From California to Croatia: Why I’m in the Balkans

Have you ever made a big, bold move in order to surround yourself with possibilities?

That’s what I’ve just done. Six months ago, living in San Diego, I knew I needed a change. So I decided to go big; I sold all of my belongings and went travelling. Along the way I stopped by Zagreb, Croatia, and what I found there blew me away. This country, and the whole Balkan region, has amazing possibilities.

It all started when I stumbled onto the Leap Summit and saw how engaged and motivated the 1200 attendees of this entrepreneurial community were. My sentiment was validated at the 2000 person Conference in Montenegro a few weeks later.

At that point I decided to invest myself into the region; on September 1st, I moved to Zagreb for three months. I witnessed the enormous amounts of creativity and energy the younger generation here is excitedly putting into bolstering the struggling economies of their homeland, where unemployment, especially among the youth, is very high.

The reasons that I am so high on the Balkans include:

  • Language Skills – It seems all of the millennials here have a good grasp of English, with many approaching fluency. Italian, German, French, and Russian are also spoken here.
  • Engineering & Technology Focus – Universities are pumping out engineers of all types; computer, mechanical, even robotic. That sure beats a bunch of art history and philosophy graduates.
  • Innovative Mindset – Years of communism, and then a difficult shift to a free-market economy taught people resilience, as well as a “figure-it-out-with-what-you-have” mentality.
  • Decent Infrastructure – While I can’t say that internet competes with my old Southern California home, it is quite reliable and fast enough. Outside of some graffiti, the cities are very clean and orderly with great public transportation.
  • People – Once you crack the local’s rough exterior, you will find remarkably warm, friendly, and caring people who aren’t afraid of hard work.
  • Geography – Most of the Balkan countries find themselves either bordering, or in between Western countries with large economies, giving the benefits of commerce, tourism, and knowledge. And the cities are remarkably safe, with rich history and attractions everywhere.

There are drawbacks, including stagnant mindsets, lack of access to capital, and governmental regulations that make me really appreciate what we have in the USA. (Seriously, American entrepreneur friends, we have it so easy compared to other countries. The grass *isn’t* greener anywhere else.)

With my background in leadership and international business management, I believe I may just be able to give organizations and business leaders over here strategies and tactics from the West that might give them what they need to reach their next level and bolster the whole region.

In fact, I’ve teamed up with Russell Dalgleish, who is one of UK’s top 10 entrepreneurs, and Croatian Office for Creativity and Innovation, to give a Masters Class on Western Leadership and Business Management Practices in Zagreb, Ljubljana, Rijeka, and Belgrade on October 3rd to 6th. We have more information here:

We’re going to teach some of what we’ve learned about scaling companies, developing leadership, fostering innovation and reaching a global market. We are doing this just to give back – we aren’t even getting compensated, outside of a few meals, travel expenses, and hopefully a lot of applause.

If you’re in one of those cities, do your part; spread the word. SHARE this post. COMMENT below on what you would like to see in the Master Class. And, as always, fearlessly LEAD – because Balkan friends, that’s what your countries need most from you.

As originally published in LinkedIn post From California to Croatia: Why I’m in the Balkans, on September 15, 2016. 


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