I talked to many entrepreneurs while observing local business conditions. As we strive to find our place and success in the emerging millennium, the Europeans are building their region into a highly advanced economic powerhouse.
What lessons can U.S. owners learn from European business?
European entrepreneurs are faring better than we are despite facing greater regulatory and resource challenges. They focus on generating short-term results while putting in place the ingredients for long-term success. Here are examples of their success.
* Live in the present. Despite sharing 3,000 years of history, most of it at each other's throats, Europeans have embraced a common currency, market and emerging economic system.
The lesson we can learn in growing our businesses is to not dwell on the past but accept that change, opportunity and the future are synonymous.
* Create opportunity out of scarcity. Europeans have less space, disposable income and personal freedom than we do, yet are just as capitalistic. They are less wasteful and make everything count more. In all aspects of business, Europeans find ways to charge for value.
Cover charges are standard at bistros. When you are finished, you either order more or vacate their valuable real estate. Conversely, an artist asked me for water. Instead of a pint, I bought him a liter. He asked why I bought so much when he didn't need it.
The lesson is twofold: Charge more for true value and make valuable resources go as far as possible.
* Don't think, do it. A Belgian antique trader said, "You Americans used to say, 'Go out and get it.' Now you seem to say, 'Bring it right to me.'"
Europeans focus less on how they need government or corporate assistance to grow their businesses. People don't talk about the time they spent working on something, but rather about what they accomplished.
While the grass always looks greener on the other side of the fence, we in Northeast Ohio need to acknowledge that real success will come from not looking to build up our institutions or develop a collective group think toward business success, but from focusing on the oldest and most basic of lessons -- discover your best and highest use, provide extra value, look for pain and problems in your market place, sweat the details and follow through. Andrew Birol is president of Birol Growth Consulting, a Solon-based firm that helps grow businesses by growing their best and highest uses. Reach him at (440) 349-1970 or at www.andybirol.com.