Russ: This is the BusinessMakers Show heard here and online at thebusinessmakers.com. And now it is time for the Aflac BusinessMakers Flashback brought to you by Aflac, ask about it at work. And for this morning's Flashback, we are going to roll back to earlier this week when I got to sit down with Ambassador Barry White. That's right, he is the United States Ambassador to Norway. Ambassador White, welcome to The BusinessMakers Show.
Barry: Good morning, thank you very much, Russ. It's a pleasure to be here.
Russ: You bet. So you got on our radar because we know that innovation, small business, connecting countries together for business is an important role as ambassador of Norway. So tell us about that.
Barry: Absolutely. And in fact, my background, I practiced law for 40 years in a law firm in Boston. Worked with a lot of small businesses, entrepreneurs, innovators, and it's a very exciting area. One of the things I'm doing as ambassador of the United States to the Kingdom of Norway is to work with some of the small businesses in Norway and the United States to foster businesses. There's a lot of technology innovation in Norway and I want to connect them with the US business interest and vise versa.
Russ: Well, that's real cool. And I've been out of the United States on several interviewing missions, there's often sort of a different government attitude to business. What's the comparison between Norway and the United States?
Barry: Well, I think you'll find the United States and American background a little bit more innovative and sort of risk oriented. Norway's got a great deal of technological development. A little bit more of government involvement and government financing in the businesses. There's some difference there.
Russ: Oh yeah. Well, I mean, and I've noticed that with the global economy breaking out nowadays that even some of those government controlled countries are kind of loosening up and seeing the value and benefit.
Barry: Oh, absolutely. And I think you see that in Norway, there's a lot more innovation and trying to spread their technology. And even some of the companies with large government investments are investing abroad and looking forward to a future, the global world that we are in.
Russ: OK, cool. Well I also happened to become aware of a trip out to the Rice University about three weeks ago, that there's even a group of University of Oslo entrepreneurs spending some time on the Rice University campus these days.
Barry: Yes. The other thing I'm trying to promote is educational exchange between US, the students and Norwegian students. And I've had the pleasure of speaking at the business school and Oslo talking about entrepreneurship that I'll be speaking with this group to talk about entrepreneurship, leadership and how they can get involved in developing new businesses.
Russ: Well, that's real cool. Here at The BusinessMakers Show, we don't think that there's anything that has the potential for solving some of the world's problems other than commerce taking place much more actively amongst all the nations on the globe.
Barry: Yes, absolutely. As we interlink with each other more on a global basis, it improves the relationship between people and the relationships between countries. That's one of my roles as an ambassador to promote.
Russ: OK. Now, I am aware that your role as an ambassador, you're not quite at the first year mark. President Obama actually appointed you, is that correct?
Barry: Yes. Actually, I presented my credentials to the king on November 5th. So it's been just about six months.
Russ: OK, OK. Well, tell us how you like the job so far.
Barry: So far it's been terrific. The people in Norway have been very friendly and open to us. We've had an opportunity to meet with a lot of the business community, the educational community, the non profit community and very welcoming. And we've been working together very nicely with people and Oslo and it's been a terrific experience. We've had the opportunity to travel throughout the country. I've been from Stavanger to Bergen to the very northern part, Hammerfest and Volda and Tronslo. And one of the most enjoyable experiences I had was flying on a Norwegian air force F16 fighter jet.
Russ: My goodness. Is that standard operating procedure for an ambassador?
Barry: Well, I'm not sure. I think I may have been the first US ambassador to go on a Norwegian air force plane. But it was a great experience.
Russ: Wow. But when you talk about traveling and seeing the country. Man, when you get up to the north of Norway, you're not that far away from the North Pole, right?
Barry: Getting closer. We went there in December and it was quite dark. We had very hours of sunlight and it was a little bit cold.
Russ: OK, cool. I'm also curious since, you know, you're still relatively new. How well does that work when the United States transitions from one ambassador to the other? I mean, did you know your predecessor?
Barry: Yes. I met him before coming out to Norway and deliberately spent time talking to him and some other previous ambassadors. The state department and most foreign ministries have a policy of rotating people after three or four years to make sure that they bring new blood and new ideas. And they don't too settled in the country. So it's not unusual for an ambassador to come in and serve maybe three or four years. I will be serving at the pleasure of the president, so we'll see how long that will be.
Russ: I know it's definitely an interesting and unique mission. And, you know, we're always sort of focused here on operations. What sort of staff do you have?
Barry: We have about 195 people employed at the embassy in Oslo.
Russ: OK. Not a small organization.
Barry: No, not at all. Most of them are in the consular service providing visa and other service. But we have a very large military service; we have a large commercial service, which I'm really emphasizing in business to business relationships. There're political and economic staff. And it's a good group and we have a management staff and administrative staff to take care of things.
Russ: And that commercial services unit. I mean, is that a unit that actually would encourage US companies to export to Norway and vise versa?
Barry: Absolutely. And in fact, President Obama has got a new initiative on exporting US products and goods to foreign companies. And we're certainly working with the president on this. And through the commercial service to increase exports from America to Norway.
Russ: Well, Ambassador White, I really appreciate you spending some time with us.
Barry: Thank you very much.
Russ: And that concludes our discussion with Ambassador Barry White. And that wraps up this mornings Aflac BusinessMakers Flashback, brought to you by Aflac, ask about it at work. And now it's time for one of our very special Advantage Points, so let's welcome Katie Laird.
Russ: You're listening to the BusinessMakers Show heard here and online at thebusinessmakers.com. That's THEBusinessMakers.com.