Båragutt a Gazelle

Fishing now and selling later is a path to success for this small Norwegian company

gazelle winner Båragutt

Photo: Lars Åke Andersen, DN
Terje-André Hansen, general manager of Båragutt Pelagic AS in Tromsø, which was last year’s Gazelle winner in Troms by Dagens Næringsliv.

Rasmus Falck
Oslo, Norway

Each year Norway’s largest business newspaper Dagens Næringsliv publishes the ranking of the country’s fastest growing companies: the Gazelles. Gazelles are firms that over the last four years have experienced an annual average growth in revenue of at least 20 percent, have at least 10 employees, and are less than two years old at the beginning of the growth period. The rankings have been inspiring.

With a boat specially made for catching and storing live fish, the company Båragutt Pelagic AS in Tromsø was last year’s Gazelle in Troms. Their concept is to catch living fish and store them on board in specially constructed tanks. Later they deliver the fish to their fish farm. The local coastal fishermen catch most of the fish in a short and hectic spring season. This pressures the price. By storing the live fish in big nets, they can wait until the price increases before selling. This way, both the fishermen and the fish farm makes more profit. They can offer stable deliveries of wild cod over a longer period of time. This gives them a 15 percent higher price for the fish. However, fishing live fish means that Båragutt must fish more slowly and more carefully. They need more men on board. This costs more.

The term “gazelle” was first used by David Birch at MIT to describe this type of company’s ability to generate jobs. In his classic research, Birch found that small business startups accounted for most of the nation’s new jobs. Birch used the term gazelle to help distinguish between three types of companies he was observing in his job generating data: fast-growth companies, stable companies, and companies that weren’t generating any jobs. Gazelles were the very small percentage (3 to 5 percent) of the companies that generate the most jobs in the economy. Opposite the gazelle is the “elephant.” These are the large companies that create very few new jobs. The “mouse” describes those companies with little or no potential for generating new jobs.

In Norway, 99 percent of businesses have fewer than 100 employees. They are the most important source for change and innovation. Even if the majority remains small, a few experience a tremendous growth and create a lot of jobs.

Båragutt Pelagic AS was founded in 1955 by brothers Kåre and Eilif Hansen when they bought the fishing boat Ragna 1. A few years later, they bought another one, Dønnøy. They were operating both until 1966, when Kåre became seriously ill. Then they condemned Ragna 1. The year after Kåre died, in 1968, Eilif was operating the boat, with Kåre’s wife as partner until 1970 when the boat was sold. In 1971, Eilif, then sole owner, bought the first Båragutt, the boat that gave the company its name. The company became a share company in 1998, and a few years later, the sons Egil, Arvid, and Ernst took over 90 percent of the shares. They still own the company with Terje-André Hansen as general manager.

Rasmus Falck is a strong innovation and entrepreneurship advocate. The author of “What do the best do better” and “The board of directors as a resource in SME,” he received his masters degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He currently lives in Oslo, Norway.

This article originally appeared in the April 6, 2018, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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