Enterpreneurial Center, a small Bratislava-based market researcher and consulting company, is preparing a project that will promote business opportunities in central Europe in the eyes of American would-be investors and business partners.
The Central European Business Survey (CEBS) programme intends to strengthen the position of domestic companies in Slovakia, Slovenia, Austria, Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic. By inviting American MBA graduates to the region, CEBS hopes to spread the good news about central Europe far beyond its borders and at the same time pick the brains of the sharpest young business minds in the west.
"The Slovak market is full of people who have interesting ideas, but they need help in specific areas like marketing and communication with foreign clients," said Pavol Kopečný, Enterpreneurial Center Project Manager.
According to Kopečný, one of the programme's most outstanding advantages is its perfectly targeted audience, involving young people who are interested in business. "Moreover, these people are focussed on relations within central Europe, and between the region and the United States," Kopečný added.
CEBS is the Center's first project, and aims to bring together experienced MBA graduates from the U.S. and central European business executives to create a bridge of cooperation between the two business communities.
The programme will provide 25-30 participants with information and contacts with top managers and other representatives from central European business and government, in a series of lectures and meetings.
"Most American [businessmen] consider central Europe as one compound market," maintained Kopečný. "Our aim is to highlight the positive features of running a business in Slovakia, as a competitive single market within the central European region."
Jožef Drofenik, Slovenian Chargé d'Affaires in Bratislava, is one of numerous officials who will represent the participating countries at the programme. "We appreciate this project because it informs potential business partners from the United States about the central European environment in detail. It is a great idea, because CEBS participants will get acquainted with business opportunities from the inside," Drofenik said.
According to Kopečný, the key goal is to show the advantages of local markets, with their specific development potential. "Foreign investors are interested in comparing regional markets before they decide to enter one of them," Kopečný said. He explained that the Slovak market still suffers from a xenophobic attitude towards foreign investors.
"It should not be taken for granted any longer that 'if we don't persuade the investor to come and enter the Slovak market today, we will persuade him tomorrow'," he said, adding that competition between regional countries for investors was fierce, and that investors who settled in one country rarely branched out to another.
One of the programme's many goals is also to convince Slovak managers and business professionals that protecting inefficient domestic businesses is futile in the long run. "It could end up in the Slovak companies' inability to compete with producers from neighbouring countries with larger production of higher quality, thanks to investments from abroad," Kopečný explained.
CEBS is scheduled for July and August 1999, and will be divided into two main parts. The first part will give the participants sufficient time to become familiar with the situation in central Europe, as well as with the peculiarities of the markets and economic systems of each country.
In the second part, guests will have the chance to travel around the entire region and compare their theoretical knowledge with what goes on in practice. "They will visit some of the biggest enterprises in central Europe, and explore market opportunities from the perspective of local businessmen," said Kopečný.
Companies such as Pilsner Urquell brewery in the Czech Republic and OMV oil refinery in Austria will be participating in the project. "They [programme participants] will work with many different companies, but they will know where central Europe is and what it offers from the economic point of view," said Drofenik.
2. Nov 1998 at 0:00 | Ivan Remiaš