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The Balkan region has a great potential for entrepreneurship, because it is clear to its citizens that they cannot, in many ways, rely on the governments to solve their problems. But there is a lack of knowledge in how to turn ideas into reality, says Jeff Hoffman, founder of Booking.com.

Hoffman is quite familiar with Western Balkans region since he spends a lot of time in Slovenia where he has “a family, friends and family in a business sense”. He was a guest speaker last week at the event organised by CEED Slovenia, where he spoke to Slovenian entrepreneurs about his business experiences. Daily Delo’s Novica Mihajlovič caught up with Hoffman at the conference, publishing the interview in last week’s Saturday edition of which the Adriatic Journal is sharing an extract.

Trust is the key, which is difficult to achieve

Some entrepreneurs try to do everything by themselves – from finance, to marketing, product design, and sales – but it is important to create the right team and delegate, Hoffman advised. Such entrepreneurs must break with this mindset, he pointed out. “It is important that an entrepreneur puts together people around him who are smarter than him, and who are the best in their area of work.”

"But if you study examples as I often do, you will find that owners of the companies that have grown have achieved this by trusting in people whom they gathered around them."

Multitasking works, but only in the initial phase, while later it is important to leave certain tasks to others who are better trained. “Usually, it is the founders who are slowing their business’s growth because they do not trust others (to do the job) and want to do it all by themselves,” Hoffman argues.

Unttaped potential

Hoffman is active throughout the Balkans. Asked how knowledge from global and high-tech entrepreneurship can be sold in poor markets, he says that, for example, in Bosnia and Herzegovina, this knowledge is more accepted than many would believe.

"When traveling to these countries, it becomes immediately clear that people here are not having it easy, they go through life facing great difficulties”
"If people here see that something does not work, they look for ways to improve that particular area."

“Many people may be surprised that in these places there is a lot entrepreneurial spirit, more than in many other places. If people here see that something does not work, they look for ways to improve that particular area. It is also clear to them that they cannot rely on the government and that they themselves must find solutions for their own problems.”

Robots are the future

Source: Delo (Jože Shuadolnik)

In these places, there is a lot of will to improve lives, people have had enough of living to get by, especially the younger generations, which is good news for entrepreneurs in these places, Hoffman says. He adds, however, that though people may see a problem and come up with a solution, they often lack knowledge how to turn their ideas into business.

Finally, Hoffman concludes that blaming immigrants for unemployment holds no fire. “Come on, no! Slovenes’ problem is not that people from Bosnia will come here to take your jobs.”

"Bosnians will not take your jobs. Robots will."

The full interview (author: Novica Mihajlovič) in the Slovenian language is available here 

Adriatic Journal

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