Case Rapala: Shifting Focus from Product to Consumer

Fishing lure manufacturer Rapala and Aalto EE tailored a program for Rapala’s global executives with an incentive of waking up leaders to the changing world. Customer orientation was a major takeaway. “We need to listen to our customers more closely”, says Rapala’s former CEO and President Jussi Ristimäki.

Photo: Rapala

Reetta Räty, 06.05.2019

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Jussi Ristimäki was Rapala’s CFO before taking to the company’s helm. He knew the company well, but the wider world and development trends in the operating environment were a cause for concern. ”I had big questions on how the world was changing and our role in it.”

The CEO had a solid understanding that although the company needed to transform along with the changes in the world, he could benefit from an outsider s view: the bigger picture, and assurance on what was going on in the environment and the trends that needed to be recognized for the right reaction. The Rapala Navigator – Management Training program was tailored jointly with Aalto EE. The total of 30 participants included the company s global executives.

Rapala is the world's leading fishing lure manufacturer, its selection covering almost every possible product needed for fishing. The first lures were manufactured in 1936, and Rapala became a listed company in 1998. Today, Rapala has operations in more than 40 different countries covering the Nordics, USA, Canada and Asia. The company has expanded through acquisitions, and according to the former CEO, has comprised an enthusiastic if somewhat dispersed group of people. A joint direction and steering have been missing at least in part.

It s been proven that we are a really enthusiastic bunch, but the larger whole is characterized by partial optimization: everyone works really hard but within their own sphere.

The management training program was one way to help find a shared direction.

“I wanted external, academically authorized instances to bring us their message on how the world is changing. I was looking for support to my own thinking that old tricks no longer work, and we need to come up with new ones together.”

“The main purpose of the program was to wake us up to rethink issues from a new perspective. As the CEO, it was important to me to have the key leadership there to hear the same story.”

From product-orientation towards customers’ phone screens

The company’s executives reflecting on the changing world together was one of the strengths of the program. “This is the beauty of a tailored program: to be able to talk about issues affecting our company together, rather than sending each person somewhere for different types of training.”

The main purpose of the program was to wake us up to rethink issues from a new perspective."

Ristimäki explains that the Aalto EE program confirmed his own thinking as well as sparked new directions. “It was good to hear how agile startups work. Falling in love with one’s own success is dangerous. Looking at the participants, we’re not exactly millennials – and yet the next generation of our customers needs to be approached in a new way.”

The biggest practical lesson seemed to relate to customer orientation. “We need to understand our customers better. We have a strong history in product orientation. You could be a little provocative and ask when was the last time we asked a real customer what they want.”

“We need to be on our customers’ phone screens and hear them out on digital channels”, Ristimäki says. He feels the program opened new horizons both through concrete changes and a change of mindset.

“I wanted us to be shaken up and even provoked, and that’s what we got.”

With almost 50 years’ experience, Aalto EE develops world-class solutions for its customers. Read more about Aalto EE's customized solutions. We will help you to find the best solution for your organization.

Rapala Navigator – Management Training Program

What do customers need?

Develop a common growth mindset and gain tools to promote Rapala’s market orientation and customer-centricity.

How does digitalization affect us?

Challenge Rapala leaders with the latest knowledge in global megatrends such as invariably changing consumer behavior and digitalization.

The world is changing – how do we react?

Provide a big picture and a sense of direction on Rapala’s strategic futures through understanding the dynamics in the macro environment, competition, and customer needs.

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