Jussi Rissanen
Created 31.5.2024
Updated 31.5.2024

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Had Jussi Rissanen listened to advice he got when he was younger, he’d probably be doing something completely different for a living right now. Rissanen was diagnosed with dyslexia, and he was advised to avoid work that required public speaking. In addition, Rissanen has eczema and was therefore told to avoid jobs that involve excessive sweating.

“I’m a living example of how ignoring advice can pay off,” Rissanen chuckles. During his career, he has done his fair share of public speaking and sweating.

Rissanen started as LUT Business School's professor of practice in February 2024. His position was funded by a historic donation by Jalo and Anja Paananen. Rissanen is Barona's former sales director, the founder and CEO of Frontliners, the host of the popular Myyntiradio sales podcast, and a former officer of the Finnish military.


Rissanen gets easily carried away when he's presenting his visions to a room full of LUT management and other staff. When he's truly excited about someone's idea, he’s been known to exclaim: ”I love you – that’s brilliant!” Tall man that he is, he sometimes even gets down on his knees to fill the bottom of the whiteboard with his squiggles.

Rissanen is heading LUT’s new Executive MBA (EMBA) programme, which will be launched in Lahti in autumn 2025. The programme is an internationally recognised fee-paying master’s programme in leadership. It enables those in full-time work to supplement their skills. The planning of the new EMBA programme is now in full swing.

“Jalo Paananen ignited a spark, and our duty is to get the fire burning in sales. Sales has often been overlooked in the academic world, but thanks to Mr. Paananen, we now get to boost its appreciation. It’s amazing to be able to coach people in a way that combines academic knowledge and practical skills,” Rissanen gushes.

Jalo Paananen ignited a spark, and our duty is to get the fire burning in sales.
Jussi Rissanen
professor of practice, LUT Business School

Natural leader creates team spirit

“Each class of students needs a leader,” wrote a substitute teacher about Jussi Rissanen in third grade. Rissanen's mother saved the note. Rissanen says he has been appointed the leader in groups ever since he was a child. In boy scouts, he led a cub group and advanced to secretary – the second-in-command of his troop.

In Red Cross first aid training, Rissanen got an adrenaline rush from simulated emergencies and enjoyed taking charge – that is, leading people.

In high school, he applied for student exchange in the U.S. but failed the English language test. That didn’t discourage him.

”I told the invigilator of the test that it’s not a big deal if I’m not good at English yet. I’ll just head for the States and learn the language there.

And as luck would have it, I got to go after all. My parents were relieved, because as a teen, I ate them out of house and home,” Rissanen grins.

After returning home from his year in the U.S., Rissanen suffered from culture shock and wasn't motivated to study for university entrance exams. Instead, he began his compulsory military service fresh out of high school and was inspired by the team spirit there.

“In the military, you can’t be trying to outshine everyone even if you have star quality. The work we did was physical and goal-oriented – just the way I like it. I did well and got accepted to the Reserve Officer School after my compulsory service.”

Because Rissanen's dream was to become a first responder, after Reserve Officer School, he applied to both nursing studies and the Military Academy. He got accepted to both but chose the latter. His branch was the infantry and he majored in military leadership and pedagogy.

“The army is not just about giving and taking orders. It's about engaging with people. Leading fills lecture halls, but leadership fills the heart.”

Jussi Rissanen
Photo: Jussi Rissanen's photo album

Interaction and leadership kept inspiring Rissanen more and more, which is why he applied to LUT Business School to study leadership and organisations. During his studies, Rissanen was impressed by a lecture given by a visiting consultant. The consultant talked about strategic leadership, and Rissanen realized it's something he could do for a living.

The pieces started falling into place when Rissanen was hired as a consultant by Mercuri International. He advanced to a senior consultant position in only for years – faster than anyone in the company before him.

“Mercuri International taught me the systematics of sales. I’m grateful to them for a lot, but everything comes at a price. I used to coach 140–150 days a year. At one point, I worked with a high fever and got hospitalized for inflammation of the heart muscle. In my hospital bed, I came across a newspaper headline: ‘Work can kill you’. That’s when it sunk in that I need to slow down.”

