Fredrik Leek, Jan Johansson - Tillväxtbloggen

Startups part 3 – VC thinking

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What is ‘Venture Capital’ (VC)?

A venture capitalist is a person who invests in a business venture, providing capital for promising startup or young businesses that have a high potential for growth. These investors(persons or firms) seek high rates of return by (typically) investing in IT, bio-pharmaceuticals, clean technologies etc. These investments obviously come with substantial risk.

Understanding how Venture Capital Funding Business Models work might help start ups better secure needed funding.

First of all everyone needs to understand that this is a “Numbers Game”. Horsley Bridge distributed anonymous historical data on investment returns of hundreds of VC funds they have invested in since 1985 and found “6% of investments representing 4.5% of dollars invested generated ~60% of the total returns”. Meaning that these investors are aware that a substantial number of their companies will fail, however the ones that succeed typically excel. For this model to work VC’s must find the next “rocket ship” in order continue funding the next new venture. Babe Ruth Effect in Venture Capital.

Now just because we said that these VC’s are aware that many of their investments will fail, does not mean they are going to throw money at you just for showing up. Scalability is extremely important! Depending on the individual investing profile of the VC they will require a different level of growth potential (3X, 10X, 50X+) in order for the start up to secure funding.

Every VC has their own investing profile. These profiles are typically defined based on previous experience, the amount of capital that is able to be invested, a level of risk analysis, and a number of market calculations. These evolution tools can be extremely complex and utilise AI (machine learning) to the decision making process. For a regional list of VC requirements in Swedish.

At the risk of over simplifying the entire process VC’s need to see three things in order to invest:

  1. A clear market problem
  2. Large (normally global) growth potential
  3. Have the ability to generate revenue

Building a company in Northern Sweden is a bit unique and creates both, benefits and challenges.


  • Resources (Top Management, VC’s, Incubators, Universities) are approachable
  • Sweden (in general) early adopter mentality
  • Broadband Internet Levels / Technical competencies


  • Small Local, and Regional market size in most industries
  • Distance to major centres (Stockholm)
  • Recruitment challenges, finding the right people for growth companies.

Another thing to remember is that these VC firms get pitched daily/weekly/monthly, this is their business. A small VC firm in Stockholm may evaluate 150 potential investments each year and invest in 4-7 companies. We recommend that any project looking for funding to do their homework on their VC (know their preferences and investing profile) and to be prepared to answer the tough questions. Good luck!


Image Sources:
Bolurfrushan, A. (2015).Venture Capital As The Future Of Innovation. Entrepreneur Middle East. Venture Capital. Available at: Image credit: Shutterstock

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Startups part 2 – Avoiding the common traps

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Yesterday the regional finals of Venture Cup were held. Some of the winners are from this region

And regardless of which definition you personally use to describe Startups there are common pitfalls (or traps) that new ventures can fall into. The complete list of hardships that Startups can face is essentially endless, in this blog we discuss 3.

1) Funding vs Selling
Startups that fall into this pitfall get caught in the mentality that the end goal is to obtain funding to continue building or developing their technology. Resources are internally focused (pitch training, UX, roadmaps) and these projects do not focus on actually trying to sell or talk to the market the same way traditional customer focused organisation would. This mentality can be called “Field of Dreams” thinking (from the 1980’s movie staring Kevin Costner) where “If you build it they will come” customer acquisition strategies are practiced.

Is Unicorn hype affecting the way in which we develop companies? Instagram was acquired by Facebook for 1 Billion USD with 13 Employees in 2012 . This type of exit may not be possible for most new companies.

2) Launch Plans
In many cases Startups severely underestimate the resources required after the “platform” is launched.

There are very few actual launches, most projects simply have Go-Live Dates. The resources needed to launch and to keep momentum moving forward are often underestimated or completely forgotten about. A few common underdeveloped areas that can be seen:

  • Launch Communication (how are people going to know that the platform is up and running)
  • The anticipation and time needed to troubleshoot and fix bugs.
  • Processes and channels to gather feedback from customers or users.
  • Post launch sales targets

3) Scalability
If the goal of every Startup is to scale and grow then having a scaleable business model is essential. In the simplest form, a scalable business model must have the capacity to grow sales while still being able to service or deliver. The problems that typically affect sales growth are: long sales times, limited local market, or limited brand reach. The problems typically seen on the execution side: long or resource heavy on-boarding, lack of clearly defined processes, and no clearly defined job titles.

