Abstract: A Manager and His Professionals: Planning and Constructing the Modern Firm in Finland, 1920s–1940s

Susanna Fellman


This paper deals with the role of professionals and upper white-collar employees in the planning, construction, and modernization of a Finnish company, G.A. Serlachius Ab, during a period of transition. We analyze the division of labor and the tasks and duties of, on the one hand, these groups of employees and, on the other hand, the owner and manager, Gösta Serlachius, by studying three important modernisation projects. The point of departure is that the significance of the professionals in planning and in the development of the firm has been partly neglected, while there has been a tendency to overemphasize the entrepreneur. We will also look at personnel policies and managerial strategies with respect to these employees. Serlachius had an ability to employ competent professionals and to develop long-lasting employer-employee relations, based on loyalty and trust. The delegation of tasks and the building of a good "team" were crucial, as he had extensive engagements in society. However, Serlachius wanted to keep full control in "his" company and had continuously to balance between the need for delegation and the maintaining of control. This study provides new knowledge of the divergent professionals in developing the firm, but gives also a more profound understanding of professionalisation, skill-formation, and authority relations on the company level.