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.