The roadmap to startup success is challenging and constantly changing. Startups need to plan in order to receive funding and to use their limited resources most effectively while at the same time remaining flexible enough to reposition themselves as they grow and learn.

At the end of the day maybe the only way to properly classify a “real” start up is to grade how attractive the platform is to VC(Venture Capital) funding. After all, a VC(Venture Capital Firm) only invests in companies with high growth potential.

Next time we will look at how VC:s evaluate startups and why VC:s won’t invest in some fast growing companies.

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Startups del1 – Vad är en startup?

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Vi träffar 200+ företag varje år, en del stora, rätt många små och medelstora företag. Ett rätt stort antal av de vi träffar skulle troligen kalla sig själv för ett startup-företag, eller en startup. Ibland frågar vi oss själva – vad är en startup, när blir man det och när slutar ett företag att vara en startup?

De som har följt utvecklingen inom innovation, teknik, tillväxt och nya marknader under de senaste 10-15 åren har säkert märkt hur samhället har förändrats i synen på viss typ av nyföretagande. Start-up och entreprenörskulturen i Sverige har utvecklats kraftigt och många entreprenörer till teknik/IT startups har nästan hjältestatus. På 90-talet var det börs-vd:ar som hade samma typ av status.

Vi letade runt lite på Internet efter definitioner av startups. Det finns flera intressanta men olika definitioner. Här är några av våra favoriter:

  • “A startup is a company that is in the first stage of its operations. These companies are often initially bankrolled by their entrepreneurial founders as they attempt to capitalize on developing a product or service for which they believe there is a demand.” (Investopedia)
  • “Early stage in the life cycle of an enterprise where the entrepreneur moves from the idea stage to securing financing, laying down the basis structure of the business, and initiating operations or trading.” (Business Dictionary)
  • “A startup is a temporary organization used to search for a repeatable and scalable business model.”
    (Steve Blank, author of Four Steps to the Epiphany)
  • “A startup is a human institution designed to deliver a new product or service under conditions of extreme uncertainty.”
    (Eric Ries, author of The Lean Startup)

Vad är då inte en startup? Ingen skulle nog kalla en enmanskonsult eller en ny frisörsalong för en startup. Men är ett byggföretag som växer exponentiellt i flera år och öppnar upp kontor i nya städer en startup? Eller IT-företaget som är 11 år gammalt och slutar växa för tre år sen en startup. Behöver företaget ha ett pingisbord och anställa 90-talister för att vara en startup?

Vi tar gärna emot era kommentarer på vad en startup är och när företag slutar att vara startups?

Som avrundning på dagens blogg är något som de flesta nog kan vara överens om. Drömmen för många/alla startups är att bli en ”Unicorn”. Och den definitionen är enklare.

”A unicorn, in the world of business, is a company, usually a start-up that does not have an established performance record, with a stock market valuation or estimated valuation of more than $1 billion.” (CB Insights)

Fram till slutet av 2016 hade det utvecklats 7 st svenska Unicorns: Spotify, Skype, King, Klarna, Evolution Gaming, Avito. Med bolag som IZettle, Truecaller på väg åt det hållet. (GP Bullhound)

Framöver bloggar vi vidare om startups olika möjligheter och utmaningar. Kommentera gärna för att ge fler perspektiv!

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Sales vs. Marketing part 2

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This blog is a follow up to the previous post. If you haven’t read the previous blog please go back and read that one first.

The goal of both sales and marketing is to drive prospect into your sales funnel to eventually convert them into customers and ultimately returning customers. And with limited budgets most companies have to prioritise one function over the other. For example, If direct sales activities are low, marketing activities will have to drive sales. The opposite is also true, if direct sales activities are high, it is likely that marketing activities will take a backseat. The trick is finding the combination for your budget, product and organisation.

In our experience many organisations (new innovation companies as well as established growth companies) do not fully develop their marketing and sales strategy beyond simple budget allocations. The long-term result of these (non)actions is that these companies fail to reach their full growth potential.

Examples we have seen:

Company 1: A relatively young, digital software development company, with a very large number of potential customers. The product is relatively inexpensive, customer acquisition is sales (as apposed to marketing) focused. Sales in general are relatively slow, resulting in high cost-per-customer expenses. The risk is also that other, larger competitors enter the same market.

