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Kim and Björn Kolster: We are proud of our 150-year-old family business


Kolster 150

Kim Kolster, the chairman of Kolster's board, and his father and predecessor, Björn Kolster, take great pride in the family business, which has been passed down through five generations. "Responsibility also brings pressure," says Kim Kolster.

150 years in business is a commendable achievement for any company. Kim Kolster, the chairman of Kolster's board, 48, proudly carries the flag of the family business in his own turn.

"On this anniversary year, I pause to think about all that the previous generations have done for our family business. It is an honor to lead such a traditional company and represent the fifth generation. At the same time, I also feel the responsibility and a certain pressure to carry the company forward to the next generation. However, daily work remains the same regardless of how long the company's history is," says Kim Kolster.

Björn Kolster, 78, joined the family business in 1972.

"At that time, I could not have imagined witnessing the company's 150th anniversary celebrations. It is an honor that our company has such a long history."

4The family business has navigated its way through the upheavals of independence, war and recession years, economic crises, and global pandemics. For example, the recession of the 1990s hardly affected Kolster's business.

"At that time, 70 percent of our customers were from abroad. We submitted direct applications to the Finnish Patent and Registration Office on their behalf. The entry into force of international agreements in the mid-1990s changed the situation, as one application could now be used to apply for a patent and trademark in multiple countries. Suddenly, we didn't receive applications at the same rate as before. It was our own challenge to overcome," recalls Björn Kolster.

On the other hand, Nokia's rise and the late 1990s IT boom were a stroke of luck for Kolster. Following Nokia, many other Finnish companies became enthusiastic about patenting their inventions.

"My father has often said that difficult times breed new ideas. That's when companies are founded and innovations are invented, which also need protection. In the 1990s, this worked well for us," summarizes Kim Kolster.

Kim Kolster. Photo by Jaakko Lukumaa.Kim Kolster started working in the family business while studying. He has encouraged his own sons to gain work experience elsewhere first.

Joining the Family Business Straight out of School

Both Kim and Björn Kolster started working in the family business at a young age, straight out of school. "I wanted to work in our family business as soon as I graduated from the Faculty of Law. I got a job as a trademark lawyer, and later served as the head of the trademark department," says Björn Kolster.

He had a 40-year career in the family business, serving as chairman of the board for over 30 years. Before him, this position was held by his father, Åke Kolster. Björn Kolster considers it important that a management team was established for the company in the 1980s.

"I wanted more cooperation in management, and I think we succeeded in that."

Kim Kolster has worked in the family business for 24 years. He has been the chairman of the board since 2016.

"I started working in Kolster's IT department - then the data processing department - while studying economics. I gradually grew into more responsible positions. I worked with my father for years, for example, in our company's board. This reduced the pressure on my role and facilitated generational change," says Kim Kolster.

He has advised his own sons to accumulate work experience elsewhere. Only after that, it's time to consider whether they want to work in the family business.

"The staff is our most important asset"

Skilled and reliable pioneer. This is how Kim and Björn Kolster sum up the strengths of their 150-year-old family business in four words. Both emphasize the company's personnel as the most important.

"The staff is our most important asset. We have invested a lot in their training and well-being," says Björn Kolster.

"It's almost a cliché to say that the staff is our most important resource, but it is true nonetheless. The continuity of our company is built on people and their expertise. Our entire business is based on reliability. We earn it with our strong expertise," Kim Kolster adds.

Internationality is one of the cornerstones of Kolster's business. Its importance has always been understood in the family business. The company's founder, Rudolf Kolster, who moved from Germany to Finland, already had excellent international connections.

"We have traveled around the world to create networks even at times when traveling was not very common. Nowadays, we have a unique international partner network," says Kim Kolster.

For example, the business potential in China was recognized immediately when the country's economy opened to foreign companies in the early 1980s. Kolster has been assisting its clients in China since 1983. "I remember visiting China with my colleague in 1985. The country's new patent law had just come into force. Many things in China were still quite primitive. When I visited China again seven years later, Beijing had changed in many ways," recalls Björn Kolster.

Björn Kolster. Photo by Jaakko Lukumaa.Björn Kolster had a 40-year career in the family business. He served as chairman of the board from 1981 to 2016.

"Innovations never end in the world"

Throughout its history, Kolster has been a reformer in its field and has participated in the development of IP legislation and practices. The company has boldly utilized the latest systems and tools. Now, in this anniversary year, a major investment materializes as Kolster's new IT system is put into use.

"For me, being a pioneer means, for example, that we educate ourselves, keep up with industry trends, and also influence them," says Kim Kolster.

Internationality will remain important for Kolster in the future. On the other hand, Finnish companies are becoming an increasingly important customer base.

"The world is constantly changing and faster all the time. It is, on the one hand, a good thing for us. Inventions and innovations never end in the world, and at the same time, we have intellectual property to protect. We want to continue helping Finnish companies take their inventions and products to the world. Hopefully, investment in innovation will continue in Finland in the future."