This volume presents ten first-person stories, case studies, about how entrepreneurs in the Balkans cope with obstacles to the success of their businesses. In producing the ten cases, we labored to produce something new. We realize that many of the issues covered in the case studies are not new, and that these topics have been written about before. However, what is different here is that each case study documents the specific experiences of a real business in the Balkans, revealing frustrations and difficulties through the eyes of the principals involved, in their own words, as they struggle to survive and grow. Additionally, many of the cases show the impacts of these obstacles on revenues, costs, and profits, putting the damages in financial terms, information that is not usually seen.
These ten businesses, as with all other businesses around the world, faced problems with marketing, production, distribution, financing, and personnel. But they also faced problems that are unimaginable to most western companies: customs procedures that were applied indiscriminately among companies, tax levies that changed from month to month, government contracts that were abrogated after they were signed. In fact, most of the problems cited by these companies that created pressing problems were generated by government policies or procedures. It is our hope that these cases can be used as a starting point to evaluate those laws and regulations across the Balkans that have created barriers for businesses such as these to become prosperous and competitive.
The words in the ten case studies come from the people who run businesses in the Balkan states. They offer testimony about conditions they face every day, which limit their ability to do business at home, in the region, and internationally. In their own words, they describe events that hamper their firms, providing unusual insight into these situations that are usually described in a general way, without the benefit of the personal view. These case studies are written not only about actual businesses, but about people in those businesses who have the day-to-day responsibility to make them grow and become successful. Even though some of the names have been disguised, the situations and stories are current and real.
The objective of each of the businesses, taken one at a time, is to sell its products into the marketplace at a price enabling it to pay its suppliers and employees, to pay the appropriate taxes to the government at a reasonable level, and to have enough profit left over that will provide a reasonable return on the investment required, so more capital can be raised to make the business grow. The problems they face, unlike western businesses, are often imposed from outside the company: government rules and regulations that are difficult to understand, constantly changing, and applied in an inconsistent and arbitrary manner. While the cases look at ten businesses, one at a time, in the aggregate they stand for the economy of the states within the Balkans. Companies such as these can provide the engine for economic growth, if the barriers they face are removed.