Krista Lehtonen — June 19, 2018

People of Evermade – part 7

Say hi to Mikael, Julius and Eduardo!

This series just keeps on giving. For part 7, we squeezed interviews into the calendars of three very busy men. Two of them have raised Evermade from a basement to where we are now. One of them flew from the other side of the world to help.

They are men with many skills and a strong drive to take us and the digital landscape to whole new dimensions. So take a moment to listen what’s up.

 

Mikael Toivio

TELL US THE STORY OF EVERMADE FROM A FOUNDER’S POINT OF VIEW

I always knew that I’m going to build some sort of a company. My dad had a lot of ideas and I guess that is something that I inherited. When I was little I started playing a lot of competitive online computer games (eSports). As I progressed in that field I realized my team needed sponsorships so we could attend global tournaments. For that, we needed to generate visibility, aka a website and someone to do it. I had no clue what I was doing but I did my best.

Eventually, the word spread and I landed my first paying clients. I didn’t care how much money I’d get, I just wanted to become the best in the world, one project at a time. As I got better, my client base kept growing. It got to a point where I couldn’t handle all the requests. I needed technical support, so I asked Jaakko to join me, and when I needed someone who’s good with people, I called Julius.

And that’s how it all started: Julius joined me in my mother’s dark basement. Mom used to come there to offer smoothies and we drank those and crafted websites. We didn’t know anything about the industry. We didn’t know how much a website should cost, how much we spent making them, or how a company works in general. Step by step we got better. It wasn’t always easy, but we held together and pushed forward. I believe the key has always been the scenario of questioning ourselves and to trying to be better.

It’s great to look back at those times as how simple and little knowledge we had. It was just brutal passion. With all the mistakes, I’m glad to say we are still here, stronger than ever.

WHAT DO YOU DO AT EVERMADE?

I started as a Web Designer. Then started to learn Flash Animations but also the development of it. I was getting very good with Flash. Then Steve Jobs said the magical words and killed the technology overnight. I felt that I had lost numerous years learning something that was now obsolete.

I returned to designing websites. I always felt like the end result wasn’t good enough when someone else did the code, so I had to start doing it myself. And so the code became a tool just like the design. I’m a designer & developer here at Evermade. The end result is the point, not what happens in order to get there. It would be boring to do only one thing. Variation keeps me going, and it makes it possible to learn from different areas.

Nowadays the Flash Animation that I did back in the day is coming back into the web. So I guess not all was lost because of Steve Jobs

HOW DOES A DIGITAL AGENCY KEEP MOVING FORWARD?

I always have one big vision at a time. Then I try to think of small enough steps that feel achievable, to navigate your way towards the big vision. Instead of huge jumps, you just need to move a bit; even simple things get you forward. As we are a bigger company now, it’s enough if one person takes a leap – the others will absorb it too, and so the individuals and the company start to progress. Since this business never stops changing, there is no room for average visions.

WHAT IS YOUR BIGGEST LESSON OF THESE 7 OR SO YEARS WITH EVERMADE?

I have felt one big change and that is the ability to trust others. In the very beginning, I was always felt that I was a superman who could fix everything. I soon realized a superman can’t stop two planes from hitting the ground at the same time. I think this has been one of the hardest things at least for me. To let go. Trust others. The more I trust others the more they understand the big picture and gain knowledge. Knowledge transfers to good decisions and therefore makes the whole team stronger.

It takes time but the long-term result is for the greater good. It’s a lot more scalable and you can stop more planes from hitting the ground that way. Do keep in mind that “trust” and “not caring” are not the same thing!

IF NOT DIGITAL SERVICES, WHAT WOULD YOU BE WORKING ON?

I would have continued playing computer games, and then eventually just gone to some school and ended up doing… Hmm. I don’t even know what. I also enjoyed sports a lot. But I hear floorball isn’t one of those games from which people write songs about.

WHAT IS THE BEST WAY TO START THE DAY?

Exercise. The ideal order would be: cycling, shower, lunch. Those days I don’t cycle to work, I feel like I’m partly asleep.

FAVORITE PLACE IN THE WORLD?

