The best guide for a successful relocation
Starting a business
Norway is an egalitarian society with flat hierarchies and power structures that do not keep management and employees estranged. Norwegians often work across hierarchies rather than through the line. The leadership style is informal, and is based on employee freedom with responsibility.
The World Bank ranks Norway in 8th place (out of 183 countries) for Ease of Doing Business, testament to its advanced economy and transparent business practices.
Important industries in Norway include oil and gas, fish farming, industrial fishing, mineral processing, hydroelectric power, shipping and ship building.
Key to successfully doing business in Norway is understanding the concept of egalitarianism, a belief in the inherent equality of people. In this Scandinavian nation, everybody feels like they can interact directly with everybody, and in line with this principle, Norwegians tend to establish direct contact with the person who can get things moving, rather than doing everything through the line.
Egalitarianism also means that an excessive display of wealth is likely to be considered inappropriate and in bad taste.
The hierarchy is often quite flat, and decision making models are based on consensus and compromise. Decisions may take a long time due to this, as many opinions need to be taken into account. Even after a formal decision has been made, there may be some lobbying by certain individuals who’d like to make a final effort to change the decision. Expats are expected to participate in the discussions, and need to bear in mind that decision making may be a slow process in Norway.
Norwegians are generally unafraid of disagreeing with a superior – again, a likely consequence of the egalitarian society, in combination with strong job protection and an extensive social welfare system.
Most Norwegians use first names in a business setting, after the first introduction. Males and females shake hands as equals, and in no particular order, but on a daily basis they just say “Hi” or “Good morning”, without shaking hands.
Business conduct in Norway tends to be relaxed and informal, and sometimes a bit unstructured. Meetings may lack a formal agenda, and smaller decisions may even be made by the coffee machine. Coffee breaks are regular, and socialising and having fun at work is encouraged, as it is believed that cheerful employees will be more productive.
That said, Norwegians draw a line between business and private life, and will seldom ask private questions.
Norwegian management style is based on freedom with responsibility; a leader is more likely to delegate tasks to be solved than to give detailed orders. The leader will not follow up closely, and will usually give the subordinate freedom to figure out how and when to solve the task, as long as it is completed within the deadline. Norwegian employees are accustomed to this freedom, and understand that it also demands an inherent sense of responsibility.
Meetings in Norway will start on time, and will usually address points of business quickly, with only a few minutes of cursory small talk beforehand, which is typically done before everybody is in place. Meetings are usually conducted in an informal way, and often without any note-taking or minute-keeping. Norwegians tend to be a bit undisciplined when it comes to writing specifications and documentation.
Dress code varies greatly, and is determined largely by industry. The banking, finance and sales sectors’ attire will be more formal (suit or jacket and trousers), and technical staff will have a more casual dress code (jeans). Personal hygiene (clean body and clothes) is more important than wearing formal clothes.
Norwegians have a strong work/leisure time balance, and most people leave the office at 4 pm.
Finally, it should be noted that Norway is one of the least corrupt countries in the world. Most companies have a policy restricting their employees from receiving gifts. If you want to give a business connection a gift, it is better to invite them out for dinner instead.
Where to start?
On the surface it seems uncomplicated to start your own business in Norway. Registration is achieved by submitting a single form to the authorities. However, there are a number of rules and regulations that affect both the starting up and the running your business, and it is the responsibility of the founder to know all aspects relevant to your business.
All aspects of the legislation and the corresponding regulations are not easily accessed, particularly since a great part of the relevant material is available in Norwegian only.
Bedin Company Information is a useful site with detailed information in English. The purpose of the Bedin Internet service is to simplify the process of establishing and running business enterprises in Norway. The site is operated on behalf of the Norwegian Ministry of Trade and Industry. You can order "Etablererpakken" with all the information you need to start a business in Norway.
Sources: velkommenoslo.no, expatarrivals.com
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