This year, the financial sector entrepreneur and investor Saga Forss was invited to join Kasvu Open’s national panel of judges. Forss has 20 years of experience in the field of international business restructuring. Forss began her career by working at large corporate finance houses. In 2005, Forss began her entrepreneurial career as a partner at Broadius Partners Oy, a company that specialises in the restructuring of medium-sized companies. In addition, Forss also serves as an angel investor in seven companies. Forss identifies herself primarily as an entrepreneur.
“I am an entrepreneur to the core. Entrepreneurship is the best path for me, because I get to make independent decisions. It also means that if something goes wrong, all I can do is take a look in the mirror,” says Forss.
Forss’s career as an angel investor began when, after the depression, she and her friend invested in a bakery called Leipomo Keisari. In eight years, they grew the company into a successful artisan bakery brand. Forss was actively involved in Leipomo Keisari’s operations during the entire existence of the company until the business was sold to Fazer in 2016. Finland’s first juice and smoothie bar chain Jungle Juice was the first company where Forss acted only as an investor and member of the board. In the beginning of her career as an investor, Forss did not think of herself as an angel investor, but rather an entrepreneur. As the number of investments increased, Forss slowly started to identify herself as an investor. So far, Forss has invested in ten companies, but along the years, she has sold her share of three of those companies.
“I am not a do-gooder. Like all other angel investors, I want to make profitable investments. I have managed to raise my company’s capital through successful exits, which allows me to invest the capital into new businesses and thus create value for Finnish companies and entrepreneurs. I want to help Finnish companies to grow and succeed, but at the same time, I want to pursue profitable business opportunities,” says Forss.
According to Forss, investment-seeking companies should determine in advance what kind of financing the company wants and needs. The biggest (and rather common) mistake is to assume that investors donate their time pro bono, even though time is the most valuable resource an investor can give to a growth company. Currently, Forss is actively involved in the operations of a single company.
“Companies can always seek expertise from consultants, but that does not compare to the expertise and value an investor can bring to your company. As an owner, the investor is much more invested in the company’s success. In a way, the company pays for the investor’s time once the company applies the funding and proves its value to the investors. If the investor owns a sufficient share of the company and the valuation is fair, the investor will not only invest their money, but also their time and expertise to the growth company. It is important for the company and investor to have similar expectations, which is why the company should openly communicate its expectations and hopes when discussing the details of the investment,” says Forss.
In addition to investing, Forss works as an entrepreneur at Broadius Partners Oy, an expert company that specialises in business restructuring. According to Forss, the key strengths of Broadius Partners Oy include the entrepreneurial spirit of the team as well as extensive international experience in the financing sector. When it comes to business restructuring, Forss urges companies to use the help of experts.
“Business restructurings take time and there is no point for a company to try and figure out the most sensible way to handle the process on its own. In addition, entrepreneurs often view their company as their “baby”, which makes it hard for them to see and assess things objectively. An outside expert can make assessments and negotiate rationally without being distracted by emotions,” says Forss.
Saga Forss sees corporate acquisition as a viable option, especially when a company wants to take a big step towards growth. According to Forss, a divestment is successful if the company manages to maximise the sale price of the business and secure the existence of the company through trade sale. Determining whether an acquisition has been successful or not is much more complex, and its success continues to be measured even after the acquisition.
“In corporate acquisition, it is important to think about the steps in advance, such as how to transfer your company’s practices to the acquired company, and, above all, how to utilise the acquired company’s strengths in your own company. It is also important to ensure the availability of competent staff by integrating the personnel of the acquired company into the new company,” says Forss.