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I just returned from Slovenia (part of former Yugoslavia) after a 2 week trip. An update for interested readers:
This country is absolutely beautiful. It sits at the northern most point of what we called Yugoslavia, and is bordered by Austria, Hungary, and Italy. The Adriatic Sea to the west, the Alps to the East. You can drive the whole country in 2 hours. The land is beautiful and the lakes pristine. It doesn’t resemble any other parts of Central Europe. 2 million populations, the capitol has 300,000 people.
The food was incredible. The first time I was in Ljubljana was 1989. It was still Yugoslavia. The women wore the babushkas on their heads, and there was nothing but meat and potatoes to eat.
I had no idea the seafood would be so good. Probably the world’s best trout, with fresh catches from the Adriatic Sea. A lot of Italian influence in the cooking.
The women dressed like Italian women. Stretch jeans, low cut blouses, etc. Not like my grandmother who escaped the Schtetls of Poland.
I was invited over by Studio Moderna, the largest central European Shopping Channel and Call center firm. They have offices in 18 countries, and can r represent firms gaining market entry into the region. They asked me to do some business seminars and training, and strategize with top management about growth.
These seminars were taped and should appear on TV in Central Europe.
I also tried to sell my new radio show “The Lemonade Stand” and got some bites on it, but no deals yet. It is in English, after all.
While there, I had some consulting days with some of Ljubljana’s largest companies. The only one I had ever heard of was Élan Skis, which I always thought were Austrian or Italian. Some of the firms were looking at market entry strategies for the USA and China, and brought me in for the initial strategy.
I was warned the Slovenian firms wouldn’t share any info with me but this was quite the opposite. They took advantage of an international person in their offices, and spilled their guts about their needs and problems internationalizing.
THE SAD PART
Unfortunately, my tour was to include more countries. Due to recent politics, many of the business leaders I was scheduled to see simply did not want to deal with Americans. Business and Politics are closely related in most of the world….something our governments never seem to understand. So “Buying American” has a poor cache, and I cannot overcome it.
My dear Friend, Przemslaw Switakowski (who I named Fred because it’s so much easier) drove in from Poland to spend the weekend. Fred is a Slav, and speaks about a dozen languages. And as you know, the Slavic language is a mixture of German and Phlegm. It makes Yiddish sound sexy.
Anyway, we went over to Croatia together. I had never been to Zagreb before, and after seeing it, don’t need to go again. It was 92 degrees and had a Schtoonk. The food however, was great.
I missed the beautiful parts of Croatia, like walled cities and Seaside resorts. But as mentioned, world travelers always want to go somewhere they never were.
Croatia is a 1.5 hour drive from Ljubljana, through rolling hills of unspoiled countryside. And since I know Fred for 15 years, we had much to talk about. Mostly Schtick.
At night we might have had half a beer or so.
I see several in the region. As Slovenia is at the crossroad of so many countries, and the most advanced of the former Yugoslavia republics, it makes an excellent springboard into the region, with lower costs than the rest of the EU (Slovenia joined May 1).
I particularly see opportunities in Media, Technology automation (elearning, intranets, data optimization, and anything in security) and Consumer Goods. They want more western product, and will buy American. Moderna will use their home shopping to push products, and have the fulfillment to back it up.
Any decent international trading company should set up there. Again, at a crossroads, with educated multi-lingual people available.
I routed through Amsterdam. Because, why not? My wisdom has always taught me to get over jet lag in Western Europe whenever possible, but that simply isn’t necessary for Slovenia. However, I did live in The Netherlands for many years, so it is home to me. I also have friends there. And Amsterdam is one of those cities where you can have fun if you try.
That’s just a quick update. Contact me if you have any further interest…in business or simply chatting about that interesting and rapidly changing part of the planet
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