Login

Expanding operations in Europe through Norway’s business landscape

November 26, 2020
By The Explorer

Getty

Growth-oriented businesses often look at markets outside their home region from the start in our global economy. The digital age has faded international borders, empowering companies to expand their footprints across the globe more easily.

Some businesses flock to the countries with the cheapest labour or the most cash to spend, but that strategy often falls apart when placed under the lens of global competition. Businesses today do not just need workers but highly talented employees ready to develop solutions to global challenges. Expansion into the wrong market can prove disastrous, while exposure to the right environment can catalyse a business into a new era of prosperity.

Where is the right market, though? Many manufacturers look to China. Other businesses depend on India and Southeast Asia for customer support. Companies want a foothold in Europe to access attractive markets. However, when considering expansion to Europe, many fear regulations and cost, and these misconceptions can dissuade even savvy businesses from exploring the riches that lie just across the Atlantic Ocean.

Ranking No. 1 in the FM Global Resilience Index, Norway could be a hidden gem for US businesses, especially technology companies looking to operate sustainably, test new digital solutions and gain access to top talent. Here is a deeper look at Norway’s business landscape and what makes it such fertile ground for foreign investments.

Lefdal Mine Datacenter

An attractive prospect for international expansion 

For businesses looking to expand operations into Europe, Norway offers a sweet spot of strategic merit and economic practicality, consistently ranking high in economics on the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business index. It is also friendly to foreign investment, providing efficiency and transparency in business setup processes.

While Norwegians pay higher income taxes than Americans, that money goes toward social programmes like healthcare, which employers do not need to provide directly to employees. The corporate tax rate is 22 per cent. Payroll taxes, meanwhile, cover employers’ national insurance contribution and can range from 0 per cent to 14.1 per cent. In some rural parts of Norway, businesses may not have to pay any payroll taxes.

Though not part of the EU, Norway participates in the European Economic Area (EEA), which means that the nation follows and implements EU legislation such as the GDPR and is part of the single market. This combination of cooperation and independence enables Norway to take part in projects such as Horizon Europe, the EU’s research and innovation programme, despite not being an official member state. 

Norway’s size often fools outside investors into thinking that Norway has only a small market to offer. However, success in Norway can provide access to European consumers who view it as a place with high standards of quality. Tech companies can test their latest works within a population full of early adopters and tech-savvy consumers. Tesla, for example, gained significant early ground in Norway. Thanks to the supportive test market, incentives and regulations, more than half of Norway’s car sales are EVs.

Norway is a global hub for competencies, customers, researchers and investors in the ocean, health, sustainability and energy sectors. Businesses can look beyond US borders for a chance to grow and access innovation and talent in these sectors.

Beyonder

Crash course on Norwegian expansion

While the country offers a host of advantages, that does not mean expansion is easy. Though not as large as the US, Norway is a geographically large country in comparison to most others in Europe. Norwegians are generally not as mobile as US workers — if they can help it. Norway may also be seen as a more introverted culture in comparison with that of the US, and this may take some getting used to for US-based businesses.

Before running to find riches in Norway, keep these practical tips in mind:

  • Adapt, do not invade. Work with the existing local business culture by employing local staff to complement experienced members of the company. Your entity should feel like a natural extension of Norway’s culture and your own.

  • Give employees a voice. Workers in Norway are used to being treated as respected members of their organisations. Leverage their knowledge and experience to your benefit by making it easy for employees at all levels to contribute.

  • Invest in local business relationships. Every savvy business leader knows the importance of relationships. Earn the trust of workers and communities by forging partnerships with local entities. Trust can be between companies and not only individuals, so leveraging an international brand is an opportunity for companies. Collaborating and engaging in business clusters have proved very valuable for financial growth and innovation. 

  • Familiarise yourself with resources. Leverage support systems, such as Innovation Norway, Horizon Europe, R&D schemes and others, to discover funding for new projects and regional expansion.

  • Consider running a pilot programme. Norway offers advantages for new tech businesses and ventures. Whether you are just starting out or considering a new product, take advantage of Norway’s tech-savvy population, high purchasing power and established test centres to grow your vision.

  • Look to the common good. As a global leader in sustainability, resource efficiency and worker happiness, Norway provides opportunities for businesses to appeal to potential workers. Promote the country’s advantages as your own to attract the best talent.

Expanding internationally poses significant challenges to even the smartest businesses. However, when making the choice of where to go next, keep in mind that Norway could be the gem among opportunities and is up for grabs for businesses.

This article was written by Gro Eirin Dyrnes, Regional Director of the Americas, Innovation Norway, and member of the Forbes Business Council. Originally published on Forbes.com on 9 July 2020.

Gro Eirin Dyrnes
Regional Director of the Americas, Innovation Norway