History of VPS Personnel Services
From reaching out over a landline phone to the hectic pulse of the digital world
The temporary staffing company VPS Henkilöstöpalvelu is one of the oldest players in the field in Finland.
Born in Punkaharju and later a Helsinki resident, Veli-Pekka Suomalainen was about 40 years old when he founded VPS in 1987. The acronym is a combination of Suomalainen’s initials and the Finnish words Valitsemme Parhaat Sinulle (“We Choose the Best for You”).
Suomalainen, who had worked in financial management roles for various companies, saw his opportunity when ownership restructuring was initiated in the construction industry. It was time to take a leap.
While in management roles Suomalainen worked with personnel service companies.
- I knew that rental workforce was the future and there was demand for services, Suomalainen explained in an interview in 2019.
For him, it felt natural to become an entrepreneur. It sort of originated from his mother’s milk. His parents, as well as his siblings, were entrepreneurs.
VPS used a carrot to tempt people to interviews
At the end of the 1980s, Finland was experiencing an economic upturn. VPS was founded on 17 September 1987, but due to the red tape regarding permits, the operation only started officially in January 1988.
By chance, Suomalainen founded VPS exactly on the same day as Commercial Counsellor, confectioner Karl Fazer had founded his own company almost a hundred years earlier in 1891.
In the early years VPS posted marketing letters to companies. The office staff followed closely the wanted ads published in the Helsingin Sanomat newspaper on Wednesdays and Sundays and chose the target groups to approach.
VPS also advertised in Helsingin Sanomat, even though the ads were expensive. They brought visibility and made the company well-known.
At first VPS also used its own “carrot” to tempt people to interviews: a trip south was raffled off among everyone who had attended an interview during a particular month.
During the early years of operation people did not own mobile phones, but potential workers had to be reached over a landline phone. They could not always be reached when needed.
- It could be that someone came to an interview, and very soon after that a job which was a perfect match for him opened up. But we were only able to reach him on the following day.
The recession in early 1990s stopped the growth
There was a high demand for temporary workers in the late 1980s. During the early years, VPS mostly supplied office workers, such as cashiers, typists, telephone operators and telex operators. Soon construction industry workers came along.
In autumn 1991 the demand for workforce stopped abruptly, when a deep recession hit Finland. Many businesses in the industry went bankrupt.
VPS had operated sensibly during its early years and accumulated a buffer from its proceedings. That and cutting personnel expenses helped the company to survive the five difficult years of recession.
Suomalainen got to breathe a sigh of relief in 1996, when the demand for services began to grow again. The growth started from the fields of logistics, building and industry. The upcoming success of the mobile phone company Nokia was visible in the increased demand for financial management and logistics workers.
Some of VPS’ customers had relocated parts of their operations to the provinces, and VPS also had to expand its operations. First, offices were established in Lahti and Turku, and later in a total of 18 municipalities.
“Feet half a metre off the ground”
In 2000s, VPS was in the fast lane. The expenses of the company were not yet very high, and Finland was on an upward trend.
- Then our feet were constantly half a metre off the ground. It felt like even world domination could be possible, Suomalainen describes the feelings of those days.
VPS expanded abroad in 2000. In particular, the lack of workforce in different industries encouraged implementing the decision.
VPS founded its first subsidiary in Stockholm. The next office was founded in Tallinn. Originally, the purpose was to serve the needs of Finnish companies operating in the capital of Estonia. Later workforce was supplied to Finland from the Tallinn company.
Over the years, in addition to Tallinn in Estonia and Stockholm in Sweden, VPS has had offices in St. Petersburg in Russia, Budapest in Hungary and Warsaw in Poland.
In autumn 2008, dark clouds began to form. A worldwide economic recession hit. Bad news from abroad also made companies in Finland wary.
VPS also downsized its office network. At the end of the 2010s, the company has eight offices in Finland: In Helsinki, Iisalmi, Kuopio, Oulu, Salo, Tampere, Turku and Vaasa. In addition, VPS operates in Tallinn.
VPS survived another recession using the same tools as twenty years earlier: by adapting and using a buffer that had accumulated over good years.
“It is a matter of honour to always pay wages on time”
Although many things were different from when VPS was founded in late 1980s, many things had also remained the same.
For example, the mismatch problem, that is, making the supply and demand of workforce meet, has always been a challenge in the industry. The industry is cyclically sensitive: when companies have a high demand for workers, there is often a lack of them, and when the demand is low, there is a surplus of workers.
The values of VPS have also remained the same: honest, fair and flexible operation and reliability. VPS follows the laws and collective labour agreements literally.
- Our company is solvent, and it is a matter of honour that wages are always paid on time.
The integrity of VPS is also evident from the fact that it is one of the longest-standing companies in its field in Finland.
VPS supports sportspersons’ journey to the top
Sport is close to Veli-Pekka Suomalainen’s heart. VPS has supported several individual and team sport athletes and teams over the years.
The most successful in international fields has been, at least so far, triple jumper Heli Kruger (née Koivula), who won silver in the European Championships in Munich in 2002.
Over the years, VPS’ “stable” has included runners Johanna Manninen, Sari Keskitalo, Stefan Koivikko and Niclas Sandells and high jumper Heikki Taneli. When it comes to clubs, VPS has sponsored, for example, HJK, VPS and Jokerit.
- Many sportspersons pay a large share of their camp and other expenses themselves. By sponsoring them we want to help talented people’s journey to the top of the world. Of course, it also offers visibility for the company, says Suomalainen.
In 2018, VPS began cooperation with swimmer Nea-Amanda Heinola. You can read more about Nea-Amanda here.