Copenhagen and The End

We visited the very impressive company Maersk in Copenhagen. There, we had the privilege of listening to Jonas Linnebjerg, head of Marketing Management Consulting, Frederik Dage, consultant in Management Consulting, and Thomas Lassen about Strategy Development. All three men were extremely passionate and knowledgeable about the company, and put their full culture on display for us to see. Maersk is a huge company with 80,000 employees and 800 offices in 130 countries. They have activities in logistics, transport and energy sectors. They have been the largest container ship and supply vessel operator in the world since 1996.

In terms of the company culture, we learned about the original owner and founder Moiler Maersk. They say he worked until he passed away, always with a smile on his face. He would take the stairs all the way to the ninth floor, enabling his employees to avoid the elevators and join him. It is clear that his authentic values are still present, including family values. However, after his passing, the company culture shifted as the new generation came to be. Moilers daughter made changes when she joined the board. The old conglomerate structure changed after her father’s death. Thomas Lassen said they have a focus on revenue. Their new leadership broke up the old conglomerate and moved towards working together optimally. They want to bring business units together again. Some specific shifts they want to make in their culture include going from complex to simple, from fragmented to integral, and from product centric to customer centric. They believe that vertical integration as a critical enabler of improved customer experience and industry efficiency, and are working towards making their customers feel part of the company family. Maersk values constant care, looking towards the future and adaption, and entrepeneurialship.

Lastly but certainly the most exciting visit was to Mikkeller Brewing Company. Not only did we get a taste for what Copenhagen has to offer, but we got to experience the culture of a company we can relate to. They are a simple start up with simple roots. Their founder originally sold beer without a license, and sure enough, it got popular. They have stuck to their initial vision of creating boundary pushing beer that makes consumers think something thought-provoking. They stick to their method of creating 450 unique beers a year, as one united brand/family.


This culture of a “family” is shown through the fact that each person in the office has access to their social media pages. This way, the customer is always engaging with someone real that can share feelings and opinions. They see this as a way to cultivate their identity. We find it so interesting that they have spent $0 on traditional advertisement, and just a few thousand on social media advertising. They pride themselves on being a small brand with a big awareness.

Extending their culture to their bars, they maintain a different aesthetic in all of their locations. However, they really play-up the family aspect by having a communal lunch in the office everyday around their long rectangle table. Additionally, there is a fully stocked bar and beers on tap right when you enter, creating a social environment for people to catch up and cultivate relationships. Different from American company culture, they are very much so into “turning off” when they leave the office and not taking their work home with them. They believe it gives them the ability to be creative and re-set their values and time. They want their employees to be healthier and mentally clear.

Lastly, they give each employee a staff card that gets them discounts at all of their bards and 5 cases of beer a month on the company orders. If that isn’t employee love, we don’t know what is.


WRAP UP

All in all, we discovered a big difference between work-life balance in Scandinavia as opposed to the United States. The concept of “Jantelov” that we discussed in our first post was ever present in the companies we visited. Scandinavian companies emphasize flat leadership, a more casual environment, and mental health breaks. We are so grateful for the opportunity to learn from these industry professionals firsthand, and highly recommend the trip for anyone interested! 🙂

Malmo, Sweden

We met with Christer Heiderman to discuss Marketing and Sales at Saab Kockums. They are a company that invests heavily in aeronautics, surveillance and robotics, amongst other things. Their company has 7,000-8,000 employees in total. With so many employees, we were very interested to find out more about their company culture and the ways in which they invest in their employees. We found out that Saab has a study program set up for Masters and PhD students. We found this to be amazing since their country already has free education, but their company encourages higher education to the highest degree. A main point Heiderman touched on was their employee trade unions. He said that their company board members must include unions representatives in order for things to be equal. Clearly, though they are a large company, they are investing in their employees education effort and they care about equal representation all the way at the top.

Wednesday afternoon we had our meeting with Mr. Patrik Romberg, SVP of Communications of Trelleborg, which was a fantastic discussion on doing business at the global level. Mr. Romberg has quite a significant amount of experience working in international companies, and in recent years he has successfully worked his way to the top of management at Trelleborg. He primarily spoke about the importance of understanding how to interact with clients, which varies significantly across borders.

It was fascinating to hear how many observable differences there were depending on where the company is doing business. For instance, in Germany, if they want to sell value, it is important to talk about facts in figures, whereas in Japan, it is much more important to emphasize the long lasting nature of the professional relationship between the two companies, and the “ease of doing business” aspect.

Even the tone of voice and presentation of the company makes a difference in various cultural contexts, and we were reminded of how important it is to be able to recognize this and “play these different roles.” Knowing when to sound authoritative versus when to focus on relationship building, for example, is crucial, according to our speaker. By being confident in these various cultural contexts, you are protecting yourself and your business, and if not, you open yourself up to the competition and “leave a vacuum, and that’s the worst thing you can do.” -Mr. Romberg

Furthermore, it was revealed that Trelleborg has been able to maintain higher price premiums and enjoy notably high customer retention rates, largely because of their ability to build trust among their clients, regardless of where these clients are in the world.

Mr. Romberg also spent quite a bit of time emphasizing the importance of their decentralized business structure, which is a design that often has “several individuals responsible for making business decisions and running the business.” This fits the Nordic model that we have discussed in previous posts, and it is something that many Scandinavian companies take pride in. From our personal observations throughout this travel course, we have been able to see firsthand how employees enjoy this model overall, as it seems to make upper level management less intimidating, and it creates a more approachable environment between workers at various levels of these large companies.

Yet another interesting distinction between doing business in the United States and in Sweden was that unlike the United States, if a company in Sweden wants to truly make money, our speaker firmly stated that they cannot remain within Sweden’s borders. The country itself is simply too small. For this reason, it is imperative to establish a global presence. This is a clear contrast to the United States, where some of the most successful companies have resided despite never leaving the country’s borders. This also reinforces one of the notions discussed during the first week of our class, where we discussed how Americans often have the goal of “going national,” as opposed to aiming larger and “going global.” Going national within the United States seems to be a feat in and of itself, as there are several cultural contexts and differences within U.S. borders alone, however in Sweden it is understood that the aiming large requires going global.


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