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central & eastern Europe business conference

Tuesday 15 March, 2011

The College of Business & Management @ Northeastern Illinois University sponsored the EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS CONFERENCE , which featured speakers over from Poland & representatives from all over central & eastern Europe.  Here’s a quick summary of 2 days of presentations.

Professor Felicjan Bilok of the Czestochowa University of Technology took a look @ trade unions demise in Poland, whose membership dropped from 38% in 1999 to 16% in 2008, while other countries only dropped 1-8%.  Union strongholds still exist in state-owned-enterprises, (35%), & for mid-level staff & technicians (37%).  Employees @ privately owned companies are only 1% unionized.

Dr. Leszek Cichoblazinski, also of the Czestochowa University of Technology, followed up on the labor relations theme by discussing his experience in mediating labor disputes, which is obligatory in Poland before strikes.  He used the example of spilled hot coffee resulting in a global installation of machines (instead of kettles) which the local workers rejected because it offered less choice in types of coffee & tea.

Dr. Hamid Adbari of NEIU offered a review of the book The Next 100 Years & how it applies to countries throughout the world, which hinges on access to water.  The US, Poland, Turkey, & Mexico are up, while China (isolated, inaccessible, unstable coasts with no naval power), Japan (dependent, looking for labor), & Germany will fall down.

I had to head out for a flight out of town, so the rest is contributed by Dean S. Santopoalo, Development Coach with Focused In Leadership in Chicago.

Prof. Pawel Pietrasienski of the Warsaw School of Economics spoke of using ethnic chambers of commerce to establish trade relations and look to “train the trainer” and other programs to help companies learn how to work with international cultures and build relationships.

Atakan Arica of Arica International Corporation & Vice President of the Turkish American Chamber of Commerce asked “Why do we go overseas?”  To mitigate risks by approaching growth markets when others are down & gaining access to resources via joint ventures. But we should not expect people to do business the way we do.  Different levels of professionalism are evident in each region. Everyone has a different understanding of a business agreement and if you don’t have it on paper, it does not exist.

Michael L. Hetzel, President of Northern Galaxy Corporation noted that  America has lost some 2 million jobs to China, but what the news reporters have not mentioned is that China has lost 15 million jobs to other “lower cost” nations.  In 2010, there were 90,000 strikes in China, although they never received any news coverage.  Supply chain risks in overseas companies have to build inventory to compensate for the distance between manufacturing companies and their end markets, which says goodbye to J.I.T. The  industrialization challenge that China faces is a lack of infrastructure and that foreign markets need a local supply chain, which facilitates quicker production and time to market.

Martin J. Claessens of the U.S. Department of Commerce & Mary Roberts of the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity gave their pitches to use the government’s help in approaching foreign markets, so I won’t repeat those here.

Mona Pearl, Founder & COO of Beyond A Strategy encouraged people to understand the unpredictability of different cultures, and that many cultures have developed around limited resources and knowledge, specifically the eastern nations that were governed under communism.  If a centralized style of governance is all someone ever knew from generation to generation, that thinking will take generations to change.

Milomir Ognjanovic, Economic Advisor to Consulate General of Republic of Serbia stated that the war of the 1990’s made the Serbs very tough, and less tolerant for undisciplined and privileged cultures.  This inclusive and independent demeanor resulted in Serbia acquiring a high amount of natural resources and incurring no real debt.  Serbia has petitioned for acceptance into the EU in 2011, but by joining the EU, they’ll have to open their borders to others that they might not want to work with. This is not because they do not like others within the EU, but because of their independent, inclusive nature and violent recent history.

Dr . Robert Donnorummo of the University of Pittsburgh intimated that countries in southeast Europe have not been doing as well as central Europeans because Southeast Europeans are farther from their main consumer goods market, Germany.   Privatization is necessary for capitalism within the region but that it may not be enough.  There must be an infrastructure based on laws, knowledge of contract negotiations, terms and conditions, for relations to exist.   Russia produces 1/3 of all natural gas and oil in that region, and no matter how independent one may be from the other, there will always be a common thread between Eastern Europe and Russia.  Europe needs Russia’s oil and gas. Russia needs Europe’s money. As long as those needs exist, so will the concept of trade.

Thanks Dean!

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