“The Swiss Business Climate – sunnier than you think!”

In connection with a planned webinar on doing business with Switzerland that Oslo Chamber of Commerce will hold March 9th, we present an interview with the speaker at the webinar, Michel Patteet, from the Swiss consultant company PRODIGO.

Why do you consider the Swiss market as a relevant expansion opportunity for Norwegian companies?

Although the Swiss market is a quite demanding one, it offers a very interesting potential, due to a very high purchasing power and loyal long-term business relationships. I rarely heard of any payment problems.
For Norwegian companies I see another interesting asset. Just like in Norway, the vast majority of Swiss companies are SMEs, 99,7 % to be precise. When you, as a Norwegian SME, are reaching out towards a Swiss prospect which is also an SME, this will make life easier since you are talking from equal to equal.

You have been facilitating foreign companies expansion to the Swiss market for many years. Which challenges do you see for foreign exporters?

I see two big challenges. Just like Norway, Switzerland is not a member of the European Union, so other rules may apply. When you are already exporting to countries in the European Union, you will see that in some sectors the market entry in Switzerland is more difficult, due to trade barriers, like import taxes, but also non-tariff measures like import quota. Many foreign companies underestimate this or are not even aware of them. Just remember to include the import tariffs in the price setting. The well informed companies will overcome this preliminary phase much easier and will have a smoother market approach process afterwards.
The other challenge is related to the exporters themselves. Not all of them are that well prepared to tackle the Swiss market. Some of them tend to forget about adapting their documentation to local needs, following up on leads generated during a trade fair or another event. It pays to go the extra mile. It is therefore useful to accompany and support them until the end. By the way, this was one of the reasons why I created my business development company Prodigo.

Where do you see a potential for Norwegian companies in Switzerland?

Having a very competitive market, Switzerland is highly focused on innovation. This allows them to remain at least one step ahead of the competition. For many years now, they have been topping the Global Innovation Index of the World Intellectual Property Organisation of the UN. In order to strengthen their position, Swiss companies are open to innovative solutions, both coming from within the country and from abroad.
Sustainable products and technologies are a good example of the strong demand for innovative solutions here in Switzerland. Just like in Norway, the rising trend towards the use of renewable energies and ecological materials has fostered companies to develop their assets, while sharing insights from all around remains essential for them.
Staying in the field of sustainability, bio products have a big market share in Switzerland. Just to give you an idea of its size: in 2019 more than 10% of all food products in Switzerland were bio-based, a world record! And the figures are still rising every year.
Subcontracting offers another interesting potential. An example: Swiss machine manufacturers are often looking for foreign producers of components, which are incorporated in the final product. Other sectors, such as pharma and chemicals are more and more relying on subcontractors as well.
Having said that, due to its geographic position in the middle of Europe, Switzerland is an ideal test market. When you are launching a new product, you will quite clearly see the differences in degree of market reception in the various regions, be it the German-speaking, the French-speaking and the Italian-speaking one. Due to differences in business environment, culture, taste and mentality, the reaction can sometimes vary quite strongly, especially if you are active in sectors like gastronomy, fashion, decoration, literature, just to name a few. If needed, this will allow you to adjust your strategy when approaching afterwards other big European markets, like i.e Germany, France and Italy.

More information on the planned webinar March 23rd will follow later. Michel Patteet will then share further information and his experience. He will deal with topics such as Norwegian-Swiss economic relations and current business dynamics. He will also explain how to correctly approach Swiss partners, and provide tips on how to prospect the Swiss market.