Business development in Norway is safe and easy, as the country has one of the world's most secure economies, offering many opportunities for business and export. Norway is a politically stable, modern and highly developed country with a relatively small population and a very strong economy characterised by openness and diversity. The country pays great attention to the development of knowledge, innovation, technology and ensuring sustainable business.
Norway is a world leader in the oil and gas industry, energy, as well as in the maritime and fisheries sectors. In addition, other technology clusters are flourishing as well, for example, in fields related to medicine, finance and education. At the same time, it is very difficult to succeed in some segments of the Norwegian market – in particular in the food, textile and furniture industries, as these markets are dominated by a few but very large players. To enter the market successfully, it is necessary to find one’s own niche or create a high quality product at a low price; in addition, one has to be willing to be a subcontractor to private labels, because Norwegians are very loyal to their brands.
Oslo Barcode, a two-tower building Postgirobygget at the centre of the photo
While the market with 5.3 million consumers is modest in number, the consumers’ purchasing power is comparable to that of much larger countries due to a very high standard of living and evenly distributed wealth across the country. The Norwegian economy is underpinned by a highly developed cluster system, which works closely with industrial enterprises and R&D institutions. Although not a member of the European Union, Norway participates fully in the research programmes and activities of the Union.
Norwegian business culture is largely based on Scandinavian values, which are characterised by a lack of emphasis on titles, ranks and symbols of power. Trust is highly valued in Norwegian society and this is reflected in relations between authorities and citizens, between employees and employers as well as between business partners. Business communication must be effective for Norwegians, without excessive hierarchy and complex structures.
Another important value in Norway is cooperation – there is even a separate term, the “Norwegian model”, which refers to cooperation between the government, employers' organisations and unions representing employees. This model of cooperation also affects the relationship between employer and employee as well as manager and subordinate. Employees are expected to take responsibility and the initiative, so the Norwegian workforce can be considered productive, knowledgeable and motivated due to their trusting social and work relationships.
In regard to the Norwegian business culture, it is worth to remember its basic elements, that means the lack of hierarchy and simple structural models, fast and informal communication, focus on cooperation, trusting relationships between people, empowerment of employees, gender equality, work-life balance and readiness to take risks.
Recommendations for entering the Norwegian market
Negotiating in English is perfectly acceptable in Norway, because almost everyone is fluent in that language. If an Estonian company does not have an employee fluent in Norwegian language, it is not worth sending the sales letter in Norwegian, as failure to continue the conversation in the same language may cause unnecessary confusion and lower the credibility of the offer. In the IT sector, for example, companies prefer direct communication in English because it is the lingua franca of the industry.
Having a comprehensive and informative website and keeping it up to date is very important in regard to promoting one’s products and services. To start with, it is quite sufficient to have a website only in English, as this is only the first step in exporting.
Rather than focus on writing long letters with many attachments, potential customers should be referred to the company’s website for more information, as the aforementioned letters are generally not read very thoroughly. It is also a good idea to send a short but easy-to-read and well-structured email to the email address of a certain person, rather than to the general email of the company. The best tools for finding the right contact person are the website of the company of interest and, for example, LinkedIn, which is widely used in Norway. Nor is it a problem for Norwegians to communicate over the phone to determine who is in charge of international cooperation within the company.
It is important to emphasise one’s competitive advantage and value proposition in the sales letter. It is always possible to clarify other topics after the first contact, provided, of course, that the Norwegian company has shown an interest in cooperation. References from other export markets, preferably from Sweden, for example, are very helpful. It is beneficial to have prepared thoroughly in regard to the production schedule, transportation issues and product list, in order to answer the questions of a possible partner quickly.
Punctuality is a very important value for Norwegians – it is always worth reporting any delays, even if they last for only a minute. And after sending an email, one should definitely plan a phone conversation as a follow-up.
In order to do business in Norway, it pays to familiarise oneself with some important websites that provide comprehensive information on the business conditions and opportunities there.
• Altinn - Norwegian national portal for company registration
• NHO - Confederation of Norwegian Enterprise
• IFC/World Bank - World Bank page on Norwegian business culture
• Nyinnorge.no - practical tips for doing business in Norway
• Expatarrivals.com - information on working in Norway
In Norway, Estonian entrepreneurs are assisted by the Export Adviser of Enterprise Estonia, whose contacts are as follows:
Oscarsgate 27. 0352 Oslo. Norway
Mob: +47 91145474