Eight ye­ars ago, Amc­ham Fin­land es­tab­lish a prog­ram to bet­ter sup­port Fin­nish com­pa­nies en­ter the U.S. mar­ket. At that time, the idea of suc­ces­s­ful­ly doing bu­si­ness in the Uni­ted Sta­tes was a dream for most exe­cu­ti­ves of the com­pa­nies we spoke to.

There was a tre­men­dous amount of tre­pi­da­ti­on as the me­mo­ries of past fai­lu­res from lar­ger more well-known com­pa­nies were still fresh in their minds. Yet, a few brave am­bi­ti­ous exe­cu­ti­ves de­ci­ded to take the leap all the way ac­ross the At­lan­tic to the Ame­ri­can mar­ket. Those brave souls be­gan pa­ving the way for do­zens of Fin­nish com­pa­nies of all si­zes and ac­ross a va­rie­ty of in­dust­ries to fol­low in their foots­teps.

We have had the pri­vi­le­ge to work with great com­pa­nies over this time and wit­ness first-hand the suc­cess they have ac­hie­ved and col­lec­ti­ve­ly have le­ar­ned what are the keys to their suc­cess. No­wa­da­ys the Ame­ri­can mar­ket is seen as more ap­p­ro­ac­hab­le by Fin­nish com­pa­nies and the op­por­tu­ni­ties there are un­li­mi­ted.

What makes the American economy unique?

Be­fo­re di­ving in­to the les­sons le­ar­ned from these suc­ces­s­ful ven­tu­res, let us first un­ders­tand what ma­kes the Ame­ri­can eco­no­my uni­que and at­t­rac­ti­ve. At the most fun­da­men­tal le­vel it is the scale and scope of the in­dust­ries that are pre­sent in the count­ry. The fact that you can re­ach mar­kets of such grand size that ope­ra­te un­der one lan­gu­a­ge, cur­ren­cy, set of laws and re­gu­la­ti­ons is high­ly at­t­rac­ti­ve to growth-orien­ted bu­si­nes­ses.

When most of us think of Ame­ri­can com­pa­nies we think of com­pa­nies like Ap­p­le, Goog­le and Bo­eing just to name a few. But it is im­por­tant to re­cog­ni­ze that 99 per­cent of bu­si­nes­ses in the U.S. are ca­te­go­ri­zed as small bu­si­nes­ses. These com­pa­nies have cre­a­ted ap­p­ro­xi­ma­te­ly 60 per­cent of the new jobs over the past two de­ca­des and emp­loy rough­ly half of Ame­ri­ca’s pri­va­te sec­tor work­for­ce (Com­mer­ce, 2021). These bu­si­nes­ses al­so ope­ra­te ac­ross all in­dust­ries and rep­re­sent a po­ten­ti­al cus­to­mer base me­a­su­red in the thou­sands for most com­pa­nies sel­ling their pro­ducts and ser­vi­ces in­to the Uni­ted Sta­tes. As we like to say, “there are ric­hes in the nic­hes!”

5 key factors that drive success

Let us now take a clo­ser look at the spe­ci­fic ac­ti­ons un­der­ta­king by these com­pa­nies who have suc­ces­s­ful­ly en­te­red the Ame­ri­can mar­kets and fo­cus on those that led to their po­si­ti­ve re­sults. In doing so, I will out­li­ne five key fac­tors that drive the suc­cess of Fin­nish com­pa­nies in the Uni­ted Sta­tes.

Full ow­ners­hip of de­ve­lo­ping the mar­ket
The most suc­ces­s­ful com­pa­nies are those that take full ow­ners­hip of de­ve­lo­ping the mar­ket. Com­pa­nies who send key exe­cu­ti­ves to the Uni­ted Sta­tes to meet and speak with their po­ten­ti­al cus­to­mers are bet­ter po­si­ti­o­ned to suc­ceed ver­sus those com­pa­nies who out­sour­ce this res­pon­si­bi­li­ty to cont­rac­tors, agents, dist­ri­bu­tors, or ot­her com­pa­ny out­si­ders.

It is im­pe­ra­ti­ve to es­tab­lish a di­a­lo­gue with the mar­ket to bet­ter un­ders­tand its needs and the com­pe­ti­ti­ve for­ces you will be fa­cing when en­te­ring. We have seen on a ma­jo­ri­ty of ca­ses that the Fin­nish com­pa­nies will ul­ti­ma­te­ly have to make some chan­ges to its stra­te­gy and/or pro­duct of­fe­ring to bet­ter ser­ve its in­ten­ded mar­ket. I these mee­tings you are al­so buil­ding re­la­ti­ons­hips with the mar­ket. As a fo­reign com­pa­ny you must un­ders­tand that the U.S. cus­to­mer may ini­ti­al­ly see risks in doing bu­si­ness with you. By being pre­sent you will even­tu­al­ly re­mo­ve that fee­ling of risk and make yo­ur U.S. cus­to­mer more com­for­tab­le in purc­ha­sing yo­ur of­fe­ring.

A lo­cal of­fi­ce
A na­tu­ral next step for these com­pa­nies has been the es­tab­lish­ment of a lo­cal of­fi­ce. Ame­ri­can cus­to­mers can be de­man­ding as it is a very cus­to­mer cent­ric mar­ket. You of­ten here in the U.S. sa­yings like, “the cus­to­mer is al­wa­ys right.” I know for many Fin­ns that is dif­fi­cult to ac­cept at ti­mes. Bey­ond that, most Ame­ri­cans ex­pect that they re­cei­ve prompt cus­to­mer ser­vi­ce when nee­ded.

