So Long, Farewell!

We have had an amazing time in Scandinavia and are a little sad to see this adventure end. We have learned a lot throughout these business visits and were lucky enough to have some great cultural experiences. In all we have noticed 3 major themes happening with these companies in Scandinavia: Sustainability, Flat Business Structure, and Innovation.

Sustainability

Sustainability is a major theme we have experienced in Scandinavia. Most all the companies we have mentioned thus far have integrated sustainability within their practices. Nordea takes on clients that are ethical and sustainable, Valio practices sustainable dairy farming, Northvolt produces green energy, and Maersk has established their own sustainability report. Northvolt, Ericsson, and Maersk are companies that we saw shape their sustainable strategy with the UN's sustainable goals. Many of these companies utilize sustainability as their competitive advantage.

UN Global Goals

It was interesting and somewhat refreshing to see how many of these companies pride themselves upon sustainability and make it a priority within their strategies and business models. We don't see as many companies in the US engaging in these type of sustainable practices. We see many companies try to be environmentally friendly, but it is not a priority to become sustainable. For example, Starbucks made the news when they were trying to get rid of their plastic straws, but this is their long-term and not something that was immediately acted upon. You see more sustainable efforts through their consumers that will bring reusable cups or straws.

We appreciate the sustainable practices that we have seen in Scandinavia, and we hope that companies in the US would start implementing the same concepts.

Flat Business Structure

A flat business structure is a major theme we saw across all companies in Scandinavia. Employees in each of these companies do have specific titles labeled in a hierarchical sense, but every employee at every level is seen as equal. This came as somewhat of a shock and something that can be hard for us Americans to understand. In the States, someone in power like a CEO is seen as somewhat intimidating. You don't always walk up to them to ask about the weather. In Scandinavia it is just the opposite. Employees run in to the CEO while getting their morning coffee and start making small talk.

An advantage to this structure is efficiency through communication. Messages don't have to be relayed through multiple channels to reach the decision maker when employees can go right to the source. This also eliminates a power struggle that some employees may have with their organization.

It was interesting to hear Patrik Romberg from Trelleborg speak on his experience in international business. When he works with clients in other countries like France or China, he has to show his power as a manager to adjust to their structural style. This is completely different from his style when working in Sweden.

The flat business structure is a big cultural difference that could be almost impossible for large American companies to adapt to. We see this type of structure with small businesses or startups which widely contributes to the culture of the organization.

Innovation

With ever changing industries, the companies we visited in Scandinavia continue to be innovators within their markets. Ericsson has become a major leader in technology, Northvolt is innovating the battery industry, and even Estonia has innovated their government system. It's been amazing to see the technology and processes these companies have created and expanded.

We've also noticed that these Scandinavian countries highly support entrepreneurship. After meeting with students in Helsinki, we saw that entrepreneurship is a very popular subject at universities, and ventures are also supported by the government.

Estonia provides even more support for entrepreneurs as we saw at TalTech and Technopol. Carl from Datel explained how Estonia's unemployment program trains unemployed citizens how to start their own business. With assistance from the government these countries are encouraging entrepreneurship and innovation which is a motivator for their employees and citizens.

Back in the US, we don't see this much support for entrepreneurs and innovators. These type of people work so hard to make their one idea a success. Having a competitive advantage is crucial to innovators and the companies we have seen continue to perfect their advantage over competitors.

Here are some more highlights from our Scandinavia trip:

Well, that's all folks!
With love,
Jenna Tarin and Theresa Keh