15 724 800 seconds later…
Long time no seen! Or 182 days to be exact, since my last post!
I must be honest and admit that the frequency of my posts hasn’t been the greatest lately. Last time I wrote, I was in Stockholm during the trainee homecoming week and in preparation for my departure to my second rotation and placement in The Hague and our office covering the Benelux region. Right now, as I’m writing this post, I’m awaiting to board my flight for a new destination and my next placement. Not surprisingly, a lot has happened during the past six months (exemplified by my digital absence in the blog), so embrace yourself for a blog post á “version extreme” this time.
I thought it could be a good start to thoroughly list and describe exactly what my projects and tasks here in The Hague have been like. This should hopefully give you a proper example of how a normal trainee rotation period at Business Sweden can look like. To begin with, one of the most common questions about Business Sweden’s Talent Accelerator that I have received during the past year regards how much we work and how the hours are like. I would say that like in any other consultancy firm our hours depend a lot on the projects going on for the moment. However, on average I have probably worked 40 – 50 hours per week (with the upper edge being the exception rather than the rule). Approximately 85 % of my total working hours have been spent on projects for external clients, and in total I have been involved in the delivery of 12 different external projects, as well as numerous sales dialogues and internal projects. Below follows a quick and dirty categorization and explanation about these projects.
Local market support and business development
Two of my external projects have been centered around what can be described as local market support and business development. This type of projects is characterized by us supporting Swedish companies that often (but not always) already are active in a country or region with hands-on support to enhance their local performance and propel their international revenue in the long-term. One of the companies I worked with here is a tech company in its scale-up-phase providing an innovative sports app that encourages kids and adolescents to be more active. The company has just launched its app in the Netherlands and it will of course be exciting to follow its journey here. The other company I worked with in this type of business development support is a tech start-up providing a new and transformative solution for international logistics management. More concretely, our support to this company consisted of arranging a meeting with key stakeholders at one of the Benelux region’s most prominent post and logistics companies.
Market checks and partner searches
The next category of projects that I have been working on are what we call “market checks” and “partner searches”. In this type of projects, we support Swedish companies that are interested in a new market or region to get a better understanding of potential, as well as a well-though through market entry strategy if the market is deemed relevant to pursue. These projects often include a local visiting trip arranged by us, where we meet with local stakeholders such as potential distributors and partners. I was involved in four different projects of this type during my stay here in The Hague. The first company I worked with is a Swedish market leader within animal care looking to expand into Belgium. The second company is medium sized med-tech company that was looking for a local event-partner in The Netherlands. The third company is a Swedish SME developing innovative consumer electronics looking to expand into Belgium, The Netherlands and the UK. Finally, the fourth and last company I worked with in this type of project is active within the Swedish mining industry and it wanted to gain a better understanding of the competitive landscape in the Netherlands as well as to get in contact with new customer accounts in the country.
The next category of projects can roughly be phrased as business promotion projects that we manage for the purpose of giving Swedish companies a forum to promote their solutions and services to foreign stakeholders. The first project here was aimed at arranging a healthcare oriented executive seminar at the Swedish Residence in The Hague. The second project consisted of arranging the Swedish pavilion at PLMA 2018 in Amsterdam, one of (if not THE) largest global business summits for the private label industry. This was an extremely impressive event, gathering over 2600 companies from all over the world, all of them determined to promote and exemplify their products and solutions.
Business Support Office
The fourth and last category of projects for external clients that I have been involved in relates to what we call our “business support office”-services. This type of services is aimed at facilitating Swedish companies’ entry and operation in a country or region by for example supporting them with company registration, local payroll, domicile registration and office space. This is a very useful and popular service that we provide to Swedish companies all over the world, and that truly enables them to grow their international revenue.
As mentioned briefly above, besides all of these external projects I have also been given the possibility to engage in sales activities such as generating leads, meeting with potential customers and scoping & creating proposals. I found this type of sales activities exciting since they constitute the backbone and lifeline of Business Sweden, and there is nothing more rewarding than being involved in the entire sales and project life cycle for a company, e.g from initial sales lead/contact until final project delivery a couple of months later. Furthermore, myself and all of my colleagues in The Hague also got the opportunity to go to Berlin and meet all our colleagues from the Central and West European Hub, for two days of education and team-building activities.
Finally, the last thing I’ve been doing during these six months is my Global Collaboration Assignment together with Anna, the current trainee in Beijing. We’ve been tasked by Marie Trogstam, Business Sweden’s Manager for International Sustainable Business, to prove and build the Business Case for Corporate Sustainability, i.e. to clarify the relationship between corporate sustainability efforts and profitability. Exciting to say the least!
Given all of these projects and experiences that I have gotten the opportunity to go through here in The Hague I thought it could be good to share with you my three main learnings & reflections after my second rotation at Business Sweden:
- Business Sweden is an excellent partner for Swedish companies wanting to internationalize! After having spent approximately six months in Casablanca and six months in The Hague I can truly conclude that the work we do have a large impact on the success of Swedish companies abroad. The interesting aspect of this is that the way which we do this varies depending on where in world we are. My personal experience is for example how my colleagues in Casablanca does an excellent work helping mostly larger and more experienced Swedish companies to enter and position themselves in the more tricky and complex markets of North and West Africa, while my colleagues in The Hague devote all their efforts in facilitating partly smaller SMEs in their first internationalization steps to enter the relatively more appropriate markets in the Benelux region, but also larger companies with a long-withstanding local presence already to solve problems and innovate their business models.
- The Hague – A very nice and convenient city to live in! After having lived in the Hague for six months I think it’s deserves a reflection of how it is to live and work here as an expat. When I arrived in February, I must admit that the stereotypical Dutch wind and rain scared me a bit, but before I knew it, spring and summer arrived and with that also wonderful (but still windy) weather. City-wise, The Hague is a very green and beautiful city with two main highlights; firstly, it’s relaxed city center with cool Dutch architecture and small canals; and secondly its impressive sand beach (Europe’s longest beach of sand!) and its surrounding dunes and wildlife. Truly perfect for persons liking to bike, run, surf or other outdoor activity that rocks your boat. The convenience-aspect of The Hague is worth mentioning as well, bearing in mind that it’s a typical expat city where everything works without too much of a hassle as well as practically all Dutch coping with a decent level of English. Having the city built to facilitate riding your bike everywhere doesn’t make the judgement any worse. Coming to The Hague as a foreigner has therefore been very easy and fun!
- The Business Sweden Family Finally, with three Business Sweden offices experienced for myself now, one of the most striking conclusions I can draw after a year with the company is its extremely hard-working, inspiring and friendly people. All my colleagues I have met or had the opportunity to work with in Casablanca, the Hague and Stockholm (as well as in cross-border projects) have truly made me feel welcome and proud to work for Business Sweden. The seniority doesn’t really matter because everyone (ranging from newly-hired all the way to trade commissioners and the management group) shares the same openness, values and mentality, allowing us to unite as one global Business Sweden family. Truly wonderful and actually the reason why I look forward to every new workday!
Tomorrow I’m starting my next chapter at Business Sweden. I’m back in the Middle East & Africa where it all started. But this time, I have changed the old and traditional medina of Casablanca to the new and constantly changing skyline of Dubai. Here I will be part of our team covering all countries in the Middle East; for example (but not excluding to) UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Oman and Bahrain. I guess my French won’t come in as handy this time, but that I rather need to kick-start my Arabic asap. So, you know which alphabet you need to learn for my next post. Inshallah!
Take care and until next time!