Four lessons UK businesses could learn from the Nordics

The Nordic countries regularly top the world happiness indexes, while also sitting at the top of lists measuring economy and productivity. It’s no wonder, then, that businesses around the world tend to look for inspiration in the business cultures of countries like Denmark, Sweden, and Norway. As you would expect, there are many subtle and not-so-subtle differences between cultures in these countries. However, there are some common themes that businesses in the UK looking to innovate may want to take note of.

Less hierarchy, more democracy

Nordic businesses tend to be arranged in flat structures, with little respect for rigid hierarchies or displays of power. Fundamental to business in these countries is the idea of trust. Employees trust managers to keep their best interests at heart, and managers trust employees to act independently and get on with the job. Decision making is done in a democratic manner. In Sweden in particular, everyone is expected to have their say in company meetings.

Communication is key

Following the reduced importance of hierarchy, lines of communication in Nordic businesses tend to be short, with colleagues always able to confer with management. This leads to a generally informal culture – employees are usually on first name terms with management, and socialising with fellow colleagues is expected. If your Danish business associate suggests you grab a beer after work, it really would be rude not to!

Ethics first

Nordic countries tend to have a strong sense of ethics, with a low tolerance for corruption and high regard for environmental issues. A downside of this is that reaching a decision can sometimes take a long time, as each employee’s take on a matter is valued and the ethical impact of each decision is carefully weighed.

Benefits and welfare

Nordic countries are famous for their excellent benefits and strong welfare systems. Sweden, for example, has one of the most generous parental leave policies in the world. All employees in Denmark are entitled to five weeks of annual leave. And in Norway, a policy of transparency regarding salaries has lead to narrow wage gaps and strong pay equality. Higher taxes supports the strong welfare systems to minimise the fear of employment gaps for those not in work. These benefits and the security of the welfare systems have lead to happier employees and, in turn, more productive companies.

Nordic values are increasingly influencing businesses world-wide, and businesses form the Nordic region are highly regarded in the UK especially. If you are a Nordic business thinking about expanding into the UK, you should speak to us. We have been helping Nordic businesses successfully launch in the UK for 20 years and would love to help you too! Contact Goodwille today to find out more how we can help you get started on the UK market.

Dynamic business culture: the UK vs. Germany vs. the Nordics

The nations of Northern Europe have much in common; large, powerful economies, liberal and social democracies, open minds and forward-thinking attitudes.

When it comes to business, however, there are some huge differences in culture that are important to understand. Research conducted by Richard D. Lewis, a British linguist and communications expert, highlights some of the key elements of negotiation style country by country:

Germany

On the whole, the German business approach is extremely straightforward, direct and logical. Both parties are expected to do their due diligence before a negotiation, amassing evidence and clarifying their points prior to any debate. Germans like to work through problems by realistic examinations of facts before working towards cautious, yet firm and pragmatic agreements.

Great Britain and Northern Ireland

The Brits and the Irish have a penchant for understated, excessively polite and occasionally humorous negotiation tactics that can often leave their more direct business partners at a loss. This style can either be extremely effective or completely fail to meet it’s objectives, depending on how it’s deployed. However, similar to the other countries of Northern Europe, Brits value clarity, punctuality and an understanding of the facts and technical details of the situation – they might just take longer to directly state their goals.

Sweden

Mr. Lewis identified the Swedes’ discussion techniques as amongst the most holistic and wide-ranging in Northern Europe, often bringing in points which might otherwise be glossed over. Following an open discussion, negotiations will tend to be simple and clear. The Nordic nations value a direct approach towards language, and Sweden is no exception.

Denmark

Denmark appears to have adopted a blend of styles, a combination that has proved particularly effective in business negotiations. Danes are meticulous about evidence similar to the approach taken by many Germans. At the same time they take broad consideration of the evidence like their neighbours, the Swedes. They mix this with a tendency to talk around, or avoid if you prefer, certain sensitive points like the Brits. There have been several high profile business cases proving the Danish negotiation approach in recent years.

Of course, these are generalisations and not a description of how every nation will operate. However, thinking about how cultural differences might affect your negotiation tactics can be a powerful tool for understanding the current economic and political landscape of Europe.

Goodwille work with helping companies from the Nordic and Germanic region enter into the UK market. With 20 years of experience bridging the gap between our clients’ home market and the UK, we can help your businesses with the transition into the UK to ensure a smooth entry. If you are thinking about expanding your business to the UK, get in touch with us today to find out how we can help you. 

Differences between German and British Work Culture

It’s not uncommon to hear Germans being highly regarded around the world for their supposed workplace and office efficiency. British stereotypes, however, remain based in caution and class structured hierarchies. Despite knowing that stereotypes never truly match up to the reality, it is true that German workers are more productive than the rest of their European neighbours, while still taking more sick days and holidays, especially in comparison to British workers.

A better work-life balance?

One of the reasons that this may be the case is supposedly due to Germany’s better understanding of a work-life balance. By truly finding that sweet spot between work and play, Germans can be far more productive within the office, while also unwinding and relaxing more efficiently.

