Traveling the world gives you a broader perspective to how businesses are run in other countries when you take the time to learn more about their history and its impact on their culture long term. My first stop on my around the world adventure was Croatia. Truthfully, I had limited knowledge of Croatia when I arrived on July 29, 2017. I was aware of their most recent civil war and the fact they had been part of Yugoslavia under communist rule, but I certainly had no idea how that impacted the thinking of the citizens, especially when it comes to business.
As a small country, Croatia has a varied past – it has been under many rulers over the years. From Roman Croatia from 11 B.C. to about the 5th century to Croat and Slavic tribes through the middle of the 7th century to a spread of Christianity in 800 A.D. under Emperor Charles the Great to the crowning of King Tomislav in 925 to the merger with Hungary under King Ladislaus in 1091. In the 1400’s when the Ottoman Empire was attempting to take over the Balkans, Croatia remained stuck in battles between the Turks and the Hungarians. After years, the Croats succeeded & joined the Hapsburg, which eventually incorporated Croatia into the Austro-Hungarian Empire. In 1918 after WW1 and the fall of the Astro-Hungarian Empire Croatia aligned with the Serbs forming the “Kingdom of Serbs, Croats & Slovenes"; this was a fast failure, and civil war broke out. After WW11, Josip Broz or “Tito” became the leader of Yugoslavia (which included Bosnia, Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Slovenia & Serbia) and adopted a planned market socialism and privately owned estates and factories nationalized. After Tito’s death in 1980, Croatia declared independence from Yugoslavia on June 25, 1991. At the same time, the Serbs declared their independence from Croatia and civil war broke out. The Bosnian War from 1992-95 was a territorial battle among Serbs, Croats & Bosnians that was one of the bloodiest since WWII. Now almost two decades since the end of the war, Croatia is well established as a safe, independent and tourist – friendly country.
Why the history lesson? What does it have to do with you? The one prevailing theme I learned while meeting with business owners and women, is the communist rule left a culture of dependence on the government – they were not taught to be independent and to think bigger and to own businesses. They get jobs and no matter your productivity or lack of productivity you were guaranteed a job. There was no incentive to go above and beyond because it was not recognized or rewarded. Remember, during the communist rule, people were not allowed to own businesses. When I met with the owner of Barba Beer – a craft beer company in Split, he talked about how his family was not supportive of his venture. In fact, they thought he was crazy, and two years later even after his success, they still have not visited his brewery. He had to fight through all kinds of red tape that took nearly two years until he could open for business.
Also, I met with the leader of an organization dedicated to teaching and supporting women to open and own businesses. Again, this was not something that was talked about or taught. But because so many women lost their spouses and or family members during the civil war, they needed (and still need) to find ways of supporting themselves and their families.
My message to you is to be grateful you live you in a country that supports small business ownership. You are in an industry filled with entrepreneurs dedicated to being successful and living their “American Dream.” I hope we never lose this spirit and you appreciate the opportunities our history and culture provide to you. I know it made me a lot more thankful for my opportunities and all of you. Thank you for being on the journey with me at PWG for the past 13 years – it is an honor to be part of our community. Think BIG and work hard to make your dreams come true. You have so much more resources than many others around the world – be sure to use them and go for it.
This month I’m in Prague – another country which has known the impact of the communist rule. I will have more to report when I leave in 5 weeks. In the meantime, celebrate your success and develop your business into whatever you want it to be and don’t let anyone or anything hold you back!