Understand the DNA of SMEs

To sell your services as an export consultant, it is well worth knowing what characterises Danish small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), which face both internal and external barriers to export.

Typical characteristics of Danish SMEs:

  • Small and versatile organisations with considerable flexibility where everybody does everything
  • Often started as innovative entrepreneurial businesses
  • Lower degree of formal systems and structures
  • Information is often informal and ad hoc
  • Often fewer resources
  • Expectation of positive return in the short term in order to survive
  • Owner often involved in running the business
  • Managers often have to perform several roles
  • No/few highly educated employees (specialists)
  • Limited language skills (over and above English and German)
  • Often recruit via networks and personal recommendations

Internal barriers: Resources and product
The internal barriers to export for SMEs often stem from a lack of financial resources and access to financing. As a freelance export consultant, you can therefore offer and sell your services as a flexible solution which the business is not bound by in the long term.

For some businesses, the product they want to export is tailored exclusively to the Danish market and not, as yet, to international markets. It is therefore worth finding out whether the product is ready for export, or advise on what the business should do to adapt it to the export market in question.

A business may also lack adequate legal or technical know-how, and therefore you can provide guidance within these areas in relation to specific export markets.

External barriers: Culture, language and law
It is also important to consider the external factors which have a bearing on whether the business is ready to export. As an export consultant, you are able to advise the business on:

  • Legislation in the export country
  • Technical barriers to trade (requirements regarding testing/certification/approvals)
  • Customs duties and border control for overseas markets
  • Geographical and cultural differences
  • Larger travel and shipping costs
  • Foreign business cultures and languages
  • Bureaucracy and corruption

Find more information or seek assistance on legislation within the EU at the Danish Trade Council and at the Indre Markeds Center (in Danish only)

Useful advice on communication with Danish businesses
It is very important that you understand the business’s products, identity and culture and then target your communication accordingly. Use your network of Danish contacts who are experienced with Danish business culture as a sounding board with respect to your communication with the business. Acknowledge the business’s needs, and apply your competencies, experience and commitment as a freelance export consultant.