Meri Vainikka has always sought out new challenges rather than waiting for them to arise. She puts that approach into action each day to expand our presence and address changing dynamics in EMEA North and East as the region’s vice president of Architectural Coatings (AC).
Seek Rather than Wait for Challenges
Curiosity backed by bravery led Meri to take on increasing responsibilities early in her career. Business development, marketing, research and development (R&D), product portfolio – she handled them all while working at major international companies that included Heineken, L’Oréal and Mars. She joined Tikkurila in January 2017 as director of marketing and communications based in Vantaa, Finland.
Soon after I joined Tikkurila, I had a meeting with the CEO. I compiled a list of things that I would do differently in the company, and I seized the opportunity to share it with him. Four months after joining the company, I was promoted to senior vice president, overseeing strategic marketing, product management and R&D.
She moved into her current role in 2021, assuming full accountability for our AC business in Sweden, Finland, Norway, Kazakhstan, the Baltic countries, Poland and China. The latter is due to Tikkurila’s historical presence in the country.
Meri was also tasked to work with the team integrating Tikkurila into PPG.
“We are on track with the integration and already benefiting from the synergies, especially in procurement. Conducting business as usual while handling the integration has been challenging, but our people have worked hard to be successful at both.”
Sustainable Products Bring Sustainable Growth
One of the major projects has been optimizing our product portfolio for the region, cutting down the number of brands to five strategic ones.
We hold a market-leading position in all the countries that I oversee except for China and Norway. We have room to grow in all our markets, and growing faster than market is our target. Our brands are valued and considered premium, and we must continue that leadership.
Sustainable products are driving both the markets and our product development. Currently, around 90% of our portfolio in EMEA North and East comprises water-borne rather than solvent-borne coatings.
An area of great potential growth is the region’s wood coatings market. Use of wood in construction is rising, and our expanding portfolio of water-borne wood-care products offers builders more sustainable and safer solutions.
This is also the case with our PPG AVANTINT PLUS™ tinting system, which features more sustainable tinting formulas and improved color spectrum. The tints are available in easy-to-empty pouches, minimizing product waste.
“I am really proud of these product advances. The faster we can introduce more sustainable products, including bio-based products, the better it will be for people, the environment and our business.”
Different Paths Open to Success
Transforming a business and getting people involved in that transformation energizes Meri.
“My most important role as a leader is to set the direction, engage my people, build trust and ensure each person is in the right position. This is what delivers results.”
Meri also feels leaders like her need to walk the talk when it comes to building diverse and inclusive teams. She considers equality a basic value and diverse teams a success generator.
“I am really #PPGProud to be part of this big, multi-cultural global family. It makes my work life so much richer to be around and learn from people with different backgrounds and cultures. We all have a common goal, but the route to achieve it may be different.”
This is something she learned playing basketball, starting as a 10-year-old girl and continuing in different leagues until age 35. She also coached for a couple years. While she doesn’t hit the basketball court that much anymore, she brings balance to her life by working out, skiing, walking, cooking and relaxing with her husband and four children as well as other family members and friends.
I’ve always been ambitious and have set high bars for myself, but I learned in my forties that you can’t always be operating at 110%. You must choose your battles, and sometimes 80% is enough. To keep your energy up, you need to take better care of yourself at times and have your life in good balance.