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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Overview

This country profile has been produced to give a short overview of some of the key concepts to bear in mind when doing business with contacts in Sweden. It is intended to be an aid to business people who have commercial dealings with counterparties in the country but should not be seen as an exhaustive guide to this topic or as a substitute for more substantial research should there be a need.

With this in mind, we have covered the areas which are key to a better understanding of the cultural mindset underpinning business dealings in Sweden and which are, quite often, extremely different from the approach and thought processes associated with business in other parts of the world.

Therefore this briefing note is broken into short, bite-sized sections on the following topics:

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