The dark side of entrepreneurship in Finland

There is seriously something very fucked up going on with this country. In a relatively short period of time, three entrepreneurs I personally know of have had enough and shut down their companies (and no, you don’t know them). Many people lost their jobs. They are all young, smart and hardworking people, and as far as I know, their businesses were profitable.

So, why did they quit?

In the end, all the bureaucracy, HR issues, anti-work and negativity bogged them down. One of them even got very sick because of the constant stress and fear, and needed medication to get out of that crap. Its kinda laughable that at the same time our government preaches about the joys of startup life and entrepreneurship. Nobody tells about the dark side of entrepreneurship. Maybe someone should.

In Finland, employees have very strong rights due to labor unions. It is kinda understandable, if the employer is a global mega corporation that treats people like brain dead livestock. Balance of power and all that. But here’s the grudge: small companies (SME) have to live by the same laws and regulations as the huge ones, and because smaller companies can’t afford to have a separate HR departments with a legion of lawyers, most of the small companies are practically breaking some sort of law or regulation all the time.

In addition, small companies don’t have any representatives in the national level negotiations where these regulations are forged. None. So basically, small companies don’t have any control whatsoever on the agreements that bind us.

I could live with the crappy atmosphere and bureaucracy, but I can’t stand the whole unfairness of the situation. If an employee happens to be an asshole, you just can’t fire him or her for that. No sir, being a dick isn’t a valid reason to fire anyone in Finland. You just have to suck it up, even if the person would poison the whole company atmosphere. It’s also laughable easy to get (paid) sick leave in Finland.

And if you happen to be a small business owner, you don’t have much support available, either. You are all alone with your worries, stress, financial pressure and problems. Your old work buddies are jealous because they think that you are filthy rich and poop golden eggs and diamonds for breakfast. Government thinks that you are a thief, no matter how well you manage your business. And employees think you are a dick because you want them to work harder, while you just sit in your office and drink champagne.

Don’t get me wrong. I love my company, and I respect and care for our employees. Its just that the whole small business ecosystem is broken.

For example, I would like to have a total hippie freedom in our company: no time tracking, no dedicated working times, no titles and so forth. Just focusing on the quality and results. Guess what? Can’t do that. If some employee would leave our company for whatever reason, they could just sue us for unpaid overtime work (it doesn’t matter would there actually be any truth in that). The burden of proof is on the company, so we would be shafted, big time, unless we would have some sort of proof or valid record for tracked hours. So, we need to either track time or enforce the employees to stay physically at the workplace 7,5 hours a day. Hello, big brother.

I could rant much more about the subject, but instead I urge you to read this depressing article by Andor Jakab. Even though that story is from Hungary and some of the points don’t apply in Finland, most of the issues are valid in here too.

SME ecosystem is broken in Finland. It needs to be fixed, or there will never be enough taxpayers to pay your pensions.