Revenues Take: Reevaluate their customer acquisition strategy to incorporate digital distribution of their platform. This if executed properly will heavily decrease the sales time needed in the future. However, for a small relatively unknown brand the marketing effort will need to be developed and will be substantial for this strategy shift to be successful.


Company 2: Complex technical consultant, high knowledge with limited total customer base. The offering is high value projects with specific expertise and limited competition. Their customer acquisition strategy is historically relationship based. To fuel growth the company together with a communication bureau developed a marketing plan based on target customer persona profile.

Revenues Take: Perhaps in this situation a more effective and cost efficient approach would have been to take that marketing budget and instead focus that time and money on person-to-person direct sales meetings.


Company 3: Industrial company focusing on government / public procurement (offentlig upphandling). A best in class product but no active sales or marketing activities. To grow, the company wants to pursue industrial companies with the same product offering.

Revenues Take: In this particular situation the company has to invest in both sales and marketing capabilities and activities. Before they can start either function they need to determine their new business model starting with comprehensive market analysis. Long term, sales will be the key activity supported by smart marketing efforts directed to key decision makers and influencers.


At the end of the day each company must find which mix works best for their particular situation. We recommend reviewing strategies and KPI’s at least every 6 months, as market conditions change rapidly.

Sources, for further reading:

App Data Room. (2014). MARKETING VS SALES: THE BATTLE FOR CUSTOMERS – INFOGRAPHIC. Available at: [Accessed 08/02/2017]

Greener, M. (2016). MARKETING VS SALES: THE BATTLE FOR CUSTOMERS – INFOGRAPHIC. App Data Room. Available at: [Accessed 30/01/2017]

Leslie, M. (2016). Leslie’s Compass: A Framework For Go-To-Market Strategy. First Round Review. Available at: [Accessed 30/01/2017]

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Sälj vs. Marknadsföring

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Såväl etablerade företag som startups har begränsade resurser. För att öka sannolikheten för att ett bolag ska växa så gäller det att använda sina resurser på bästa sätt.

Särskilt tydligt blir det för startups som står inför en lansering. Nu har bolaget en möjlighet att göra ett starkt första intryck på marknaden. Ett tillfälle som kanske inte kommer tillbaka. Det som behövs är ett enkelt beslutsstöd för hur de begränsade resurserna ska fokuseras i en lanseringsfas. Huvudfrågan är hur tar vi en produkt till marknaden?

De två krafterna vi har att använda för att lyckas med en lansering och öka intäkterna är sälj och marknadsföring. Men hur hänger de ihop och vilken är viktigast?

I nästan alla fall är det någon av de två som är viktigast för ett företag. (Vi känner inte till något företag som lägger lika mycket resurser på både sälj och marknadsföring.) Vissa tvingas lägga betydande resurser på båda, andra lägger för mycket på fel område. Budgetmedel som hade gett betydligt mer resultat i det andra området.

Är produkten sälj- eller marknadsföringsintensiv?

Även om den här avvägningen blir speciellt kritisk för en startup så gäller det att gå rätt väg även för etablerade företag, tex i en lansering av en ny produkt/tjänst eller vid expansionen till en ny marknad.

För en startup som säljer produkter för låga priser och bygger upp ett dyrt säljteam kan kapitalet ta slut för snabbt. För ett B2B-inriktat erbjudande med ett fåtal potentiella kunder med hög sannolikhet till många affärer under lång tid är personligt relationsbyggande avgörande.

Här öppnar sig också nya möjligheter. I branscher där de ledande aktörerna är investerade i ett sätt att agera kan nya uppstickare som gör tvärtom nå andra segment i marknaden.

I kommande blogpost tittar vi vidare på avvägningen sälj vs marknadsföring.

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Cowboy Selling

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Gone are the days of a simple handshake…

The blog this week is about the “shooting from the hip” (skjuta från höften) sales approach.
I’m not exactly sure how our office started calling it “Cowboy Selling” but it is a term used in North America and somewhere along the way between Swedish and English the term has stuck. Either way, I am rather content using this term because it every time I hear it I get a mental image of Clint Eastwood and John Wayne trying to do modern sale call.

