Director of the Americas with Innovation Norway.
Times of economic hardship force companies to think pragmatically about where they invest their capital. In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, large parts of the Nordic region stand out as the ideal starting point for growth outside the U.S. — and not just because of the way the region has handled the pandemic. The Nordic region offers advantages for American companies looking for growth.
Reasons To Expand To Norway Now
With more uncertainty on the horizon, many businesses have understandably shelved their expansion plans until the dust settles. Within that lull lies opportunity, though. International diversification increases company valuations, which is especially important for companies seeking exit opportunities. Businesses that have run into stagnation can consider international plans to re-energize their momentum. Access to new markets for both customers and talent demonstrates that a business has a product or service that holds value across borders.
Norway can be an option for U.S. businesses with international goals, particularly if those goals represent more sustainable solutions, both environmentally and socioeconomically, as well as financially. Access to funding through government programs can give companies soft funding that stimulates more rapid growth without decreasing entrepreneurs or investors’ incentives.
In addition to financial incentives like R&D grants and preferential tax treatment, Norway’s markets provide fertile grounds for young technology businesses. Norwegians tend to be early adopters, giving tech companies a boost in critical early phases of growth. The country also boasts an impressive record in B2B exits with firms. Energy companies benefit from some of the cheapest industrial electricity costs in Europe as it regularly expands its foothold in the renewable energy space.
Although Norway may top the list of an international expansion search, that doesn’t mean it won’t require work. Even in a friendly environment, businesses must be careful to grow their investments responsibly.
Addressing The Norwegian Expansion Challenges
Expanding a business internationally is like running a marathon. Expanding into Norway might be a downstream cruise instead of an uphill mountain climb, but companies must still do plenty of legwork to ensure their success. Before you expand your business into Norway (or any other international market), consider the nuances of the culture.
• Geographical size matters. Norway may not be as large as the U.S., but don’t make the mistake of assuming it’s a small nation. It is larger than many other countries of comparable merit for international expansion, necessitating intra-country plane travel for many meetings. However, with its digital infrastructure, web meetings can be held with great stability anywhere and anytime, also during a pandemic.
• People like where they live. Norwegians typically appreciate living in Norway, but more than that, they appreciate living in their own parts of the country. You might assume a person in Norway would have no problem moving a short distance for work, but they usually prefer to stay put if they can help it. Again, the digital infrastructure can facilitate doing business even from home.
• Relationships take time. Norwegians may be cordial, but they do not open up to strangers easily, unlike people in some other parts of the world. Local networks and teams make it easier to build relationships. This attitude also manifests itself in scheduling. Norwegians are punctual and expect the same of others.
• Values translate if you put in the effort. Norwegians are formal but far from cold. They value work-life balance highly and enjoy spending time with their friends outside work. Because the language tends to be direct, English speakers can come off as rude to people who are unfamiliar. But there are no hidden agendas.
American investors and business leaders who move may encounter a few cultural gaps at first, but misunderstandings tend to be short-lived and easily overcome. Anyone with a genuine desire to treat the locals with respect will be welcomed.
Looking Ahead To Foreign Investments
From its skilled population to its market for technology companies, Norway can be a testing ground for new ideas and a fertile environment to discover new innovations, particularly within energy, marine and maritime industries. Over the next few years, Norway expects more companies to move R&D operations within its borders. Green manufacturing companies, data centers and AI-focused businesses can view the country as a destination for business.
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