Vacations can do wonders for individuals and, on occasion, be the catalyst for new business ideas. This rings true in the case of Jukka Lyly-Yrjänäinen, president of Avant Tecno USA, now one of the fastest growing multi-purpose loader equipment companies in North America.
While on holiday near his hometown in Finland a few years ago, Jukka drove past an enormous modern industrial building designed with bright green steel framing and glass windows. The building’s illumination against a dark, rainy sky seemed to provide a spotlight on the bright red letters of the company logo. Jukka queried his brother, who was driving the car, “What’s Avant?” He was told that the company made some small, green machine. Intrigued, Jukka began to research the company.
Jukka’s whole life experience seems to have trained him for leading the company in North America.
While attending a Finnish university, in 1980, he became an exchange student and studied in the United States. In addition, he also did an internship in the United States.
His career interests led him to develop international business expertise in sales, importing and exporting, operations, marketing, and research and development. Some of his positions required him to travel to more than 50 countries. These experiences compelled him to learn the essence of numerous cultures, and how to do business with many multi-national companies.
One game-changing company that Jukka worked for was Finn-Power, based in Kauhava, Finland. The company manufactured hydraulic hose-crimping equipment.
They export products to more than 50 countries around the world; one of its main focuses is the North American market.
Jukka found himself frequently commuting from Finland to the United States and Canada. Finally, in 2002, he decided to relocate to Chicago and continued to run the North American operation for the next eight years.
However, he could not forget about the company building he had seen when he was in Finland. After doing research on their small, green machine, Jukka realized that Avant did not have a presence in North America. It struck him that this compact loader could be used in many areas of landscaping and construction.
It was much smaller in size and fifty percent lighter than the regular equipment being sold; however, its lift capacity seemed as strong as its competitors. Equally important, it had more than 100 different available attachments. The unit could twist and turn in an articulated manner, run economically with diesel fuel, and appeared to be easy to operate. There was no company in North America offering anything even close to this. His mind began to race with ideas, and his life has not been the same since.
Upon returning to Chicago after his holiday, he put a plan together. Jukka picked up the phone to call Avant’s owner and asked a simple question: “Have you ever considered doing business in the U.S.A.?” Five months later, on May 1, 2012, Avant Tecno USA officially became a company, albeit on paper only.
Like any new business, Jukka began from scratch and bootstrapped the business. He had to find a building to contain the office and hold inventory. Then he needed to find someone to build a website and create materials for marketing. In the midst of this, he began to search for a service person, as well as sales and office personnel. In August 2012, Avant Tecno USA opened its doors and was ready to make its mark in North America.
“I had to build a network around us, and from there we would build interest among dealers and end-users,” said Jukka.
“We only do business through dealers. We started in the Midwest and the Northeast and expanded from there.”
When you think about starting a business from scratch, if you look back at the start-up and see the progress you’ve made, you begin to realize the obstacles Jukka had to hurdle. “Starting a business in 2012 was the perfect time,” he said. “Everybody was kind of getting back up on their feet after the recession. The demand wasn’t overwhelming, but it was slowly turning positive.”
When asked what he does in his spare time, he says, “I don’t need to be hunting or fishing. I’d rather be biking, rollerblading or walking.” At the age of 50, Jukka is the embodiment of an athlete. One of his healthiest activities is crosscountry skiing in the winter. “I work a lot with a local ski society here in Illinois,” he said. In the summer and fall, when there isn’t any snow, Jukka is a roller skier.
Jukka Lyly-Yrjänäinen seems to have mastered the export of machinery to the U.S. and bringing Finnish engineering to North America. His passion is to see this useful and effective small, green machine in every corner of North America.