It should be clarified that when we use the term “sales” in this context we are not talking about high-level revenue, or transactional selling. We are referring to process of Consultative Selling: a more complex, long-term process involving collaboration with buyers, which includes understanding the customer’s business, industry, and pain points, then craft a solution to help the customer.

For better or worse the business landscape has changed. Modern day sales are complex, the products that companies sell are technical, and professional buyers typically have ridged purchasing processes. To complicate matters even more a typical sales process can easily involve 5-15 steps with multiple different individuals and decision makers. Trying to navigate your way through the minefield of the sales process is challenging to say the least.

It is well documented that adding structure to the selling process increases sales and decreases the on-boarding time of new sales employees.

Ever so often we come across sales people that are so tremendously good that they tend to succeed despite having little-to-no structure. These Cowboys can go out for dinner with their family and come home with 2 – 3 new business cards. In order to do this the individual must have a combination of personality and knowledge that is extremely rare, from our experience. If this person is also the Founder or CEO then they know their business so well that they can talk about it with ease.

The problem does not lie in the Cowboy’s ability to sell, the problem surfaces when the organisation starts to grow and hire additional sales personnel.

The growth journey traditionally consists of increasing the salesforce and on-boarding new employees (some digital platforms being the exception). If the end goal is growth, how is a newly hired sales person suppose to produce at the same level as the unstructured Cowboy?

Neil Rackham (Author of SPIN SELLING) promotes the notion that sales individuals should go into every contact looking for an Advance: “A specific action taken by either party that moves the sale forward”. An Advance is not simply another meeting, an Advance is a specific, predetermined outcome specific to that customer and contact. Can all of these nuances be managed from the hip? Without a plan?

Structuring the approach on the back end will not only help the sales individual, it will also help the organisation. Structure will help with scalability, and continuity. Continuity in this case might be even more important as it gives organisations of all sizes the ability to distribute and allocate the work flow evenly, rather than “reinventing the wheel” every time a new sales person is hired.

Some people say it takes 15-18 years of hard-work to properly train a Cowboy, does your organisation have that much time to onboard? We are not trying to be overly hard on these shoot first – ask questions later, cold calling work horses, we have simply noticed that sometimes you need to be more than a Cowboy for the sake of the organisation.

Merry Christmas Y’all!

cowboy Screen Shot

Image Source: Screenshot

Klingsgrin, G. (2016). The Librarian vs. the Cowboy: A Sales Persona Comparison {Infographic}. SalesLoft. Available at: [Accessed: 18 -12-2016]

Other Sources:

Barkach, C. (2016). Sales Process – Stop Shooting from the Hip. Available at:
[Accessed: 10-12-2016]

Boe, J. (2016). Sales Skills: Don’t Shoot From The Hip, Use A Script. Sales Gravy. Available at: [Accessed: 10-12-2016]

Klingsgrin, G. (2016). The Librarian vs. the Cowboy: A Sales Persona Comparison {Infographic}. SalesLoft. Available at: [Accessed: 18 -12-2016]

Rackham, N. (1988). SPIN SELLING. McGraw-Hill. ISBN: 9780070511132

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The Lone Wolf

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The blog this week is taking a slightly different approach, not only are we going to present this one in english we are going to address a topic that we do not necessarily have a steadfast (this is what you should do) answer or recommendation. The topic that we are going to talk about is The ‘Lone Wolf’ CEO.

Many predominate business publications have written about how CEO’s tend to grow themselves into a position of isolation and solitude. The position in itself is isolated, as it is the only position in an organisation that has no peers or boss to help guide them in the right direction. As a CEO your job is never done, you don’t often have the luxury of shutting down and going home at 16:30 to enjoy a peaceful and quiet evening. The expectations are that you will be the visionary, head of the company tasked with growing the organisation while at the same time checking over your shoulder to ensuring invoices are paid so the organisation has the liquidity to make payroll come the 25th of the month. In many of the cases that we encounter CEOs jokingly say that for every one item that comes off the “TO DO” list, 3-5 get added.

In some cases this isolation may be self induced, where the CEO or Founder of an organisation simply chooses not to discuss challenges or hurdles with other people, known as Founders Disease. In situations like this, it is very difficult for external parties to lend a hand as they are often not aware of any problems.