Lots of references to this balance can be found in German vernacular. ‘Brückentage’, or ‘bridge days’, is a common German adage which means to take time off around bank holidays, where most workers will take an extra day or two off work in order to refuel, preparing themselves mentally for the work ahead. Another common German expression is ‘Erst die Arbeit, dann das Vergnügen!’, meaning ‘first work, then pleasure’. While there are similar phrases within English, they are not often heard, and even more uncommonly stuck to. As such, there seems to be an ingrained culture within Germany of working first and then focusing on relaxing, all while understanding that taking time to recharge will help you be more productive in the future.

Sickness

There is a trend within British office works to come to work, even when they are ill, and to downplay any sickness in front of management. While this does lead to more time in the office, it has serious negative effects on productivity and creates the risk of illnesses passing between colleagues. However, in Germany, there is a strong feeling that if you are sick you should stay at home – ‘Wenn man krank ist ist man krank’, translating as ‘when you are sick, you are sick’.

Not only does this mentality protect other office works, but it also allows the individual to rest and recover properly, meaning they are fit for work and more productive in a shorter space of time.

Understanding the differences between office and business cultures is crucial in whether an international expansion is successful or not. At Goodwille, we pride ourselves on helping new companies establish themselves in the UK market, offering advice and services to ensure that your business flourishes in the United Kingdom. For more information about how we can help you, get in touch with us today.

LAUNCH IN LONDON | Speaker introduction: Joanna Smit – Smit Training

London is a great place to be for tech businesses – it has access to great pool of talent, capital and investors, it boosts a large tech community and it’s perfectly located in the middle of time zones. With all these possibilities available – how can businesses and entrepreneurs utilise these to the best extent possible, and what else is needed to succeed?

On 14 June, Goodwille are hosting the event Launch in London as part of London Tech Week. The event targets startups, tech businesses and entrepreneurs with aspirations to launch in London, and will provide insights and expert advice on everything you need to succeed with your tech business in London.

One of the speakers at the event is Joanna Smit, Founder and Business Culture Consultant at Smit Training. Get to know Joanna a bit better and learn what she will bring to the discussion at Launch in London!

During Launch in London, Joanna will speak about:

The importance of (business) culture to succeed when entering a new market! Joanna will help you understand the British people and give insights on how to work effectively with them – both how to collaborate with the Brits in your team and how to sell to British clients. Her talk will give your new business the best chance of success as you will be equipped with all the intercultural skills you need to make your transition in to the UK market .

About Smit Training

Doing business in a new country brings exciting new opportunities but also certain challenges, such as overcoming language barriers or adapting to a different work culture. Smit Training trains multi-national organisations on how to work effectively with the Brits. Training courses include: leading British teams effectively, working with British colleagues or selling to British clients. Smit Training’s clients include senior managers and sales teams of multi-national organisations, international chambers of commerce, and international business schools.

About Joanna

The Founder of Smit Training, Joanna Smit, draws on nearly 10 years experience in international sales & investment banking with both the public and private sector across various countries, including the UK. Joanna has lived and worked in 6 countries and speaks several languages fluently.

Website: www.smit-training.com

LAUNCH IN LONDON – EVENTS DETAILS

Date: Thursday 14 June 2018
Time: 10am-1pm
Location: Level39, One Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London E14 5AB
Tickets: Grab your free ticket HERE!

Understanding UK Business Culture

If you’re looking to set up a UK company, then understanding subtle differences in business culture can be vital to a smooth transition. Knowledge of different attitudes may help you communicate more effectively and remove cultural barriers to success.

Making introductions

It’s important to remember that the four regions that make up the United Kingdom have separate and distinct identities – not everyone is ‘English’ or ‘British’. First name introductions are quite normal but use of academic titles may be considered arrogant. There is no formal etiquette around the exchange of business cards, so it’s quite normal to glance briefly and then put them away. A firm handshake and direct eye contact project confidence.

Avoid direct statements – the British are known for their politeness for a reason and a mastery of indirect speech and reading between the lines will pay dividends. You’ll also need to be sensitive to dry British humour and develop the ability to laugh at yourself. But don’t confuse humour with not taking business seriously.

Giving gifts

Be aware that this is not a usual part of UK business etiquette – in fact many businesses discourage it on ethical or legal grounds. However, gifts that acknowledge the occasion – be it a successful negotiation or an invitation to dinner – are acceptable.

Corporate and social issues and responsibilities

It’s wise to be aware of the British social and political landscape. Austerity policies have led to public concerns about corporate tax avoidance. Sustainability is also a key issue in the wake of the recently signed agreement for the Hinkley Point nuclear power plant. The new apprenticeship levy and National Minimum Wage have impacts and implications for employers and employees, while Brexit has magnified concerns over employees’ rights and the application of European law in the workplace.

Researching the key issues and understanding how much the UK values fairness in business or corporate responsibilities should be a crucial part of the preparation phase before you open a UK office. The better your understanding of the issues, the more effectively you’ll be able to do business in the United Kingdom.

Goodwille work with supporting overseas businesses with their launch in the UK and can assist with ensuring you a smooth entry to the UK market. Get in touch with us if you want to find out how we can assist your UK expansion.