‘AndersenB2B.com’ is a relatively new platform to which SMEs from the Nordics and other regions are invited to partake in new business generation. This opportunity also represents a new take on internationalisation, aiming at being a real game changer disrupting the status quo for international SME business opportunities. SMEs interested in more export on more markets, especially in a Nordic-Asian context, read on!
The concept and new thinking about business internationalisation, to which Andersen Consult CEO Lars Siggaard Andersen has put his name, is based on decades of experience in assisting mainly Danish SMEs in reaching global business opportunities, mainly on emerging markets such as Southeast Asia. Andersen Consult therefore knows the ins and outs of internationalisation challenges for small and medium-sized businesses, the group that forms the absolute majority of all businesses in most countries, and yet has so little share of own export.
“In the Danish example, we have around 300 000 active companies, of which 85 per cent have maximum 9 employees on average. That means a lot of smaller companies and the 85 per cent contribute 40 per cent of the total taxes to the Danish economy, so they are a very important factor,” says Lars.
And yet, only eight per cent of Danish companies export directly. He describes this as a “significant message to both the public and the private sectors. Companies mature their competences at speed of light when exporting; this is good for the company and their country. In my country, 8% of the active companies were exporters in year 2000. This figure has not changed much till today. The amount of exported goods and services has grown considerably, but not the number of companies exporting. This must change”.
According to Lars there is a huge untapped potential in the group of companies supplying fully or semi-finished products to exporters. They should be strongly encouraged to export. Traditional methods are not providing the expected results. New ideas are required.
Enter andersenB2B.com, as a different take and with a solution to the challenges; one that eliminates everything that is today unnecessarily complex and costly. This also includes re-defining Lars’ own role, the business consultant’s, when it comes to helping companies with new business opportunities.
“Private sector must help private sector. Let’s take a step back from all the investigative and competence-building exercises”, says Lars. “Talk to your peers already in the market before calling the consultant for advice, market studies, etc. Talk to companies based on the market, meet those people and discuss about your product or service’s options on the market. Communicate. Your peers provide a straight reply – as unbiased as it gets. This was the starting point of our platform; active networking in Denmark and abroad to grow your business by communicating with people knowing the market and, perhaps, needing to know about your solutions. We are today 185+ Danish companies and we reach 1,500 foreign firms every week when exposing our members to those companies.”
He brings some really strong messages to all the businesses out there: “People might think it’s complicated for their company to go international. Quite the contrary, it is exciting and challenging and, as always, lots of hard work. If we stay at home thinking how complicated it is, it becomes a mental barrier whereas, in reality, it is just lost business opportunities. If we strengthen communication, we break down barriers immediately. This is a given. The consultants and experts will meet a different company much better prepared. In turn, consultants get involved at a higher value level. Everyone’s a winner”.
“Our trademark is about bringing companies together, this is our task. As a member on our platform, you have a crystal clear company and personal identity on the member index. We use this information to match companies with each other based on the member’s wish list. This could be looking for clients, suppliers or people with knowledge about markets. Or very specific issues such as how to identify the right staff on a strategic market, import challenges, permissions, etc.”
Reversed marketing and networking
“Recently we were approached by a Thai firm wanting to find out if he could sell his products in Scandinavia. What a success! The consultant in me wanted to reply, but instead we immediately passed on the request to relevant members on the platform and received 52 helpful advices to be passed on to our new contact in Thailand. This was made possible by approaching the Nordic chambers there, to get to know about their members – both Nordic and local. This is in a nutshell our mission; eliminating export barriers and accepting the fact that we are all in the same boat. We have to make business much more accessible. This is in my opinion an enormously important step to take,” Lars continues.
“If we put people and companies into our idea of a network, where andersenb2b.com actively search for solutions for, and on behalf of, our members, we not only reach our immediate members, but also our members’ own individual network. Now we are really reaching out. This is why a personal involvement in all things digital is important, we think.”
“The B2B platform is organised such that regardless of level of membership, a company has a full presentation. Everyone can find you there and access is direct and uncomplicated. We send out a weekly newsletter based on the members’ stories, we organise network meetings and we bind companies together in practice. We have a very high success rate of setting up meetings. During network meetings, we enforce speed dating between all participants following a specified process of presenting your business, your reason for being on board and what you are looking for to achieve.
