Background To Business in Sweden

Sweden, as has often been stated, presents a fascinating business model. It has proved to be a remarkably successful post-war economy, which has managed to combine both pro-business policies with the provision of an all-embracing welfare state.

Indeed the social policies once produced a famous remark from the mayor of Shanghai, ‘I like Sweden but you are just a bit too socialist over there.’

This seeming paradox can in large measure be explained by an understanding of one of the central Swedish characteristic – egalitarianism. A belief in the genuine equality of individuals and the resultant desire for consensus are at the heart of Swedish business life and explain both organisational structures and management approach in the country.

A second, frequently mentioned, surprise about Swedish business is the relatively large number of truly international companies emanating from a country with a population of less than nine million – Eriksson, Electrolux, Atlas Copco, ABB, Tetrapak; the list is almost endless. It is a truism that countries with small domestic markets need to internationalise to survive and prosper but few countries have been as successful on the world stage as Sweden.

The third remarkable fact about Sweden is the enormous breadth of its industries. Sweden has significant companies in market sectors varying from electrical goods to vehicle manufacture, from telecommunications to pharmaceuticals and from mechanical engineering to chemicals. In addition, of course, it has companies with a global presence in all these industrial areas.

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

Written and Produced by Keith Warburton

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Sweden is an open, diversified and competitive economy which has always looked to international trade as an outlet for its products and services. Over the past few decades Sweden has increasingly focused on the development of high-tech products and services and on the green economy which has helped put a relatively small country right at the vanguard of global development.
In addition, Swedish demographics have been helped by the influx of large number of immigrants from around the world who have added both numbers and skills to the highly educated native Swedish population. All of this adds up to a country which represents a host of opportunities to companies and individuals who have the right products or services – ones which will appeal to a very discerning mark place.

Doing business in Sweden is relatively simple and unencumbered with much of the bureaucracy and red tape often found in other countries. However, Sweden is a high-cost economy and you can lose a lot of money quickly if you don’t get your strategy and planning right from the outset. Part of your planning should be to do some homework on Swedish business culture – like all other countries Sweden has its own unique approach to doing things in a business context and you really need to understand these nuances if you hope to make the right impression.

Sweden is one of the most egalitarian business cultures in the world and people from a more hierarchical culture can often find it difficult to understand how this impacts on business operations. For example, going straight to the top might not be the right approach in a country where power and information are shared openly throughout an organisation and showing less respect to one person than another based on job title will definitely be frowned upon.

This country profile provides an overview of some of the key aspects of Swedish 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