RELEX has been growing fast for some years now. So too has the number of colleagues in our different country teams. During the first half of this year the figures show we grew by 114% and welcomed 65 new colleagues. This can only be seen as great news, but it brings with it the challenge of how to maintain the spirit and feel of working at RELEX even though we are simultaneously taking on a lot of new people. Thankfully the approach we’ve all been taking seems to be working and I think we’ve kept our sense of fun, something I’m determined we should retain as growth forces us to implement new processes and structures to remain effective and aligned to our mission.

A lot of effort at RELEX has been put into a drive to retain our work culture. Spelling out our values – which have remained the same since 2009 when there were just 18 of us – has been a big part of this. When the time comes for me to address the RELEXians each quarter I always start by setting out our core values and what they mean. This is both because there are normally a few dozen new people hearing me set them out for the first time and so we all keep them constantly in mind. Also I believe that if everyone knows that their colleague knows our core values, it will reinforce the sense that people are expected to behave according to them, which is just what we are after. Our values have been presented outside the company once, for the first time, at our 10th anniversary party in January this year. But, I thought, why not write them up? Companies considering partnering with us should be given the opportunity to understand, as well as possible, what kind of people we are.

So, here goes; the core values of RELEX are:

1) The customer is a friend.

We have a genuine interest in our customers, their challenges and opportunities. We meet and communicate with the customer on an equal footing. We always keep our promises. If we can foresee potential challenges in the future, we discuss them early and transparently with the customer. We do not wait for a miracle. We also expect fair treatment and communication from our customers – just as we do from our friends.

2) We provide measurable value.

If the customer does not get real value from our work, we have not earned our pay. We should always be driven to understand where the value comes from in the things that we are doing. We operate best when we can grasp, on a more profound level, the meaning of any customer request – why is it important and how will it provide value, then we can truly deliver that value. We want to bind ourselves’ and our customers’ futures together through clear measured value and great service, not tie them in with contracts.

3) The colleague is a friend.

We want to have a low hierarchy where colleagues are treated as equals, and where there are no boundaries to interact with each other. Our guiding principle is to ‘respect expertise but question all authority’. All issues should be judged on their value and the quality of the argument, not solely on the source. If something’s meaning or a piece of reasoning is questionable, then it should be questioned – if the core meaning of a request is not clear or understood one cannot deliver on it.

4) We do not do stupid things.

We work in a complex and fast changing world and organization. Many corporations develop multi-faceted processes and procedures to give a greater sense of control; for example, pointless internal reporting. We need to consider everything we do carefully and put a stop to things that are not adding or no longer adding value. Everything we do should do one of three things: 1) increase customer value, 2) increase our efficiency or scalability, or 3) be plainly fun.

5) Life is supposed to be fun.

We are deadly serious about what we do, and the scope of our ambition in terms of quality is mind-bendingly high. However we do not want to take ourselves too seriously. We are blessed by working with great colleagues and customers, and are continuously facing exceptionally interesting new questions or challenges where we can put our process and software engineering skills to the test. If we do not enjoy this process, and take the opportunity to laugh when appropriate, then frankly what is the point in it all? I love what I am doing, and that is such a great feeling and gives me so much energy that I’m adamant that everyone at RELEX should have the opportunity to craft their work role and days to match their ambition and desire.

Those five values above summarize how I see RELEX as a company and RELEXians as a team operating amongst ourselves or with our customers, and should guide our behaviour. Besides giving a glimpse into how I see our future I want to publish them to give our customers additional leverage; because in the unlikely event that someone at RELEX is acting in a manner that contradicts these values, it allows our customers the chance to remind them and get the RELEX kind of service they deserve. Being Finnish by nature makes it a bit awkward talking about ourselves rather than some interesting supply chain or process challenge but, as always, it would be great to hear feedback. Scroll up to see my contact details!

Mikko Kärkkäinen

Mikko Kärkkäinen

Group CEO, D.Sc. (Tech.)


Phone+44 7802 658 237

Mikko Kärkkäinen is the Group CEO at RELEX and the author of more than thirty papers on logistics and supply chain issues delivered at conferences or published in leading magazines.

Subscribe to receive monthly blog updates