An article publish by Stanford Graduate School of Business mentions “nearly 66% of CEOs do not receive coaching or leadership advice from outside consultants or coaches, while 100% of them stated that they are receptive to making changes based on feedback.”

According to the Forbes Corporate Learning Factbook (2014) the U.S. spending on corporate training grew by 15% in 2013 to over $70 Billion in the US and over $130 Billion worldwide. The Training Journal indicates that trends for 2016 are that employees are opting for more unbundled, flexible training options that fit into their own schedule.

What is extremely concerning is that this topic seems to be very well documented, and current global trends are showing that organisations are spending more on training and employee programs, so why is the CEO being neglected? Where is the hesitation coming from?

Depending on your individual circumstances you may or may not having the luxury of going to the Board to pursue external support. In these circumstances a CEO could pursue external personal support:

  1. Find a Peer Group: Many cities have networks and organisations dedicated specifically to CEO’s. For example, “Young Presidents’ Organization” is a global association dedicated to CEO’s under 50 where they have informal gatherings, share stories and discuss challenges (Globe and Mail, 2009). Regardless of your age, there are many groups like this around the globe and this might be a great way to help combat the feeling of isolation.
  2. Form a Personal Board of Advisors: This is not always the easiest group of people to establish but if the possibility is there, it is a great option. The general idea is to have a small group of informal advisors with different backgrounds that you can use as a “Bollplank” in different situations. This option allows one to have multiple different perspectives, hopefully leading to much wider sources of influence.
  3. Get a Coach or a Mentor: This option is great if you can find the “right” person. A good coach/mentor can help you identify blindspots and help you frame challenges in different ways. These one-on-one relationships typically evolve over a period of time and often include cover both business and personal issues and challenges.

There are different options and organisations in the Umeå area that can assist if you are looking.

These feelings of isolation are not only dangerous to leaders personally, they are also dangerous to their organisations as a whole. Business today is high-stakes and fast moving and requires leaders to be sharp and focused, ignoring these feelings could impact their entire organisation in ways unforeseeable. How do we approach rectifying this problem?


Rob McCuaig

A not so lone Canadian in Umeå

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Vem bestämmer egentligen?

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Många företag som säljer B2B (till andra företag) har svårt att komma i kontakt med rätt personer hos sina kunder. I komplexa affärer är de flesta säljare på det klara med att flera individer kommer vara inblandade i kundföretagets köpprocess. Ändå stannar många på för låg nivå eller hos fel kontaktpersoner. Vilket försvårar säljet eller gör att affären inte alls blir av.

Det här är särskilt tydligt hos små bolag som säljer till (mycket) större kunder. Några situationer som är återkommande:

  • Säljare vet eller har på känn att beslutet tas högre upp men vet inte om det är hos Vd/ledning eller om det är delegerat till annan chefsnivå.
  • Säljare vet inte vem som har budgetmandatet för beslutet.
  • Säljare går på gamla kontakter där det finns en relation. Enkelt och tryggt, men kan betyda att mycket tid läggs på helt fel diskussioner.
  • Säljare kommer med projektförslag/”win-win”-upplägg och vill få till stånd förbättringsdialog med den större kunden – men hamnar hos inköp som bara tar beslut om pris, volym och leveransvillkor.
  • Säljare försöker runda inköp och gå direkt på ledningsnivån – funkar kanske en gång men kan innebära stora svårigheter med relationen till inköp i framtiden.

Vi menar att det här är en strategisk ledningsfråga. Säljare måste få rätt riktning, träning och verktyg för att effektivt kunna bearbeta stora B2B-kunder. Dessa stora företag är idag ofta betydligt mer professionella och kunniga än det lilla företagets säljare kan vara. Hur det ska utformas är förstås branschberoende.

En enkel start är att försöka skriva en lista med namnen på alla personer som vi tror är inblandade i köpbesluten hos våra viktigaste kunderna. Genom att kontinuerligt prata med olika personer kan vi sen få bekräftat om namnen är rätt, eller om några ska strykas eller läggas till. Kartläggningen är steg 1. För nykundsbearbetning är det ett av de viktigaste stegen.

Vi återkommer med fler i bloggen!

