A new business experience

  • 2002-06-27
  • Paul E. Adams
For me, it was a front-row seat in a drama of hope, riches and faith in a prosperous future.

These are my impressions of Lithuania, where I recently lectured on entrepreneurship. I spent an impressive week in Vilnius witnessing a reborn nation in the throes of change from a planned to a market economy.

I chatted with young entrepreneurs not put off by the difficulty of these changes, who were treating their problems as mere pebbles rather than boulders as they struggled to establish businesses.

They were inspiring and stimulating. In developed economies, starting a new business while not routine is not unusual. We understand management and marketing, and we know how to promote our businesses.

Not so in a market economy that is barely a decade old, still recovering from half a century of Soviet rule with its unwritten, unspoken mantra: "We pretend to pay you and you pretend to work."

But not today. Lithuania is alive, bustling and full of "vibrations" of a prosperous and busy future.

Today, you see busy stores, traffic jams, parking problems and the riches a market economy rewards to the successful. Audis, Mercedes, and BMWs choke the streets. If all the mobile phones in Lithuania ever rang at once, the noise would dwarf London's Big Ben.

Today's young Lithuanians are no different to the young of the Western economies. At night, the restaurants are crowded with the well-groomed - as chic as any in London or Paris - who are in love with cars, computers, the Internet, digital technology, and "Star Wars: Episode II." They have no time for dull economic ideology. They want personal financial success and a place in society.

Let me tell you about an amazing feat of entrepreneurship. In Vilnius, Sigitas Kryzius is an educational entrepreneur. A few years ago, shortly after Lithuania threw off the shackles of Soviet rule, Sigitas, against all odds, started the Vilnius Management College, one of the first private colleges in the new Lithuania. A college dedicated to educating Lithuanians in business management and the market economy.

Today, it boasts a growing student body, successful graduates, seasoned faculties, computer labs, alliances with other institutions, and acceptance in the educational community.

Vilnius Management College is a success. It is contributing to the Lithuanian economy and a new way of life. It's an institution that would have been unheard of 10 years ago.

His college entered my life - due to The Baltic Times' publishing my column nearly a year ago. The column was noticed by three of the college's professors, Olga Kudirkiene, Roma Kriauciuniene and Brite Groboviene. Wishing it could be a source of material for a textbook to teach business English and entrepreneurship, they asked my permission and I readily gave it.

Later, the college invited me to conduct a seminar this May on entrepreneurship to students and business executives. After the seminar, I was invited to lecture to their faculty and staff on the structure of business education in American colleges and universities.

During each coffee break throughout the two day seminar, I was surrounded by those eager to grasp as much knowledge as possible about the workings of entrepreneurship. They were students and "new" entrepreneurs alike, all keen to not waste a moment in the pursuit of building a successful future.

I met:

A young couple who in only five years built a company selling almost $20 million a year worth of vacuum cleaners throughout the Baltic states. They manage over 100 employees,

A young man flush from starting and operating an entertainment and sports arcade, now looking for a second location as he plans to build a chain of entertainment centers,

An adviser to the minister of transport, who is looking to the future, as most Lithuanian transportation systems will fall into private hands heeding the demands of consumers, not the state.

By all accounts, it was exciting, exciting to listen to the questions, to hear the optimism, the lack of doubt about the future. And the thrill of being with these interesting and stimulating individuals, who are all involved in building a democratic and prosperous country. I was told my seminar on entrepreneurship was their first.

Dr. Paul E. Adams is professor emeritus of business administration from Ramapo College of New Jersey, and a retired entrepreneur.