Finnish Business Structures

Finland differs from its Scandinavian neighbours in a number of ways. In business, probably the most striking is the lack of dependency on consensus as a means of reaching important decisions.

This is not to say that Finns are massively hierarchical or that they are non-consultative – it is more that Finns like to know exactly the perimeters of their responsibilities and will expect to be allowed to take the decisions which fall naturally within those perimeters.

Thus, Finns will complain just as bitterly (probably even more bitterly) than other nations about the slowness of the Swedish decision-making process. The structures of the organisation are supposed to be defined in such a way that everybody knows what is expected of them and the organisation trusts that employees (who are amongst the best educated in Europe) will have the requisite levels of skill to perform their allotted tasks.

Finland has experienced many years of comparatively calm industrial relations and there is little, if any, antagonism between shop floor and management.

Outside the metropolitan centre of Helsinki (where more than 20% of the total population live), many companies have traditionally taken on an active social role within the community, quite rightly seeing themselves as mainstays of the local area. Therefore, outside Helsinki, employees have been very loyal to employers with little job-hopping taking place.

A brief overview of some key concepts to consider when doing business in Finland

Written and Produced by Keith Warburton

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Finland punches above its weight and has done for decades. For a country with a tiny population, geographically remote and with an inclement climate the fact that Finland is considered a world leader in a number of areas is a remarkable achievement and a testament to the resilience and determination of its people.

Maybe Finland’s success is down to its world famous ‘sissu’ (read the country profile to find out what that actually is) or maybe it’s just down to the fact that Finland has been able to develop an education system that is globally envied and endlessly studied. Whatever the reason, Finland is in many ways remarkable. If you are looking for a market with an affluent, sophisticated consumer base which is technologically advanced and open to new ideas, then the idea of doing business in Finland should appeal to you.

Yet Finland is in many ways an enigma. Nordic but not Scandinavian; with a seemingly endless border with Russia but definitely not Slavic. Even the Finnish language has no similarities with its near neighbours. For these reasons Finland is often referred to as a cultural ‘lone wolf’.

Doing business in Finland can bring enormous benefits but Finns are notoriously circumspect. A better knowledge of Finnish business culture can help you overcome any initial reticence you might encounter and enable you to develop deep and long-lasting relationships. Finns are interested in people who are interested in Finland – so show an interest in all things Finnish and you will reap the rewards.

This country profile provides an overview of some of the key aspects of Finnish business culture in a concise, easy to follow-format. The document includes information on:

  • Background to business
  • Business Structures
  • Management style
  • Meetings
  • Teamwork
  • Communication
  • Women in business
  • Entertaining
  • Top tips