When people ask me why I am still in Russia there is a past, a present and a future in my answer.
The past has to do with falling in love. No, not with a Russian lady as one might expect, but with the Russian country and the Russian people. The warmth, hospitality, unconditional friendship and craziness that I have experienced thanks to Russia and Russians have enriched my life. Russia is unmeasurable, limitless, deep and emotional. Russia can also be extreme and contradictory and if one has the time then one can extend this list of characteristics indefinitely. As strange as it may sound to western ears, one of the main things that always attracted me to Russia is the fact that as an individual you can feel free in this country. Free from other people’s expectations, free from norms and rules imposed by society. Free to create your own life and your own fate.
The present has to do with the fact that now, more than ever, there is a need for people who understand the Western, as well as the Russian reality and perspective. People who can perform a bridge function between the West and Russia in business, politics and society. The present also has to do with the fact this difficult “post-2014” period provides boundless learning opportunities. I always preached my mantra “Understand, Accept and Respect” in relation to Russia but only after 2014 was I really put to the test of living and acting by my own beliefs, principles and “mantras”.
The future in my answer has to do with the countless business opportunities that the Russian market still offers. But more importantly with the need to continuously improve your entrepreneurial skills if you want to identify and capitalize on these business opportunities. Meeting the challenge of identifying the right value proposition and identifying the exact customer need that fits this value proposition continues to be an exhilarating and inspiring game.
In Russia, if you don’t learn, you lose. I am only half-way today, and still have 25 good business years in Russia ahead of me. 25 years of learning about human nature, society, politics and business. And hopefully, 25 years of improving my value as an individual and as an entrepreneur.