Chairwoman of Genelec Oy Board Ritva Leinonen
As a young lady, Ritva Leinonen graduated as an accountant and ended up working with engineers through mutual friends. In 1975 she heard that an engineering office named KLT-Elektroniikka was looking for a person for finance management. So began her cooperation with Ilpo Martikainen and Topi Partanen.
When Genelec was founded, Ritva Leinonen wanted to be one of the founding members. Earlier she had imagined she would have an ordinary career, but this company became a calling. Leinonen worked as the finance director for Genelec until 2006.
“We felt at the beginning that this business had a future. I made a deep commitment to the company. We had strong faith in the future, and a good spirit among us,” Ritva says.
Iisalmi, a small town in the heart of Savo, was an unknown place for Ritva, but it was easier to adapt when her workplace was inspiring, a company she had helped to create.
“The atmosphere at work was creative and joyful, most of the time we had fun. I believe bar nights would have been a bore compared to that!” she recalls. ”We weren’t laughing all the time, but the atmosphere was inspiring and exciting. There were challenges – the clumsiness of beginners, and from time-to-time the work was very hard. But my colleagues literally rushed to work and we all got hooked. Sometimes the wives suffered. Hillevi, Topi Partanen’s wife, sometimes came to fetch him home from work.”
“At the beginning we were living from hand to mouth and struggling. We couldn’t pay salaries regularly. We lived from one order to the next and finance was run by bills of exchange. After the goods for export had left and the invoice was written, we took the invoice to the bank. They wrote a bill of exchange for export, and Genelec got the money. When it was time for us to pay it back, the customer normally had already paid his invoice to our account. It was a good system, especially if the customer paid on time,” she explains.
Ritva Leinonen describes Topi Partanen as creative but very calm, efficient and productive. Ilpo Martikainen was the ethical leader of the company. “Ilpo defined Genelec’s values: honesty, belief, enthusiasm – not money. You can get money from the bank, but belief has to be inside you. We must also make decisions that last for years, such that are good for the company in the long run.”
“Sometimes you feel that people choose a career where they have to face their weaknesses. Ilpo didn’t do small talk, he was a quiet man and to him the world was given to conquer. Topi did small talk even less, he liked to work alone at his desk and not answer silly questions… And myself, I gave too much credit, I was a poor debt collector,” Ritva considers.
“But Ilpo was very warm and close to our distributors and other important people. He created personal relationships that lay somewhere between friendship and business, but closer to friendship. As a Managing Director he had an essential role in pricing, customer relationships and marketing.”
“In the beginning, R&D took the major part of turnover. The first 14 years of the business were barely viable. The EBIT wasn’t too good and in some years even negative. In the 1980s there was a four day working week for some time. Around 1992 the viability and financial situation got better. Since then it has been good.”