Ákos Journey: Leading with Vision and Values at Leinonen Hungary

Explore the story of Ákos, the Country Manager at Leinonen Hungary, and uncover why he was initially taken aback by the company’s Finnish work culture. With a robust background in hotels and finance, how did Ákos adjust to this distinct environment? This article tracks his journey, illustrating how he leverages his broad experience to propel Leinonen Hungary forward.

Can you tell us about your career journey? How did you get started in the accounting and financial services industry?

I learned accounting after high school in Budapest and got a B.Sc. degree. Then I went to Austria where I learned tourism and management for two years and completed my second B.Sc. degree in business administration in The Netherlands in 2000. I completed my internship in a five star hotel in Budapest, and it seemed to be a unique combo of accounting and tourism management, because they instantly offered me the position of CFO. I was only 24 when I found myself not only in the management of a 310 rooms hotel, but in the middle of the renovation of another one as CFO and even CEO for a while. Beside accounting, budgeting, reporting, team leading, legal issues were all on my desk. This was the time of 09/11 and the huge crisis in tourism afterwards when we had to think out of the box to survive. I quit after 5 years and moved to investment and insurance business with a lot of personal interactions, negotiation and sales techniques, presentations, trainings, time-management, team leading and self-development. I gained a lot of skills that are extremely useful in both business and personal life in ten years. After a shorter story with financial management of IT startups who got venture capital from EU funds, I got to Leinonen Hungary in 2016 when they were looking for a Country Manager with some accounting background.

How would you describe your leadership style, and how has it evolved since you started working with Leinonen, a Finnish company?

It was rather strange to work in such a quiet office…

I always aim to reach a consensus and agreement in the targets, tools and solutions. I do not intend to dictate or press; I rather want a cooperative team climate where the professional people know their tasks and freely ask if they have any doubt or problem. We built a very good team during the recent years. On the other hand, I have to get rid of micromanagement and let my colleagues utilise their knowledge and talents.

The Finnish business culture was a kind of shock to me. The instant trust and freedom in daily operation and decisions I was given was completely new for me. As long as the targets are clear and we move in the right direction, there are not many questions and hassle.

Can you share your insights on fostering teamwork and collaboration in Leinonen’s culturally diverse environment?

Since I have lived in various countries and I had classmates from over 20 countries, cultural diversity is not an issue for me. I enjoy working with people with different background and finding the common points in thoughts and solutions. Cultural diversity is present not only in the Leinonen family, but among our clients as well. Communicating with them from Australia to Korea and USA makes this work really challenging and joyful.

Regarding tough decisions, the Covid time was the best occasion to practice it. My team proved to be very cooperative and flexible. Accountants are told to be rigid and resistant people, but all of them were open to new solutions and improvements that are crucial not only in crisis management but also in the current boom of technological development. Cold blood and strategic thinking should overcome the first shock and all the decisions should properly backed up with a clear vision.

How have recent global events, like the COVID-19 pandemic and the Ukrainian conflict, affected business operations and strategies in Hungary?

The COVID-19 was like a big boost to our technological development. We had plans to gradually implement remote work and cloud solutions, and we suddenly had to arrange everything in a few days. It took three weeks and we were all working form home with all the necessary equipment. It was also a great chance to convince our clients about the advantages of paperless operation. This a standard since then and my colleagues could not imagine to work with papers again.

The war in Ukraine was the next crisis, but it mostly impacted us mentally, since it is in the neighborhood and there is a significant Hungarian minority as well. The uncertainty in the first few weeks was hard, and we helped our colleagues leaving Kiev. Our business was not hit because we did not have clients from any involved country.

What approach does Leinonen Hungary take towards building and maintaining long-term relationships with clients?

As I learned from the company’s owner Petteri Leinonen, there are three key factors to choose a colleague: professional knowledge, English language skills (these can be improved), and the right personality. This latter one is crucial and we can not change it. Personal interactions are still very important even in the era of technology and AI. We receive countless feedbacks from customers that they stick with us because the personal relationship is very good. Being there when they face a challenge that might not be related to our scope of services gives a lot to the engagement, especially because we mostly work with foreigners who need support in the local environment.

We receive countless feedbacks from customers that they stick with us because the personal relationship is very good.

Ákos Eőry

Where do you see the accounting industry heading in the next 5-10 years, especially in Central and Eastern Europe?

We are just getting to know the possibilities offered by artificial intelligence. This will definitely determine the coming years. But I do not agree with the opinions about the disappearing accounting jobs etc. Business people still understand their business and do not want to deal with increasingly complex regulations. They will need business assistants who know the local regulations, manage the administration and can advise in new situations.

How do the economic policies of the Hungarian government influence the business environment, particularly for international companies?

The Hungarian government has a clear concept of the development of the economy for over a decade. The tools are related to the local traditions and mentality. We have the highest general VAT rate in the EU, 27%. This is easy to collect, hard to hide and it is related to consumption. On the other side, taxes on revenues have been gradually cut. The lowest tax on corporate profit (9%), the flat income tax (15%) all serve the same goal: produce more, earn more, and spend what you need and want.
Foreign investments are welcome, and Budapest’s economic predominance is also slowly decreasing thanks to the huge new investments coming to rural cities. We currently face with very low unemployment, therefore the improvement of efficiency is the next step to make – also at Leinonen Hungary.

How do you like to spend your free time? Do you have any hobbies or interests that you’re passionate about?

My main hobby is my family. We have three kids, and they love horse riding and show jumping. This activity consumes most of our free time and gives the pleasure of time together outdoors in the nature. I also like reading and building model airplanes, which helps me relax and recharge.

Could you share what you find most rewarding about your role at Leinonen and your vision for the future, both personally and professionally?

I already experienced a tremendous development of the local company in the recent years. We have laid the foundations for further development. The next target is to grow further and become a visible company in the Hungarian market. This again requires new tools, solutions and processes, as well as a very active market presence.

As we wrap up Ákos’s story at Leinonen Hungary, his unique leadership has clearly steered the company through many changes, blending his rich background with the Finnish work ethics. His approach emphasizes teamwork, innovation, and a close-knit relationship with clients, all balanced with his passion for family and hobbies. Let’s look forward to seeing how Ákos continues to shape the company’s path forward.

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