The le­vel of sup­port you pro­vi­ded is of­ten a func­ti­on of the com­pe­ti­ti­on you are fa­cing and chan­ces are there be some deg­ree of com­pe­ti­ti­on. The­re­fo­re, ha­ving a lo­cal of­fi­ce that is res­pon­si­ve du­ring Ame­ri­can wor­king hours is cri­ti­cal. Emp­lo­ying lo­cals who can speak with cur­rent and pros­pec­ti­ve cus­to­mers is al­so ext­re­me­ly im­por­tant. The first two emp­lo­yees of a suc­ces­s­ful Fin­nish com­pa­ny in the U.S. con­sists of a key exe­cu­ti­ve from the Fin­nish pa­rent, pre­su­mab­ly the one who con­duc­ted the ini­ti­al cus­to­mer mee­tings and the se­cond emp­lo­yee being an ex­pe­rien­ced bu­si­ness de­ve­lop­ment pro­fes­si­o­nal from the U.S.

The va­lu­es of the pa­rent com­pa­ny
Why is it im­por­tant to have a key exe­cu­ti­ve from the Fin­nish com­pa­ny es­tab­lis­hing the U.S. ope­ra­ti­ons I am of­ten as­ked? In ad­di­ti­on to the ob­vi­ous re­a­sons from de­ci­si­on ma­king ca­pa­ci­ty to ea­se of com­mu­ni­ca­ti­ons with the he­ad­qu­ar­ters, I be­lie­ve that it is im­por­tant to en­su­re that the va­lu­es of the pa­rent com­pa­ny are es­tab­lis­hed at the U.S. sub­si­di­a­ry com­pa­ny from the very be­gin­ning.

Cur­rent­ly, the U.S. la­bor mar­ket is very tight and gi­ven de­mog­rap­hic fo­re­casts it will re­main tight for many ye­ars to come. I be­lie­ve Fin­nish com­pa­nies have so­met­hing uni­que to of­fer Ame­ri­can wor­kers; the op­por­tu­ni­ty to work for a com­pa­ny with Fin­nish va­lu­es and be­ne­fits that of­fer a more he­alt­hy work life ba­lan­ce than one would get from most any Ame­ri­can com­pa­ny. Ame­ri­cans are inc­re­a­sing­ly pla­cing a hig­her va­lue on things like pa­ren­tal time off work than sa­la­ry for examp­le. Fin­nish com­pa­nies can more ea­si­ly imp­le­ment and of­fer these be­ne­fits which will help them at­t­ract high qu­a­li­ty can­di­da­tes in a tight la­bor mar­ket.

Fin­nish in­no­va­ti­ons
We have seen that Fin­nish in­ge­nui­ty is well re­cei­ved by the Ame­ri­can mar­ket. Ame­ri­can com­pa­nies are fa­cing unp­re­ce­den­ted la­bor shor­ta­ges and inc­re­a­sing costs of doing bu­si­ness. Nu­me­rous Fi­nish com­pa­nies pro­vi­de their U.S. cus­to­mers with tech­no­lo­gi­cal­ly dri­ven pro­ducts and ser­vi­ces that gre­at­ly inc­re­a­se ef­fi­cien­cies in their day-to-day ope­ra­ti­ons.

More im­por­tant­ly they help their cus­to­mers main­tain their com­pe­ti­ti­ve po­si­ti­ons in the mar­ket. These Fin­nish com­pa­nies are be­ne­fit­ting from the mega trends of ecom­mer­ce growth and the ons­ho­ring of ma­nu­fac­tu­ring and in­dust­ri­al pro­ces­ses. We still see many op­por­tu­ni­ties for Fin­nish com­pa­nies ac­ross a wide ran­ge of in­dust­ries.

In­vest in re­la­ti­ons­hips
Fin­nish in­no­va­ti­on of­ten opens the door to op­por­tu­ni­ties in the U.S., but at the end of the day it’s the pe­op­le in­vol­ved who fi­na­li­ze the de­als and con­sum­ma­te the re­la­ti­ons­hips. It is for these re­a­sons that Fin­nish com­pa­nies have ex­ce­led in the Uni­ted Sta­tes. Fin­nish com­pa­nies have a won­der­ful re­pu­ta­ti­on of fair­ness, ho­nes­ty, and re­li­a­bi­li­ty in de­a­ling with their U.S. cus­to­mers and part­ners.

So it should be of no surp­ri­se that ac­cor­ding to Amc­ham Fin­land’s 2022 Tran­sat­lan­tic Eco­no­my Re­port, the U.S. mar­ket is now the se­cond lar­gest for Fin­nish goods and ser­vi­ces and the fas­test gro­wing mar­ket as well. We are still in the ear­ly sta­ges of Fin­nish suc­cess in the Uni­ted Sta­tes. There are still nu­me­rous tech­no­lo­gies being born in Fin­land by smart and am­bi­ti­ous te­ams and they will so­me­day find a home in the U.S.

Mike Klys­zei­ko is a Si­li­con Val­ley na­ti­ve with prior work ex­pe­rien­ce in tech­no­lo­gy and fi­nan­ce be­fo­re mo­ving to Fin­land. He is the foun­der of Amc­ham Fin­land’s Launch­pad USA prog­ram which has as­sis­ted over 100 Fin­nish and ot­her EU ba­sed com­pa­nies en­te­ring the U.S. mar­ket sin­ce its in­cep­ti­on in 2014. Mike is ba­sed in Hel­sin­ki with his Fin­nish wife and yo­ung son.