Lake Tahoe. There you’re just a little person amongst huge trees and pine cones.

WHAT DO YOU WISH YOU KNEW MORE ABOUT?

What other people think about themselves. Or about me. I often wonder and try to analyze these things. I find it interesting.

IF YOU DIDN’T HAVE TO SLEEP, WHAT WOULD YOU DO WITH THE EXTRA TIME?

Play the piano. Play games. And then probably just do envisioning. I mean, even more, than I do now.

 

Julius Haukkasalo

WHAT’S YOUR STORY WITH EVERMADE?

I met Mikael when we both were students and worked as freelancers. One summer day I was working at home on a freelance design project when Mikael called and asked me if I was home. “Yup” I said. “Are you working?” “Yup.” “ Isn’t it a bit frustrating to work every day at home? My mom has a house close to your apartment, which has an empty basement in it. What if we just went there and started working together?”

I thought it sounded like a weird proposition but anything was better than working from the studio apartment. So, I grabbed my iMac and we started working together. After about 4 months, we had to leave the basement since our co-founder Jaakko (a pretty tall fellow) couldn’t fit in the tiny basement. So, we literally grew out of that office.

WHAT KIND OF ROLES HAVE YOU HAD HERE AT EVERMADE? WHAT’S THE NEXT ONE?

I’ve worked in quite a few roles in the past 8 years. My background is in design, so I started with that. Then when the guys needed a hand at frontend development so I helped where I could. Next, I started focusing more on concept design, and as the team was quite small we needed someone to handle project management, so that sort of fell on my lap. After that it was sales. When we started to grow we needed someone to look after the bigger picture, so I started doing that as well and my title was changed to COO and eventually CEO. After a couple of years of leading the company, I felt a change was needed. So here I am back working with our clients and getting my hand dirty as Account Director.

At heart, I’ll always be a designer. I want us to create services that add actual business value to our clients – but also look and feel just right. I don’t know about my next role (I’m quite happy where I am), but the end-game is definitely to… be the office gardener. I hope that in 60 years I’ll be the guy who walks around the office a watering pot in one hand and scissors in the other, and people ask each other: “Who’s that old guy taking care of the plants?”

YOUR WORK AS ACCOUNT DIRECTOR – WHAT’S CHALLENGING? WHAT’S REWARDING?

Really my job is to help our clients and our team members to shine as bright as they can. Sometimes it can of course be challenging to be responsible for both the happiness and wellbeing of our clients as well as our team. A lot of it’s about balance – knowing when to push people and when to give them a helping hand. And if something goes south, the burden is eventually on me. But I’m happy to carry the responsibility. The job is a lot about being able to manage different unpredictable scenarios on the fly, which keeps every workday interesting.

It’s rewarding to be able to do what’s best for the company. I do my best helping the team grow both personally and professionally, challenging them to improve, and at the same time making sure they enjoy their work.

GIVE US A SHORT PITCH ABOUT WHY EVERMADE IS A GREAT PARTNER FOR DIGITAL PROJECTS.

I could go into details about what we do, how we do it and what kind of skill sets we have. But in the end, everything culminates in us just really caring about what we do. Our ambition level is incredibly high and we want to make the best quality services day-in-day-out. We care about our clients and our co-workers, and also about our own level of expertise.

IF YOU DIDN’T WORK AT EVERMADE, WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING?

I’ve been asked about that many many times, but I don’t really have an answer. The fact that I ended up in that basement in 2010 has changed the trajectory of my life completely and has since affected everything in my personal and professional life. So, it’s quite difficult to see my life without Evermade. I wouldn’t go as far as saying considering Evermade as a child of mine, but maybe a stepchild.

But if I really had to choose? I like to travel, so maybe I would be in some beach paradise and own some B&B and a scuba shop. But nah, I can’t really imagine anything else.

WHAT SKILL WOULD YOU LIKE TO MASTER?

There are so many things I’d like to learn! I can be a little bit too curious at times and dive into some weird topic consuming articles, wiki’s and the like for ages just because something caught my attention. “Everyday’s a school day”, they say.
I’d like to be able to play the ukulele properly. I’d want to be able to kick a ball like Thierry Henry. I sometimes dream I could just jump into a text editor and develop some backend functionality.

