Falck: An international success since flying the nest
It doesn’t take much time watching the traffic to realise how prevalent Falck is in Denmark. The company performs a colossal 85 percent of the ambulance services and 65 percent of fire services.
And a trip to the company’s headquarters, nestled between the police buildings of Copenhagen’s Politigård, almost gives the impression of a public institution. But in the course of ten years, it has also become the world’s largest international rescue company.
Strategic and systematic
Poul Mortensen, the executive vice-president of Falck’s Emergency Europe department, explains that the transformation from a national to a global player happened remarkably fast.
“If you look at the whole history of Falck, since it was founded more than 100 years ago, it’s especially in the past ten years that we’ve had this significant growth outside of Denmark,” he said.
“We were not able to expand in Denmark, given that we already had such a dominant market position here. So if we were to expand the business, it needed to be outside Denmark.”
Falck’s expansion has been strategic and systematic. “We started in the other Nordic countries,” Mortensen explained.
“Then we took some of the other European countries, then the US and Latin America. So it was a conscious strategy but, on the other hand, it was quite natural to start with countries similar to Denmark, and then to expand to the rest of Europe and overseas.”
Falck’s main three business areas outside of Denmark are ambulance services, primary care and occupational clinics, and industrial fire fighting. Of these, ambulance services is the biggest. “We are active in all of the big markets in Europe,” Mortensen said.
“We are also present in the US. We are verybig in Latin America. Asia is the continent where we have the weakest presence, but we are actually in India and some other Asian countries, and we really hope that it will take off growth-wise in the coming years.”
Falck is very much an international enterprise, but its operations are very local. “Our services should be delivered in the local market under local contracts,” Mortensen explained.
“Therefore we really need people who understand the market locally. For this reason we normally enter into a new market by making an acquisition – by buying a small company with good quality and competent management. We can then supply this new local team with the muscles from the Falck organisation. And based on this blend, we can actually expand in the market and win more contracts.”
As well as entry into markets, acquisitions can accelerate expansion, Mortensen explained. “Since 2007 we had been active in Germany as a small business, and we had some difficulties getting this business to grow,” he said.
“We therefore decided that acquiring a larger local platform, the company GARD, would be a good move for us, because it would otherwise have taken a long time to achieve that volume.”
Formula for success
Mortensen sees Falck as being different from other companies by virtue of the specificity of its service. “I cannot compare Falck to other industries,” he said.
But he is confident in the quality of that service. “I know for sure that this service has a high standard,” he explained.
“And based on that, we can export our knowledge and utilise the fact that the Danish authorities rely on Falck and really believe that we can do it.”
To sell services home or abroad, Mortensen makes no secret of the formula for success. “We offer high quality, we are very efficient and therefore our prices are low. In the end that is what the public authorities are looking for.”'
Founded in 1906
Operates in 44 countries, on six continents
Denmark accounts for about half of the company's business
With more than 2,200 ambulances, Falck has the world's largest international ambulance fleet
Company mission: "To prevent accidents, disease and emergency situation, to rescue and assist people in emergencies quickly and competently, and to rehabilitate people after illness and injury"
Company vision: "To develop a major international organisation working within assistance, emergency, healthcare and safety service"