Finland and Sweden Need One Another - Now More Than Ever
Mr. Kjell Skoglund, originally from Kristinestad in Finland, has in the role of CEO of the Finnish-Swedish Chamber of Commerce witnessed how the commercial and industrial sectors have put Nordic cooperation into action in concrete terms. This development started about 20 years ago after the merging of several large exchange-listed enterprises. Since then, there have been over 700 mergers between the countries and cross-border cooperation is now stronger than ever before.
Mr. Kjell Skoglund, CEO for the Finnish-Swedish Chamber of Commerce, headquartered in Stockholm, Sweden, presented the Chamber’s operation and talked about the importance of Finns learning to take advantage of Sweden’s economic success.
Several factors have influenced this development.
- Finland and Sweden joining the EU and Norway staying outside, terror attacks, Russian policy, and now also the new US president are all factors that have had an impact and brought us closer together. Every cloud has a silver lining, Mr. Skoglund says.
In Sweden, the economic development has been considerably more positive compared to Finland. While the GNP in Sweden has increased steadily over the past decade, Finland has been treading water as a result of not being able to make the same necessary restructuring decisions as in Sweden.
- Finland has everything to win from learning from Sweden and making the most of cooperation. This is not about any sort of economic contest between the countries, Mr. Skoglund points out.
He says that he can see a light on the horizon, and especially the Vaasa region appears to advantage with its high technological know-how, environmental thinking, competent staff and international attitude.
The Finnish-Swedish Chamber of Commerce assists Finnish enterprises to start business operations in the Swedish market. The Chamber’s membership count has increased by 80% over the past 2½ years, which says quite a lot about the interest in establishing operations in Sweden.
- In order to succeed, the products have to be good and one must do one's homework but there are plenty of successful examples, Mr. Skoglund says, and mentions Malaxlimpan, Atria, NTM and Valio.
There are cultural differences between the two countries and one must be aware of them but the Swedes are often curious about and interested in cooperation with the Finns – and this is something we need to capture and utilize.
The Swedes are often curious about and interested in cooperation with the Finns – and this is something we need to capture and utilize.
Sweden’s economy is prospering and the population is growing and is now over ten million. Hundreds of thousands of new homes are being built, entire towns are being completely relocated and large road-building projects are being planned.
- All this offers good business opportunities for Finnish companies but Swedish language skills are an important factor and, therefore, the present debate on language instruction in Finland is worrying, Mr. Skoglund continues. Also in the case of attitudes in employer and employee organizations, we have a lot to learn from Sweden.
- Strikes and industrial action undermine the reliability of deliveries. One must be able to sacrifice some benefits in order to gain competitiveness and get the country on its feet again, Mr. Skoglund says.
Selling and branding are among other areas where Finns have a lot to learn from the Swedes.
Mr. Skoglund regards the continuity of the ferry traffic across the Kvarken Strait as absolutely crucial for continued cooperation between Finnish and Swedish companies.
- In recent years, there has been a positive atmosphere and it is my sincere wish that we have a new ferry in five years' time. Cooperation would then soar to completely new heights, Mr. Skoglund concludes.
Finnish enterprises have discovered Sweden, largely thanks to the closure of the Russian market. Good products, competitive prices and awareness of cultural differences are crucial for success in Sweden.
Text: Anna Sand
Photos: Anna Sand and Kvarkenrådet