STRATEGEN is not just any other management consulting firm. With this business of mine, I have been actively searching for an impactful solution to solve two problems: the vitality rate of small businesses in Oslo, and the unemployment rate of professionals with foreign background in Oslo. I have potentially found a solution which is a platform to match-make these two groups, since the latter has what the former group lacks: competency, and the former can offer what the latter seeks for: work and income. I am
currently doing research and analysis to formulate and actualize this idea.
For immigrant professionals in Oslo: I realized network contacts and the supporting organizations could get a jobseeker so far as to be more informed about the market, to know some more people, and maybe to send the CVs across. Although this effort is tremendously helpful, it does not necessarily actualize the goal of setting the people into a relevant career. People could say, yeah, that is up to the person’s own effort to grasp those opportunities. It
is not that simple in reality. There are external factors that complicate the process and reduce winning chance. Jobseekers of foreign background are faced by a form of “liability of foreignness”, which suggests that people of foreign background often encounter external challenges compared to their local counterparts. The local market tends to choose their local people (http://wwwmanagement.wharton.upenn.edu/guillen/2016_docs/Categorizing_zhou_guillen.pdf). This is a matter of trust. We are prone to choosing what is like us, that makes us feel safe and familiar. One way to tackle this is to build trust, build reputation through smaller projects, just like when you build up a wall from each brick. This is the origin and the goal of my project: to help immigrant professionals build up their portfolios and earn income, which will build up their reputation in the market and eventually a
relevant career. For small business in Oslo: 74.9% of SMEs do not survive after 5 years (updated in 2019), amongst which 211 companies went bankrupt in the 3rd quarter of 2019, an increase of 12% compared to same period in 2018 (https://www.ssb.no/virksomheter-foretak-og-regnskap/statistikker). Some reasons which hinder companies to grow or to survive are lack of competency in leadership and strategy, little utilization of digital solutions, lack of development in business model and process, more competency about product than market (https://www.bi.no/forskning/business- review/articles/2019/02/syv-rad-for-a-fa-smabedrifter-til-a-vokse/). Many immigrants are highly skilled and experienced in the mentioned areas. But hiring a professional, local or foreign, is a high risk for a small business, in regard to economy and return on investment. My project will offer these companies the competency they desperately need, while offering the flexibility of investing little through freelance and ad-hoc hiring.
I am aware that there are other solutions available which also aim to solve one or both of the above matters. However, as the stats show, they still need better solutions, and I am working on that via this project.
Why does this idea matter to you:
Unemployment amongst highly educated and experienced immigrants in Oslo/Norway has been a serious social problem for years. There are many hypotheses on the reasons why: proficiency in the Norwegian
language, little to no network, irrelevant experience, no references from Norwegian labor market, lack of Nordic elements in education or work experience, cultural differences, bias and discrimination, etc.
I myself experienced this firsthand. Having a leader position before moving to Norway, I found myself depressed since I could not get a job, no matter how hard I tried. Being a self-motivated and resourceful person, I have done many different things that normally would get a person at my engagement level a job, such as actively expanding the network and asking for support in referring, strategically planning and applying in high frequency and broad coverage, attending organizations and networks that support job-searchers, continuously familiarizing myself with the Norwegian labor system’s codes, updating knowledge and competency through formal education, etc. It did not work. And I know for a matter of fact that there are many other people have been in the same situation. It came to a point where I was sitting on the train and tears were falling, for the feeling of being useless, being beaten up, failing. For the feeling of being incompetent and a future full of uncertainty. This project is very important to me because I want to help people who are experiencing what I went through. The situation almost “killed” me then.
How will your idea make Oslo a better place:
My idea helps creating jobs for immigrant professionals, while helping small business thrive. The main “playground” is in Oslo, where the majority of jobseekers of international background and small business
By creating jobs for professionals of immigrant background, the project will reduce the number of depressed-due-to-no-work people, increase the chance for them to be exposed into the labor market for a permanent career in the future if they wish to do so, actualize the intention of other non-profit and public organizations in bringing the unemployment rate down amongst immigrants. Plus, bridging people with relevant work that they are qualified for, despite ethnic and cultural background, not just any-kind-a-job.
Irrelevant jobs help these people pay bills but demotivate them each day of their existence in Oslo.
99% of the Norwegian companies are SMEs, which contributes to 44% of the economic values of the country (https://www.nho.no/tema/sma-og-mellomstore-bedrifter/artikler/sma-og-mellomstore-bedriftersmb/). The figures are for the entire country without specific indication to Oslo area, however, it would be safe to assume that the high rates also apply to Oslo, since majority of business activities is strategically carried on in the capital. Once we could enhance the vitality and growth of small business, we would naturally help to strengthen the city’s economic power. More companies would be paying tax, for example. More job opportunities will arise to meet the need of growth. More people will be given jobs and more values will be delivered, directly or indirectly, to the lives of Oslo citizens.
How will you use the micro-grant funding to realize your concept?
In order to grow this from idea to market, there are certain steps that need to be done. First, insights from different stakeholders need to be collected to further develop the idea into well rounded hypotheses. I am undergoing this process. A business model with suggested value propositions are being designed in correspondence to these hypotheses.
Secondly, and properly the most important in the whole process, is to roll out a minimum viable project with a goal to turn hypotheses into facts and figures. I am planning to enter the market and actively look for potential clients (small business with strategic problems in Oslo) and then the potential strategists (professionals with foreign background in Oslo) to work with the clients on their problems. This is the “do” part of my project, and I will need funding to carry on this step. The micro-grant funding will help to facilitate different marketing activities, such as paid ads to gain exposure to both groups on social media, sponsored emails to connect with respective companies and talents on LinkedIn, complimentary snacks and drinks at marketing workshops/events that I will be hosting. After one or two first projects with this concept, we will have sufficient data for the value propositions of our offer and can then adjust the business model to better fit both groups’ need.
And once we have successfully completed the first projects, we will have enough exposure and reputation to keep acquiring new projects, new work opportunities for our immigrant professionals.