The thought of entering the American market is a dream that many Swedish businesses share. However, making the transition can be a complicated undertaking.
On August 20, in the offices of EY (Ernst & Young) in Stockhholm, AmCham Sweden members and other ambitious entrepreneurs heard from business professionals who have successfully made the journey, which included anecdotes of some of the challenges they encountered along the way.“New York For Dummies”, presented by the Swedish American Chamber of Commerce, New York (SACC NY) and the Entrepreneurs Club provided a forum for sharing advice that could prove invaluable for businesses seeking to establish a presence in the U.S.
Pia Gideon, Partner at GAIA Leadership and Program Director for Swedish Gateway USA, began the presentation with her insights from working in leadership roles over the past 20 years. Among six takeaways that Pia provided were the importance of networking, as well as respect for the legal system that businesses must adhere to when entering a new market.
Pia’s comments were supported by Richa Naujoks, a corporate lawyer at Nixon Peabody LLP in New York. Richa detailed issues that all businesses must handle, including liability, tax issues, raising capital and protecting intellectual property. In addition, the importance of compliance with immigration laws was a compelling topic for members of the audience, as well as business professionals on the discussion panel. But beyond the mandatory requirements that were presented, the personal experiences and perceptions from a panel of business professionals who had taken their own bite out of “The Big Apple” were the main highlights of the event.
The panel was moderated by Fredrik Oscarson, CEO of Mobiento USA and Head of Mobile for Ogilvy North America. Fredrik also pointed out differences in management styles that exist between companies in Sweden and the U.S., from finding the right talent to making sure your business stays on a good path.
“Doing business is different in the U.S. compared to Sweden,” Erik Wilkinson, Global Sales Director for Eton, explained. “The mentality of Americans is to jump in head first. If you’re going to enter the U.S. market, you have to be committed, you have to be prepared to really go for it.” Peter Grauers, an independent consultant and advisor who previously spent 30 years with H&M Hennes & Mauritz AB, agreed. “All of the energy around the individual is a very good quality that Americans have. And my advice for people going to the U.S. for business is to make sure you become really, really American.”
As the discussion continued, lessons learned by mistakes and previous failures also provided valuable insights into doing business in America. “The first time we tried to launch in the U.S., we stopped,” said Kristina Lindhe, Founder and CEO of the Lexington Company. After fine-tuning their market strategy, Lexington has now grown to number more than 900 retailers around the world, including 20 concept stores.
While their businesses may be different, the Lexington success story is one that Erik Estrand, Co-Founder and CFO of Virtusize, would definitely like to emulate. “The opportunity in the U.S. is so huge,” Erik remarked. “It’s not until you’re actually there that we realized we should have been there sooner.” And for many members in the audience, the idea of following their business dreams across the Atlantic Ocean probably can’t get there soon enough.