The late 1970s was an important period for Mirka – it built its first production halls in Jeppo, Finland where the current group HQ is still located. At the end of that decade, in 1979, Mirka UK was established which marked the launch of a systematic internationalisation of the Mirka organisation, which still continues today.
With 2019 marking the 40th anniversary of the Mirka UK business, John Legg met with the company’s sanding expert, Pete Sartain, at the firm’s Milton Keynes HQ.
What was the motivation behind starting the Mirka UK business? What were the company’s initial objectives and key milestones?
Access to the international market was an early priority for Mirka. The domestic Finnish market is small, so Mirka UK became the first daughter company of the Mirka group being established in 1979, followed by Mirka Germany the year after.
Mirka initially served the market through an importer but saw an opportunity to move more into industrial processes from early hand sanding applications.
The UK has been a leader in industrial trends and industry development and was an important early market for Mirka. John Hirons was recruited from the importer company to be MD of the newly-formed Mirka UK business, and good organic growth followed over the years.
Deros with Novastar
How would you describe the essence of the Mirka business? What are the key values of the company?
We are a clear, open and honest company with high operational and social standards and we are a company that trades well and treats all customers fairly – large or small.
I believe we are well respected in the market and we are constantly motivated by looking to satisfy customer needs, and we are prepared to say no if things are not right.
The Mirka business has good quality people working well as individuals and as a team heading in the same direction and I think Mirka is a positive and friendly company, an ambitious company too.
The company takes sustainability seriously – environmental, social and economic – and we are committed to investing in new products.
I believe Mirka listens to the customer, the market and company employees and we are always looking to improve.
We are focused, committed and energised and one of the guiding principles is to never be satisfied; being better never stops!
How has the UK business grown over the past 40 years?
I feel that strong organic growth is the key to any successful and sustainable business. Mirka dedicated itself to thorough annual business planning to develop and deliver our staged five-year strategy.
We have had three locations in Milton Keynes over the past 40 years, the first two involved a distribution warehouse and offices. But for the past seven years we have been based in Saxon House, Furzton Lake where there are offices and now an impressive training and meeting centre for customers and staff.
Mirka's Deos 383CV and 353CV models
Product distribution comes via our group warehousing facility in Belgium, which offers a very fast and efficient customer order delivery service.
We have become a more solutions-based, customer-focused organisation and Mirka UK has a clear focus on improving customer production, output and profitability.
What have been the company’s most impressive accomplishments?
In my opinion, it’s our strong customer relationships. Aside from that, I believe we are a confident and strong organisation that is focused around the customer journey.
Mirka's Iridium variants
We deliver innovation as a result of the business providing significant and regular investment into research and development in Finland – and this has led to some exceptional market-leading products such as Abralon, Abranet, Iridium, Novastar, Mirlon and electric power tools.
In detail, how has the furniture and woodworking side of Mirka’s interests developed?
Our business in the furniture and woodworking sector has grown in double digits for many years now. We believe it’s important to maintain contact with the customers that use our products on a day-to-day basis. This policy has served us well and we have gained the respect of the furniture and joinery companies in the UK by offering effective products and the expertise on how best they are employed.
I feel that too many competitors are fixated on what’s being offered in the marketplace rather than what’s required; its only when you understand the needs of the customer that you can truly develop products that challenge the status quo and drive innovation at its best. We offer solutions not just products, a complete package to do the job and the expertise to ensure great results.
Our distributors have also grown over the years enabling customers to buy from a multitude of sources. Coupled with this, there is also a distributor training programme to ensure the correct advice and product selection is always first class.
What’s in store for the Mirka business in the UK over the next ten years?
That’s easy – we will continue business development and we will take advantage of new market opportunities. We will drive to continuously improve customer satisfaction and we will launch more new products into the market that improve production, output and profit.