The EU is keen to create the multinational business champions of the future, and is looking to help successful SMEs make the leap from local dominance to the international markets.
Flying through fog is the kind of feeling an entrepreneur initially has when starting a new business plan.
In Denmark, a national training program is helping small and medium companies to translate good projects into efficient strategies.
In Esbjerg, on the western coast, Søren Hvorslev, Senior Partner at Geemit, has been searching for a way to launch a sharing economy solution to handle stock facilities, along with an online trading platform for surplus spare parts.
"I needed someone from outside the oil & gas industry to actually try to challenge the way we were doing things. We had some new business model ideas which we wanted to bring onto the market, but we were a little bit unsure on how we should sell them," he says.
The Scale Up program supported by the EU Cohesion Policy has 12 training centres, all over the country.
Bespoke training is available, based on regional specializations and linked to local industries. Each participating entrepreneur is driven through their project where they can learn how to get into new markets and connect with business opportunities.
"It’s an interesting win-win situation, because it’s not only the participant who is gaining value, but also the existing companies that get ideas, access to new talents and so on," says Scale Up Denmark's CEO Lisbeth Valther.
Within the team of experts, the entrepreneur is also supported by a manager coming from a major industry, who shares their knowledge of the market. And often it's a useful experience for both sides.
"First of all, I thought my position was to be a professor, but by the end I had learned a lot from them and ended up being their partner in crime; and we did a lot of coaching with each other, both on the business plan but also on how to take the product from an idea into business," says Blue Water Shipping's Head of Project Logistics Jacob Kjærgaard.
The right implementation of the strategy is key. The 145 companies having attended the five-month program so far are expected to up their total turnover by one billion euros compared to before the training and create a forecast 2400 new jobs.
"The main advantages for the participating companies is that we look very much into the strategy going forward. But executing a strategy is a very tough business, because the daily driving of the company is where challenges are when looking into the future. So, how can they execute a strategy ? That’s what we work on with them," says the Program Director of a Scale Up-linked initiative, Next Step Challenge, Søren Røn.
The additional value of this training model is that companies don't only have the opportunity to emerge on their domestic market but in certain cases even at a international level. And that is what happened for Geemit.
"We started up by being local and today we are looking at the same possibilities in Australia and Norway, so after 9 months we are already expanding into the world using the same model which we invented in the Scale Up program," says Søren Hvorslev.