Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Greece is proving that you can prosper in a recession: here is how


If you open a newspaper these days, chances are that you will find a world map coloured in red. Next to the map, you will see a table with two columns. The first will contain names of countries and the second a list of negative figures. Those dismal numbers are the economic projections for the current year.

However, if you examine the map in detail, you will realize that not all countries are coloured in red. With surprise and incredulity, you will then discover that in Europe there is a country coloured in green: Greece. Is that a mistake? How is it possible that, despite a worldwide economic recession, the Greek economy keeps growing?

Yes, the map is telling the truth. The Greek economy is moving forward also this year. We are not facing a statistical error. It is not a mirage, it is a reality. After contrasting economic data from different sources, the conclusion is inescapable: there is something about Greek businesses that makes them literally recession-proof.

What is the secret behind positive Greek economic figures? Which lessons can we draw from Greek businesses and society? Can we apply those teachings to our life in other countries? These are two principles that I have extracted from this phenomenon:

1.- FOCUS EXCLUSIVELY ON LONG-TERM RELATIONSHIPS. Most Greek companies are small and middle-sized and, from those, none spends much on advertising. While average American or European enterprises make strenuous efforts to acquire new customers, entrepreneurs in Athens or Thessaloniki usually prefer the slow approach.

Greek companies don't grow like weeds, but like oak trees. They take roots through slow organic growth and develop solid reputations, which in turn, make them extraordinarily resilient in a recession.

Suppliers are chosen on the basis of long-term considerations and newcomers have first to prove themselves in the market before anyone takes them seriously. Greek businessmen grant credit to customers whose family they had known for years and dismiss the rest as too risky. For this reason, losses due to credit defaults are amongst the lowest in the world.

2.- CHOOSE EMPLOYEES AMONGST FRIENDS AND FAMILY. The small and medium Greek enterprise constitutes an ecosystem of brothers, uncles, and cousins. In all areas, including high technology, when it comes to hiring, a friend with average professional qualifications will always be preferred to an unknown genius.

Entry-level salaries are low, but in exchange, employees are almost never let go during business downturns. A sense of common purpose permeates the whole company and favours continuous exchange of information at all levels. Close family and personal relations often link managers and employees to customers and suppliers, creating enormous stability in economic flows.

Do these two characteristics correspond to a business culture that has fallen behind the times? I very much doubt it. In a world of flicker and sizzle, Greeks have chosen to build solid structures that can withstand even the worse storms.

The ability of Greek businesses to move forward in difficult times might be showing us the true key to sustained economic growth. Something as simple as knowing whom to trust, telling the truth, and following up consistently.

[Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com]

[Image by miriam.mollerus under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]

Greece is proving that you can prosper in a recession: here is how


If you open a newspaper these days, chances are that you will find a world map coloured in red. Next to the map, you will see a table with two columns. The first will contain names of countries and the second a list of negative figures. Those dismal numbers are the economic projections for the current year.

However, if you examine the map in detail, you will realize that not all countries are coloured in red. With surprise and incredulity, you will then discover that in Europe there is a country coloured in green: Greece. Is that a mistake? How is it possible that, despite a worldwide economic recession, the Greek economy keeps growing?

Yes, the map is telling the truth. The Greek economy is moving forward also this year. We are not facing a statistical error. It is not a mirage, it is a reality. After contrasting economic data from different sources, the conclusion is inescapable: there is something about Greek businesses that makes them literally recession-proof.

What is the secret behind positive Greek economic figures? Which lessons can we draw from Greek businesses and society? Can we apply those teachings to our life in other countries? These are two principles that I have extracted from this phenomenon:

1.- FOCUS EXCLUSIVELY ON LONG-TERM RELATIONSHIPS. Most Greek companies are small and middle-sized and, from those, none spends much on advertising. While average American or European enterprises make strenuous efforts to acquire new customers, entrepreneurs in Athens or Thessaloniki usually prefer the slow approach.

Greek companies don't grow like weeds, but like oak trees. They take roots through slow organic growth and develop solid reputations, which in turn, make them extraordinarily resilient in a recession.

Suppliers are chosen on the basis of long-term considerations and newcomers have first to prove themselves in the market before anyone takes them seriously. Greek businessmen grant credit to customers whose family they had known for years and dismiss the rest as too risky. For this reason, losses due to credit defaults are amongst the lowest in the world.

2.- CHOOSE EMPLOYEES AMONGST FRIENDS AND FAMILY. The small and medium Greek enterprise constitutes an ecosystem of brothers, uncles, and cousins. In all areas, including high technology, when it comes to hiring, a friend with average professional qualifications will always be preferred to an unknown genius.

Entry-level salaries are low, but in exchange, employees are almost never let go during business downturns. A sense of common purpose permeates the whole company and favours continuous exchange of information at all levels. Close family and personal relations often link managers and employees to customers and suppliers, creating enormous stability in economic flows.

Do these two characteristics correspond to a business culture that has fallen behind the times? I very much doubt it. In a world of flicker and sizzle, Greeks have chosen to build solid structures that can withstand even the worse storms.

The ability of Greek businesses to move forward in difficult times might be showing us the true key to sustained economic growth. Something as simple as knowing whom to trust, telling the truth, and following up consistently.

[Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com]

[Image by miriam.mollerus under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]