7 Global Brands from the Happiest Country in the World

Queen Magrethe 2nd

For consecutive years Denmark has topped the World Happiness Index. When I share with people abroad that I am from Denmark, 9 out of 10 will ask me. Why are the Danes so happy? As a Dane abroad i can testify that people around the world have heard about the UN Happiness Report, but do not know an awful lot about Denmark.

Why are the Danes so happy?

Denmark is a small little country in northern Europe, with a population of 5.7million people. Denmark has one of the best work-life balances in the world with a work week of 37 hours. Everyone in Denmark enjoys free access to hospitals and surgery, and every citizen has free access to education all the way through university. Corruption is non-existent and the crime rate is practically zero. Senior citizens are covered by the public pension scheme, so they can enjoy a stress free retirement.

There is only one down side. The Danes pay effectively 50% of their income in taxes. A true capitalist would cite a theory that such a high tax burden is reducing incentives for people to work, thus decreasing overall innovation and negatively affecting business. What the world does not know is that Denmark is home to some of the world’s most successful companies.


LEGO is the world’s largest toy company and ranks top 10 of the world’s most powerful brands. LEGO was founded by Ole Kirk Christiansen in 1932 in the little town of Billund and is today in the hands of 3rd generation of the Kirk family. LEGO is a global company with offices all over the planet and revenues of DKK 37.9 billion (USD 6.3 billion).


One of the world’s largest beer brands that you can find on the shelves in almost any country in the world. Carlsberg was founded in 1847 by J.C.Jacobsen in Copenhagen. Today Carlsberg has 45.000 Employees, revenues of DKK 62.6 billion (USD 10.6 billion) and publicly traded at the Danish Stock Exchange.


The world’s largest shipping company and Denmark’s absolute largest company. Maersk was founded by A.P. Møller Mærsk in 1904 in the small town of Svendborg.  The Danes have been telling stories about Mærsk for a hundred years. It is said that Mr. Møller once disqualified a candidate, as he found him resting against the wall near a staircase. “At Maersk we need people that can stand on their own feet”. The candidate was then send home. These stories has created a sense of mystery around Maersk that today employees 88,000 people and has revenues of DKK 219.8 billion (USD 35.5 billion). Maersk is listed on the Danish Stock Exchange.


Arla’s dairy products can be found all around the world. I have been eating Danish butter in Australia and Danish cheese in Singapore. The world’s best airlines serve Danish Lurpak butter in the air and the Middle East is one of the best export markets for Arla. Arla was founded as a cooperative of 12,500 farmers and has revenues of DKK 63.1 billion (USD 10.2 billion).


Bestseller is the company behind popular fashion brands such as Vero Moda, Only and Jack & Jones. Bestseller was founded in 1975 in the small town of Brande by Troels Holch Povlsen. Bestseller is today owned by Anders Holch Povlsen, who is also one of the richest men in Denmark.

Novo Nordisk

The world’s largest diabetes drug manufacturer was founded in 1923 in the little town of Bagsværd north of Copenhagen. The founders of Novo Nordisk brought back the idea from America after hearing reports that diabetes patients were being treated with this new drug known as insulin. Novo Nordisk has revenues of DKK 111.7 billion (USD 17.9 billion) and 41,700 employees all over the world.


The world’s 4th largest employer, employs more than 500.000 people. ISS is a facility service company and employs people in everything from healthcare to retail, to cleaning. ISS is literally everywhere. If you look out for it, you will start seeing the ISS logo on uniforms everywhere. ISS was founded in Copenhagen in 1903 and is today generating revenues of DKK 79.1 billion (USD 12.7 billion). ISS is traded on the Danish stock exchange.


Fact is that that the happiest people are also excellent entrepreneurs. For a hard core capitalist that can seem hard to believe, but reality is that a high level of social security allow people to think outside the box and take risks. Research shows that if you pay people enough, make them feel secure and give them a sense of purpose, they will create great things. This topic was very well explained by Dan Pink in his 2009 TED talk: the puzzle of motivation.

What is true for Google, Amazon, Facebook or some of the world’s most innovative companies is also true for societies. The Danish success model that makes the Danes so happy is also good for business.

What can you learn about onboarding new talent from Salesforce?

This article is about my experiences and learnings working for Salesforce and what the organisation taught me about onboarding new talent. In my current business, I find myself sharing how Salesforce successfully onboards 600 employees every single month, and brings every single talent up to speed in less than a month. The strategy behind this impressive onboarding process is worth reading.

Why is onboarding new employees important?

Any role has its own unique requirements that demand unique onboarding. A challenge that many organisations are facing is that the standards for onboarding differs from manager to manager. Certain managers are extremely good at onboarding new team members. Whereas, other managers might be caught up in their daily to-dos and not find the time to focus on onboarding. The result of a non standardised onboarding processes is that employees will begin with different baselines for achieving success in their jobs. The worst case scenario is that a non standardised onboarding will create an unfair advantage for some employees, giving them better access to promotions and monetary benefits. Another aspect to consider is that insufficient onboarding can be very costly for the organisation in terms of lost productivity.

The Salesforce Way

What I experienced at Salesforce as a new joinee was truly impressive. For many years, Salesforce has been the fastest growing tech company in the world and is rapidly expanding its employee base. Successful operations at this scale naturally require to be streamlined and efficient.

At my first day at Salesforce, I was given a personalized login to trailhead.salesforce.com, Salesforce’s training platform. Trailhead is used by millions of customers and partners to improve their Salesforce skills and is also ingeniously used as an internal training tool. Depending on your role at Salesforce, one receives access to specially designed trails containing about two weeks worth of interactive course work. The modules are in general very well designed and at the end of each completed unit, one is quizzed about what one just learned. The setup requires little to none interaction with your colleagues, ensuring that the team’s productivity is not affected by a new member.

