I am Polish. I have lived in 5 countries until now and I simply adore Denmark in many ways. I can say so based on a fair comparison, I believe. I think, I understand, why the weekly entertainment broadcasts by the main channels DR and TV2 ”Et glimt af Danmark” as well as TV2 ”Hjemme i Danmark”, hosted by star host Cecilie Frøkjær, are so well received by the public.
The many, but significant, life style differences in Denmark are highly interesting and entertaining. Variations in the ”local Duck pond”,- as I have heard the beautiful country of Denmark labelled. Of course expressed with a touch of the famous Danish ”irony”, which many a foreigner, coming to Denmark, has stumbled upon.
However, when I look at how export business is often conducted in Denmark, I wonder, why these local differences, on which the shows as built, are, apparently, not seen as applicable for other countries outside of Denmark. Your export markets. The way, most companies approach export, is very different from what you seem to enjoy and understand about your own country: That a country has many sides. That the consumers have very different demand patterns INSIDE the country. That, hence, a company has it’s own culture and decision making process - independent from the national culture and linked more on the investors and owners and how the equity is built. I wonder why it is not clear that if you have big differences with a radius of 200 kilometres, it is likely, when a country is 2-50 times larger than Denmark that these differences still exist.
Poland is expected to be one of the strongest economies in the EU region before 2020 (source: PWC report) So we are increasingly valid as not only a sourcing country. When you Danes, however, appoint a manager, often for “Eastern Europe” you forget that we, in Poland, see ourselves as “Central Europeans” and not “Easterns”. Half of us, but not all, are not particularly fond of Russians, I can tell you. It is not a good start for a business meeting in our culture, if the potential supplier is ignoring, in fact, simple knowledge. How would you like if we would perceive, your CEO is from Sweden or Finland and not Denmark and ask him as friendly as we can, if he likes Saunas a lot and if we should go there tonight?
You seem to think that a German is a German a Swede is a Swede. In your business schools, you teach your business students about Hofstede cultural dimensions model. Many forget to remember that Greet Hofstede has fought against this use of his work for decades. On his own website, he stresses his frustration about this. At IFAK, the company I am working for we want to open eyes for those who yet did not realized that a country can not be generalized.
When you talk about China, you seem to not know that China has at least 5 different business areas, each with their own significantly different culture, business conduct and demand patterns. They don’t even grow at the same speed nor in the same direction. That it is wiser to approach with a cluster focus than a traditional tiered approach. You seem to, in the very bad cases, to think you can drive exports by “online presence” and web shops. Are you not aware that even Alibaba is investing heavily in brick and mortar shops because, quite a while ago, it proved wrong to think “everything is online” in the future?
There are many examples. There are, luckily, also many valuable pieces of research and framework at hand to avoid the mistakes. Ready to pick up by the truly ambitious. So go and do that! I know Denmark is a frontrunner in many ways and I know from own experience that you sometimes underestimate (maybe due to the person called Jante) how great your reputation is around the world. You have a super track record with adapting to EU free market and you managed fabulous changes in industry structure. So do not tell me, you cannot innovate your thinking and skip the stereotyping.
However, until the knowledge mentioned above is better applied, it is likely that the surveys from DI will continue to show that 75% of Danish companies find exports very complicated. Due to culture and language barriers. It will continue to be possible for Professor Schrøder at University of Aarhus to show that around 60% of all new export initiatives goes down the drain within the first year.
Once your company start building the skills for good export conduct, you will see that it is possible to grow much faster and much more sustained. That you can actually apply knowledge even from TV shows and be better off than now. This is good because about 90% of growth in the world happens outside of Europe. You do not have to limit yourself to Sweden and Germany. The world is much bigger than that.
To finish off with an example from the football field, as I know Danes care for football a lot: Imagine you are going to have a business meeting with Chelsea Football Club in England. Wouldn’t you find it hard to choose your approach based on a conventional stereotyped thinking if these were the participants from Chelsea FC: The big boss is Russian, the manager is Portuguese and the founder was an Englishman with a Dutch name? Their market, by the way, is global.
With all due respect, it is time to teach a lesson.