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Tillväxt = S Ä L J

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På en träff i norra Finland för ett tag sen fick vi kommentaren ”Vår bild här i Finland är att ni svenskar är duktiga säljare…”. Vi försökte svara att det inte alltid är så det ser ut på vår sida Bottenviken. Snarare tvärtom.

De flesta företag häruppe säger snarare att det är svårt att hitta bra säljare. Många företag agerar också mer som ordermottagare än aktiva säljande organisationer. I flera fall får inte heller säljstyrkan rätt förutsättningar att kunna göra sitt jobb.

Några exempel som vi sett och som är vanliga i många små och medelstora företag:

  • En eller ett fåtal personer jobbar med sälj, ibland bara Vd
  • Företaget svarar på alla offertförfrågningar som kommer in
  • Säljarna vågar inte sälja utan skyller på att produkten inte är klar
  • Dålig eller ingen uppföljning på initiala kontakter eller ens lämnade offerter

Det finns förstås flera goda exempel men totalt sett så missar många företag stora möjligheter till expansion eller högre lönsamhet.

Key Account Managers är viktiga för att hålla nyckelkunder nöjda men en aktiv säljstyrka som jagar nya kunder är en förutsättning om tillväxten ska hålla i sig på sikt. En känsla vi har är att av 10 säljare så är det kanske 2-3 som är duktiga på att jaga in nya affärer.

Det är kanske dags att uppvärdera säljarnas roll? För att vara duktig säljare krävs det i många branscher en kombination av teknisk förståelse, driv och energi och en säljförmåga till många olika typer av människor i olika typer av företag. Särskilt under en tillväxtresa då ny mark måste brytas hela tiden. Såna individer växer inte på träd.

I höst kommer vi diskutera sälj ur olika perspektiv här på bloggen.

/Fredrik & Jan

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A North American Perspective

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When I moved to Umeå from Canada to pursue a Masters in Business Development and Internationalization I did all the necessary homework. I read the survival guides, watched Youtube videos and tried to understand what I was getting myself into before I boarded the plane. Despite being 6000 Kms away from home the surrounding landscape of Umeå is remarkably similar to that of the North Shore of Lake Superior. The sight of birch lined streets and cold winter conditions made for a seamless transition. I think the most difficult part of the first month in Sweden was declining offers to join countless hockey teams. The sense of shock that came across many people’s faces when I mentioned I was from Canada and did not play hockey was rather hilarious. Then the further look of confusion when I mentioned that I played football (soccer) made for a very interesting first few weeks.

After a few years and countless interactions I am still here. Something I still do not fully understand after all this time is why Swedes are so reluctant to sell themselves. Being a native English speaker I am often approached to proof read CVs and Cover Letters. More often than not these Swedish CV’s do not aim to highlight personal accomplishments, and they definitely do not focus on what sets them apart from the other applicants when compared to the North American approach.

Carrying this thought to the corporate level, I believe that companies, particularly in Northern Sweden fall into the same trap. I have been in contact with many extremely skilled and talented companies that have trouble pinpointing their exact unique selling point (USP). As a result, I believe that many of these companies fail to capitalize on their full potential because they do not emphasize what sets them apart and makes them unique. Maybe I am just so accustomed to the ubiquitous nature of sales in North American that a passive approach is hard to internalize.

I am still unable to pinpoint if this is one of the key factors behind why many companies choose to develop their existing network of customers rather than attracting new ones. Do companies diversify their offering because they are comfortable with their current customer base? Or, are companies reluctant to expand geographically because they have not focused on a specific target segment?

Maybe it is just because of the recent downturn in global oil prices and the affect it is having on my home province (Alberta), or the affects of witnessing the once flourishing automotive industry in Ontario that makes me think this way. I am now becoming much more cognizant and hypersensitive to the risks of relying on limited sources of income, regardless of how profitable they may be.

Diversification is becoming a very hot topic in Canada as the country struggles to replace the billions lost because of low oil prices. As a result, companies that have long standing traditions of operating in isolated, high economic regions are now expanding geographically to hedge this risk. On a smaller scale, minor environmental shifts or a change in an existing customers procurement policy could have the same devastating result on a smaller firm. In prosperous times geographic expansion might not seem to be a priority but in many cases this is the best time to do so.


/Rob McCuaig, Revenues


If you care to read more about the automotive manufacturing industry in Ontario see below links:

If you care to read more about the affects due to the downturn of oil prices see links below:

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