The Salesforce Boot Camp

At the end of every month, every single employee despite their office location is flown to San Francisco for an intense week of training and socialising. The week is known as Boot Camp, and is a signature event for Salesforce. Boot Camp is the exam of your two weeks of self studying, but also the time where you get properly introduced to the Salesforce culture. Besides training, it is also an incredible opportunity to network with colleagues from Salesforce offices all over the world. I made some good friends doing my Boot Camp week that I am still in touch with today.

Alexander Hold at Salesforce

What fascinates me the most about the way Salesforce manages onboarding is how it takes just one month to teach 600 people a comprehensive and complex product portfolio and that every single employee after just one month is put on target and ready to do their job. Naturally, everyone will get better at their job over time, and Salesforce is investing a lot in continuous training to retain and improve its talent pool. Very few companies can claim to be as efficient at onboarding new talent, and especially not at this scale.

If you are running a business or are in charge of talent at your company, adopting the Salesforce way could be a very lucrative investment. There will always be a calculation of Return Of Investment (ROI), but for medium to enterprise companies with multiple teams with different team leads there is a potential great upside of standardizing and automating your onboarding process.

How FlixBus uses AI to make bus travel sexy

With my latest relocation to Munich, Germany, I have discovered a new way to explore all the exciting destinations across Europe for no more than a few euros in the form of FlixBus, a long distance bus service.Typically, there is nothing sexy about buses, but FlixBus has reinvented this traditional business model and this is certainly making ripples in the travel industry.

FlixBus is the leading long distance bus service company in Germany and has acquired 90% market share in just about 5 years. The market for long distance bus services was liberated in Germany in 2013, and as co-founder Jochen Engert commented in an interview with CleverIsm: “How often is it that a market is liberated? This was just an opportunity too good to miss.”

FlixBus’ Business Model

Germany’s largest bus company only owns one bus and employs no bus drivers. That might seem a little odd, but that is what makes FlixBus’ business model so interesting. FlixBus is structured similar to a franchise, where FlixBus takes care of Marketing, Branding, Sales and Route-Planning, but relies on 3rd party contractors for operations.

FlixBus sees itself as a technology platform that offers services to transportation companies. The typical contractor is family-owned businesses that knows a lot about driving and operating vehicles, but very little about acquiring customers, via web, mobile and other platforms. FlixBus has a revenue split with its contractors and one will argue that it is a mutually beneficial partnership, as both parties brings unique competencies to the table.

The technology platform

FlixBus is creating a competitive advantage with branding, but the true competitive advantage is their technological platform. With Artificial Intelligence (AI), FlixBus can plan future routes and through large-scale data collection FlixBus can accurately forecast demand. The ambition of FlixBus’ CIO, Daniel Krauss is to offer on-demand bus services, similar to the  Uber concept. This would allow FlixBus to instantly offer a new route to meet demand. However, with the current regulatory body, where every bus route must be approved, this innovation is yet to be realised.

Consolidating a fragmented market

One of the things that FlixBus has done really well is to consolidate a fragmented market and make the bus booking system convenient for the customer. With hundreds of smaller bus service companies it used to be both expensive and inconvenient to take the bus, but with FlixBus it has become just as easy as booking a flight.

Consolidating a market has different operational benefits. When you control 90% of the market you can optimize for efficiency and you are not forced to operate half empty buses. Contrary to the general theory that competition is beneficial for the customer, the customer is actually benefiting from FlixBus having something close to a monopoly. The theory is that Flixbus has an incentive in keeping prices low to keep its competitors out of the market. The breakeven point for a bus route is something like 70% to 80% passenger capacity. If a competitor starts operating a competitive bus route he is expected to have 40% to 50% passenger capacity making the route unfeasible. Eventually it will be a matter of who has the deepest pockets.  

Rapid market expansion

FlixBus is already targeting markets outside of Germany and in 2015 they moved into France. In the first half of 2017 FlixBus has transported 3.3 million passengers in France, an increase of 70% compared to 2016. It is currently 30% cheaper to ride FlixBus than to go carpooling. Today the network spans all across Europe from London to Rome, From Paris to Prague.  

The biggest threat

All over, the business model of FlixBus appears bulletproof to the naked eye. However, even FlixBus is not immune to accidents and when a bus crashed into a car on the Autobahn on Sunday 17th September 2017, it was FlixBus in the headline, despite the bus not being operated by FlixMobility GmbH and the responsible driver not employed by FlixBus. The lack of control of the fleet and the inability to enforce control of the drivers might be FlixBus´s biggest threat, just as we have seen with Uber hitting the headlines in the past for similar reasons.

Why is FlixBus so fascinating

Just like AirBnB and Uber, FlixBus is a great example of how data has become the most valuable asset in the modern internet driven economy. In record time, FlixBus has become the dominating mobility company in Europe without operating its own fleet. Because of FlixBus’ market position and its intelligent technology platform, the company has successfully created a competitive advantage that is hard for its competitors to copy. When you know where the customers want to travel, it is easy to effectively meet demand and design or adjust your network accordingly.

FlixBus is such an interesting case study because it exemplifies how no industry is immune to disruption. Nobody thought bus travel could be sexy but FlixBus has proved everyone wrong. If you are a leader of a traditional business it is just a matter of time, before someone will make your industry sexy and potentially take you out of business. The takeaway is to stay nimble and constantly keep adapting to the ever evolving market forces.