THERE ARE TWO TYPES OF PEOPLE IN THIS WORLD. WHAT ARE THE TWO TYPES?

There are people who love football and there are people who don’t. I’ll leave it up to you to try and guess which group I belong in. COYG!

DO YOU HAVE SOME SPECIAL INTEREST PEOPLE DON’T KNOW ABOUT?

There probably aren’t many. I think I just talk too much so most people probably already know all of my secrets. But related to all that talking, I actually really enjoy being underwater. With a regulator in your mouth, you can’t do anything but float around, look at all the lovely fish and coral and focus on your breathing. Down there, floating weightless with 20 meters of seawater above you it all feels very meditative.

FAVORITE PLACE ON EARTH?

My daughter has a little teepee in her room where we read books, sing songs and just chill before bedtime. That’s my favorite spot by some distance.

WHAT FICTIONAL PLACE WOULD YOU MOST LIKE TO GO?

Moomin valley. It seems like a pretty dope place. They just feel like such a loving and caring group of creatures. Their worries are relatively minute and don’t even lock their doors at night. Then there are the lovely vistas, beautiful nature and of course the magic in the air. So yeah, I’d head to Moomin valley.

 

Eduardo Murillo

WHEN DID YOU JOIN EVERMADE AND WHAT ARE YOUR MAIN FOCUS AREAS HERE?

I started working here in January 2017. I had heard good things about the company, and it was growing, so it was a great time to be joining the team. I come from Venezuela with some 16 years of experience working with the web. I’ve worked for example as a software architect and lead developer.

Here, I’m a firefighter! A problem solver, and the service manager of Evermade Care. My job is finding ways to make our clients happier and more satisfied by doing what’s best for the future of their digital service. So customer service and development. I also work on our internal processes to make things flow smoother.

WHAT IS CHALLENGING AND REWARDING ABOUT YOUR WORK?

Overall, customer service is really challenging. You have to put yourself in clients’ shoes, and to do that is really difficult. You need to understand them on a deeper level. Sometimes it’s easier to figure out what they need, sometimes even they don’t know. In both cases, it’s my job to make them more satisfied with us. The most rewarding thing is when you get this right and see the results: better customer satisfaction and good feedback. I’m definitely driven by the results.

WHAT IS THE KEY TO GOOD CUSTOMER SERVICE?

Always trying to give your best. This will eventually help you connect with your clients, which can lead to some of them becoming almost like your friends. The personal level connection is really valuable. It makes both sides feel like partners. At that point, we’re not working with them just for the money. Their benefit becomes our benefit.

WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO CONTINUE WORKING WITH CLIENTS AFTER THE SERVICE IS LAUNCHED?

Most importantly, to see there’s value in the website and other services. The client invests in creating the service, so following up and developing the service further justifies the initial cost. Also, it’s the way the internet works – we can’t just leave things like they are. We need to keep adding value to the service through optimization, content and so on.

Some things we also miss during the first project phases, usually due to budget or time restrictions. These can be worked on and improved once the service is up and running. Evermade Care makes these further improvements simpler, as we don’t need to set up completely new projects.

WHAT IS THE BEST WAY TO CLEAR YOUR MIND FROM WORK RELATED STUFF?

Music. Writing songs, playing instruments or listening.

DO YOU HAVE AN INTEREST/SKILL THAT MOST PEOPLE DON’T KNOW OF?

Poems. When I was a little kid I read a lot of them. It connects to the music and helps me write.

TELL US A RANDOM FACT

I was a religion teacher when I was 15 years old.

IF YOU WERE GIVEN €1 MILLION, HOW WOULD YOU SPEND IT?

Invest in cryptocurrencies. Well, maybe invest in real state first.

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO WORK AND LIVE IN FINLAND?

Quality of life. It’s quite open to foreigners, and it was easy to come here and to start making things happen. Lots of opportunities if you’re ready to work for them. Beautiful nature. And the weather, I actually like it.

Krista Lehtonen

Copywriter

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