Ensio Miettinen was born in 1929 into a family of entrepreneurs, in which acquiring an enterprising outlook was almost a question of inheritance. For Ensio, childhood was more preparation for the future than play: he was raised by his engineer father, his mother having died almost immediately after his birth. Ensio spent his childhood in Vyborg, but war broke out when he was 9 and he was evacuated to central Finland.
Ensio began work as a 22-year-old technical university student with Puristustuote Oy, run by his father. Ensio describes his relationship with his father as follows: “despite its ups and downs, and loves and hates, it was the fundamental driving force behind my entrepreneurial career and life”. “Open a hotdog stand if you have to, but don’t work for someone else,” was his father’s advice. By 1958, after six years of work, Ensio was ready to establish his own company.
Ensio recounts the early phases of his career: “Of course I was confident that I would succeed. I knew the business inside out. When I was 22, I went to work at Puristustuote, running it by the time I was 23. At first, as such a young technical manager, I didn’t inspire much respect among our business partners, who were of an entirely different generation. When I was 28, I established my own engineering company, Insinööritoimisto Ensio Miettinen, and started production, lathing small metal parts.” The early years were characterised by a hectic working pace and entrepreneurialism.
An inexhaustible thirst for knowledge and the ability to make observations and deductions helped Ensio create a successful company. Just seven years later, it was larger than his father’s. In the 1970s he expanded the company’s product portfolio to cover new fields, and in the 1980s embarked on internationalization. Knowing how to perform and implement product development - innovation - has always been among Ensio’s strengths, attested to by over 100 patents in his name.
During the 1975 recession, when Ensio was 45, Ensto surmounted its most severe crisis. As Ensio wryly commented: “I stopped being an engineer and focused on the electronics of souls, and I’m only half kidding when I say that.” Ensio’s thoughts concerning business management developed through a series of diary-like handouts he distributed to friends and co-workers.
After enlisting co-writer Esa Saarinen, a philosopher, the book “Muutostekijä” (The Change Factor) was published, emphasizing people and the human factor in working life. The book became a success in Finland, followed by books co-written with business administration expert Risto Harisalo, such as “Klassinen liberalismi” (Classical Liberalism) and ”Luottamuspääoma” (Trust as Capital), packed with unbiased observations on Finnish society, and having a strong impact on Finnish corporate culture. In Ensio’s own words: “As an entrepreneur I know that you cannot change people, either at work or in life. You can only till the soil, and trust will either flourish or wither.” The concept of trust as capital is based on this idea, as are Ensio’s values.
The company created by Ensio Miettinen is alive and well. His values will remain at the core of Ensto, a family company, although the power and responsibility connected to company ownership were finally transferred to the second generation in 2001. Ensio believes that family companies with a human face remain critical in a globalizing world with few trade barriers.