So far they have secured orders for members on all meetings. Joining the platform is free.
“What we are saying is this: instead of sending staff to all sorts of places or hiring external assistance immediately to work out the markets for you, we encourage our members to find their own business partners or initial contacts. If they need consultants and advisory services it will be because of already being engaged in communication, already thinking about establishing cooperation. That advisory service will be so much more precise. Altogether this is a new way for Andersen Consult to do consultancies. We are going against mainstream by providing opportunities completely free of charge like the identification of other SMEs. If we are needed at any level, the members will contact us.”
Eliminating the barriers
Lars explains the thinking further and how he has come to his conclusions: “In 2015 we decided that the time was right to reinvent the consultancy industry – at least the part about bringing the SME companies out to new markets.”
“What we have to do is to make life easy for the SME. And how can we do that in our small part of the whole thing? By eliminating the barriers as much as possible. The SME has to realise their opportunities from other likeminded people in the Nordics and outside.”
In for instance Southeast Asia, as a key target region, Lars is seeing many possibilities. “We have a tremendous export opportunity from Scandinavia to Asia because of the growth situation, where the communities are lacking efficient solutions to economies in immense growth. We should come in and support their industry and societal build-up. In exchange, we have to look at what they are producing; we need those items for our own continued development. It goes both ways. As an example, members from our platform have set up a complete value chain in Bangladesh in seafood processing, including sales and export training. The project successfully resulted in Nordic technology export to that country from several member companies. In turn, we are now buying the processing plants end product. This is a tremendous success”.
“In another case, we had a large Danish seafood processor wanting to get into Thailand with a high end fish-on-tube product line. Via the network, the entry to the market was quickly established including securing the right local meetings. The company has established a continued presence on exactly the market they were looking for. And without the need of external support to determine the market – solely based on contacts and communication via the B2B platform.”
“We have to make Danish, Swedish, Finnish and Norwegian companies talk directly with the companies in Asia, and vice versa. This is reachable and we are doing it!”
“I was recently in Cambodia to introduce the platform to Nordcham and was approached by a local firm. The company owner, to my surprise, was not interested in the Nordic countries, but wanted us to help him approach companies in the Philippines so that he could discuss with people on that market, how to approach it. It was a brilliant experience for me. Keep it simple, it works. Use the digitalisation as much as possible, but do it with a personal touch.”
“Every company has the same mission; we have to make a profit. And, most of us have to do it with other SMEs, so the reason for joining the platform where we make it happen is obvious. But in order to do that, in a bigger way, we have to reach out, communicate and identify the Scandinavian companies with the right mind set, the wish to be part of a new way of doing research and, subsequently, take action”.
This also constitutes the hands-on approach to the development of profitable business opportunities on target markets that Andersen Consult have been doing since 2002. But now the time has come for companies to play a larger role themselves, including the sharing of information, as is the norm in the start-up community via the network meetings or being each other’s best ambassadors out there on the export markets.
“It’s about enabling our SME colleagues to search for and act on information when this information comes from your own well-meaning community,” says Lars.
“Are we seeing competition on the markets when we get here and, also on the platform? Of course we are. We need competition to stay in front. We cannot mature businesses from being complacent. Let’s move on and face the challenges; our home base will be greatly strengthened by it. And, by the way, in Thailand we have about 65 million people. In Denmark we are 6, so what is there not to like about the challenges?”
Now AndersenB2B.com is aiming at expanding to the whole of the Nordics, and various international regions too, where Lars and in his team are approaching companies one by one. The international part of their project was initiated in joint cooperation with Nordcham Philippines.
“We have seen a good deal of communication between especially Danish and Philippine entrepreneurs and we will continue this approach where we are setting up now and elsewhere. This approach included Asia, and Eastern Europe is now under development.”
“It’s very important for us that we now see Swedish, Finnish, Norwegian and Icelandic companies joining our platform because they have a kind of familiarity and are already working together. So it makes sense to bring those companies and minds together, and work with them when looking out. A Danish company might just want to go to Norway, but who to talk to? It might be as complicated in the mind-set of the SME to go to Norway as to Thailand.”
“Private sector has to work with private sector. Everyone speaks the same language. Our mission is to strengthen the access to new clients, markets and information. If you can recognise this requirement, we are relevant for you!” ends Lars.