After his recovery, Rissanen continued building a career in sales and worked in sales management for several employers, such as the car dealership Veho and the gas industry company Woikoski. Down the line, Rissanen landed a job as sales director at Barona. There, he helped create the award-winning multi-store online platform Badeli for the Mall of Tripla.

During his years at Barona, Rissanen also launched the Myyntiradio sales podcast together with Barona’s then-marketing manager Valtteri Karjula. Now, over 50 episodes later, Myyntiradio is one of the most popular corporate podcasts in Finland.

“I’ve had the chance to coach and lead salespeople for over 20 years now. As you know, sales is currently undergoing a huge evolution due to digitalization, AI and changes in customer purchasing. The one thing that isn't changing is the sellers’ and leaders’ ability to engage with customers or the people they're leading. It's a matter of interpersonal skills.”

“You can't force charisma, but you can grow into a good sales professional”

Rissanen says he's never really had to search for jobs or new opportunities – people have usually sought him out and made offers. That's what happened with his position as LUT's professor of practice. Nonetheless, Rissanen's career hasn’t been one resounding success after another. In fact, Rissanen claims there have been fewer hits than there have been misses. Yet, his innate passion to blaze trails in sales has never dwindled.

“When I take on something, I’m all in. I don't give anything but 100%. I believe that this genuine, raw side of me has helped me in my career. I don't put on an act – I’m simply myself. Even in my podcast, I’ve wanted to talk not only about sales but about the ups and downs of life.”

Rissanen describes himself as a natural performer who was born with a mic in his hand. Watching and listening to Rissanen, that’s easy to believe. He has a commanding voice that he knows how to use, but he also knows when to take a step back, look you in the eye and listen intently. Rissanen never feels awkward in social situations.

“I guess my brain is just geared that way. I never dwell on how I look or sound when I talk. I like talking much more than preparing speeches, and I never read directly from a script.

Even though salespeople need to be familiar with numbers – their clients’ business – I'd rather talk about people than spreadsheets.”

Rissanen's five-year term as professor of practice will end in 2029. He’s in for a whole lot of sales work: corporate visits, networking, and social media influencing. Of course, there's also coaching ahead in the new EMBA programme that starts in autumn 2025 – Rissanen says he's in it wholeheartedly.

In sales circles, people often say sales skills are something you're born with, not something you can learn. Rissanen partly disagrees.

“You can't force charisma, but you can grow into a good sales professional. It’s true that not everyone can be taught to sell, but sales is more about engaging with people. You need to know how to deal with people, read the room, and treat others with dignity.”

Rissanen says he receives continuous feedback from his clients. His finest moments have been when he has inspired people in the wrong line of work to head in a different direction. One of his podcast listeners said Rissanen inspired them to change majors at university and specialise in sales. 

Rissanen assesses his work has changed him as a person.

“I’ve always been ambitious and wanted to show people what I’m made of, but the years have moulded my ambition into a desire to help. I wish people understood that small acts of kindness matter, and you can use your words to empower others.”

“As a sales coach, I want to help create a sense of togetherness, lead people in the right direction and show some spine. I’m hoping that my coaching in the EMBA programme will make a difference in the way the students and their families live their lives.”

Jussi Rissanen
Photos: Lauri Aapro

Jussi Rissanen

  • Born in Helsinki, lives in Klaukkala, Nurmijärvi
  • Education: Master of Science (Econ. & Bus. Admin.), LUT University (2008); officer, Finnish Military Academy (2000), current rank colonel (retired)
  • Professor of practice at LUT, 2024–
  • Founder and CEO of Frontliners (subsidiary of Barona), 2023–
  • Sales director at Barona, 2018–2022
  • Founder of sales podcast Myyntiradio, 2020–
  • Sales director at Woikoski, 2014–2018
  • Sales director at Veho Autotalot, 2012–2014
  • Senior consultant at Mercuri International, 2005–2011
  • Officer, Finnish Defence Forces, 2000–2005
  • Family: wife, three basketball-playing sons and a bonus daughter
  • Hobbies: “My wife and I have a shared hobby: to visit every national park in Finland. The current tally is 16 out of 41. I also pump iron at the gym.”

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