GLOBAL BY DESIGN
WORLD BEATING DANES: Over 500 of Denmark’s 10,000 exporting companies are world leaders in their field. No other country boasts a higher proportion. Waldemar Schmidt and his team want to tell that story to the world
The fact box on Denmark tells its own story: A relatively small country in the large globalised world, with just two companies on the Forbes 200 list. Its largest conglomerate, A.P.Møller-Mærsk, only ranks 145th among the world’s biggest corporations.
Nonetheless, of Denmark’s more than 10,000 registered exporting companies, over 500 are world leaders in their field. No other country boasts a higher proportion. They are highly specialised companies, which have found the niche in which to excel. And the way they have found it is through innovation, quality, design and hard work.
Facts about Denmark
- European country lying north of Germany.
- Land area: 43,069 km2 comprising the Jutland peninsula and 406 islands.
- Population: 5.4 million.
- Capital city: Copenhagen.
- Monarchy with parliamentary democracy.
- Currency: Krone. DKK 7.45 = EUR 1
- GDP per capita in 2005: USD 32,545
This comes as no surprise to Waldemar Schmidt, chairman of Superfos A/S, Thrane&Thrane A/S and former CEO of ISS, the world’s largest service organisation. He is one of Denmark’s most international business leaders with board positions in a large number of European companies. In 2006 he published a book, which will blow away the myth about Denmark as an old fashioned agricultural country, and instead present the reality of Denmark as an advanced industrial nation with a highly developed knowledge society.
“The book, Denmark Limited – Global by Design, which I have produced in collaboration with a number of organisations and individuals including the Irish journalist Clare MacCarthy, who lives and works in Denmark, is really the result of pent-up irritation and frustration,” says Waldemar Schmidt. “Whenever I spoke to foreign friends and business acquaintances, I heard the myth about Denmark constantly repeated: about cows grazing in meadows, picturesque farms producing butter and bacon and so on. Yes Denmark is like that, but it is also among the world’s most competitive industrial nations. The way we have organised our society has also helped foster some of the world’s best companies.”
When Waldemar Schmidt questions those he knows more closely, they are in fact aware that Denmark is also known for its extensive social welfare provision, high taxes and strong unions. They also know LEGO and drink a Carlsberg from time to time. And yes, Bang & Olufsen is amazingly designed. But that’s about it.
“Things are going well in Denmark these days, but not well enough,” says Schmidt. “Globalisation is just the beginning and no one knows where it will end. So we constantly have to develop and make ourselves known in the world. It’s one thing to perform well on export markets, but it’s another to get the message across that Denmark is an outstandingly competitive country for foreign companies to invest in, and establish subsidiaries and production. And not least, it’s a challenge to attract foreign experts and capable staff to Danish companies.”
The Danish mindset
Waldemar Schmidt points out that Den-mark has become a rich and highly developed country despite its relatively small size, lack of raw materials and a less than temperate climate.
“Ever since Viking times Danes have looked beyond the country’s borders. Natural resources are too limited to create prosperity, so human resources are the driving force. And education fuels the motor – with knowledge, creativity, independence and capability. This is what I call the Danish mindset. It has created a Danish workforce with a unique blend of practicality, imagination, willingness to cooperate and an ability to act autonomously in many situations.”
Ideas and knowledge
According to Waldemar Schmidt, the Danish Mindset is the fundamental reason for Denmark’s success on the world market. All successful Danish companies are founded on strong ideas and a rich store of knowledge: wind turbines, which account for half the world’s wind power; satellite telephone systems; hearing aids; food ingredients; medico equipment and environmental management products. And many more.
“I must admit I was surprised to learn, while working on the book, that it is a Danish firm which manufactures the enzyme that makes sausages produce that special sound when you bite into them. And that all sausage manufacturers in the world which want this sound get the enzyme from this company.” “Or take Larsen Strings, the Rolls Royce among suppliers for cellos and other stringed instruments,” says Waldemar Schmidt. “Although much pricier than other brands, there are plenty of professional musicians who would not dream of using anything else.”
Spreading the seed
“It is these and many other stories about Danish company icons which I and my many highly qualified staff want to communicate with “Denmark Limited – Global by Design”. To light a beacon for corporate Denmark, which has so much to offer the world. One of the contributors to the book is mathematics Professor John Donaldson, father to Denmark’s future queen. He once said that the ravaging Viking hordes have left their genetic mark everywhere. Today the same thing happens, however with rather more finesse. The world’s largest sperm bank is Danish, and it is exporting to the whole world.”
|Stories of world leaders |
“Denmark Limited – Global by Design” is written by Waldemar Schmidt and Financial Times journalist Clare MacCarthy. Many organisations and prominent Danish business people have also contributed. The book contains case stories featuring 80 Danish companies in health technology, food, IT and telecommunication, engineering and construction, shipping and design. All the companies have a unique story to tell of how they became world leaders in their fields. The book is written in English.
This page forms part of the publication 'FOCUS Denmark' as chapter 3 of 23
Version 1. 22-05-2007
Publication may be found at the address http://www.netpublikationer.dk/um/7889/index.htm