knocking doors”.
     “I wanted to reach all the Nordic expatriates, not only the Finns. If for some reason their normal airline is fully booked I wanted Finnair to be their alternative”, says Jarkko.
     He is very active within the local society and there is rarely a function involving Nordic people he is not attending.
     As always he does his outmost to reach customers through e-mails and telephone calls. Don’t be surprised if you see Jarkko shaking your hand and welcoming you in the passenger tunnel after disembarking a Finnair flight in Bangkok.
     “In business it’s very easy to forget existing customers since you often take them for granted. There is no point in getting new customers if you loose the old ones”, says Jarkko.
     “It is important to improve people’s awareness of Finland and one way to do so is to bring Finnish artists, musicians and food promotions to Thailand. It is also equally important to bring the Thai culture to Finland as exchange gives better understanding.”
     Jarkko loves his work, and no matter when you call him he will always answer unless he is on a flight. You can count on him replying the calls he has missed, usually as soon as he is between the gate and the pass control. Jarkko recalls a time he was in Finland and received a call from a customer in Singapore wanting to purchase a ticket. Due to the time difference it was 3am in Finland. Jarkko sold the ticket anyway.
     “Problems are always possible to solve, and the satisfaction when a pleased customer buys yet an other ticket is a great feeling.”
     Having a happy family life while you work 24-hours per day is not easy.
“My wife is very supportive and understanding, she has no problem with her sleep, I am still young and have plenty of sisu” (a Finnish concept for a combination of stamina, courage, and determination). Jarkko is a passionate golfer and to maximize the time spent with his wife and two daughters he usually tees off at 5am on Saturdays so he can be back home for breakfast at 8.30am.
     In his native Finland the Härmälä family lived near the sea, sailing was a big part of their leisure time. Sailing is something that Jarkko is currently missing, but there is no way he can find the time for both sailing and golf right now.
     Jarkko does not only keep airplanes in the sky; juggling is another talent that Jarkko possesses. In the prime of his thirties and with all the energy and enthusiasm, it is no wonder that his plain hard work has turned around the figures and become a story of success.

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