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SCCJ Swedish Chamber of Commerce and Industry

Team Sweden in Japan

Wednesday, 08 June 2016 00:00

 

It’s not cooperating that is new.

The five offices within the Swedish Embassy: the Embassy itself, Business Sweden (i.e. the Commercial Office), Growth Analysis (i.e. Science & Innovation Office), the Swedish Chamber of Commerce (SCCJ), and the Sweden Tourism and Culture Center (STCC) have always worked together – but in an ad hoc manner. What’s new is to jointly, proactively, and systematically look for opportunities, rather than wait for them… and to give this approach a name: Team Sweden. (English/日本語)

 

Carl Bennet shares secrets to success at business luncheon

 

Speaking at a business luncheon on February 15, 2016, renowned industrialist Carl Bennet shared his insights on building leading companies. With a large group consisting of several listed companies with combined sales of a little under 4 billion euros and around 22,000 employees, Mr. Bennet was certainly one worth taking lessons in business leadership and success from.

 

Regarding the growth of the medical technology firm Getinge AB, his best-known company, Mr. Bennet noted that it was a very small, unprofitable company when it caught his eye in 1989, but he saw potential in its products. The lesson to be learned? “If you have a good product or service but bad management, that’s perfect, because you can turn things around quickly, whereas the other way around can take a while to grow,” he says, while adding light-heartedly, “Of course, stay away from a company with bad products and bad management.”

 

So what makes Getinge a world leader today? According to Mr. Bennet, “Healthcare is an organically growing business and a high-priority sector around the world. It’s fantastic to be in this industry, because it’s inspiring to know that you’re saving lives and doing good in the world every day. We’re innovative, and that’s also thanks to our access to qualified markets and research centers. We also collaborate with academia as a way to develop our knowledge bases, and we have a well-educated, committed workforce.”

 

For Mr. Bennet, Getinge is the perfect example of the importance of being in a niche market, something that he has always emphasized. He says that success doesn’t necessarily come from entering large markets; on the contrary, success and profitability can be found by striving to be the best or second-best in niche markets. “In such cases, only the top two earn money; the rest have a tough time,” he explains.

 

But Getinge isn’t Mr. Bennet’s only success story. His other companies, Elanders AB and Lifco AB, are also doing well in their own right, and he has a diversified portfolio of companies, thanks to his many acquisitions. They all share common factors contributing to their good performance: competitiveness, a drive to provide quality products and services, an orientation towards good customer service, continuous profit-oriented improvement, and a long-term perspective.

 

Mr. Bennet thus advised SCCJ members, “As much as possible, decentralize. Delegate responsibilities to everyone so that they will all feel that they’re clearly contributing to the company. You will gain much more than you think in the process. At the same time, long-term commitment is possible in my companies because I have majority control. Stable ownership is crucial, in my opinion, and yet it is a weak point for many companies in Sweden.”

 

After his talk, Mr. Bennet took some questions from the audience. For instance, regarding his acquisitions, he said that small acquisitions can take as much time as major ones, and that ideas for acquisition should come from within the company rather than outside advisers. Despite his ability to turn Getinge around, he cautioned, “It’s better to buy an already-good business; be careful about buying a loss-making business to transform it.”

 

Mr. Bennet also emphasized, “We must strengthen our education, research, and infrastructure; thus, we must think long-term and invest in those areas. We must also nurture a cultural environment that attracts young people.”

 

Lastly, asked about his experience doing business in Japan, Mr. Bennet answered,  “Getinge has around 300 employees in Japan, our fifth biggest market. To succeed here, you cannot bring just more of the same. But if you have a unique and/or technically superior product, there’s no reason for you not to do well in Japan. But Japan is demanding; it requires more from a Swedish company. You have to be willing to invest, and to take a long-term perspective—even a decade long. Otherwise, you might as well stay away. It’s a continuous learning process – you take a step, learn, then take another step.“

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