Wednesday, June 15, 2016

The Business Begins

If you are reading this now, it will be nearly 2 AM back at home, but for us, it is our last hour before we pack up for our last visit followed by our road trip from Warsaw to Krakow.

One thing has been evident as we have spoken with the various business speakers and professionals since we got to Warsaw -- understanding the history of Poland is critical to understanding its current success as well as its promising future.  Several times now, we have heard our speakers comment to the various points of not forgetting the past and where Poland came from.  When you've been oppressed to any degree, rather than try to forget that it happened, you can sometimes get that much further ahead by repurposing that dark time into a launch pad to move forward.  Poland clearly has been the example here, creating a foundation for themselves out of their history and using it to drive them into the future.

Monday as day one set a great bar for what to expect for the week.  The AM panel discussion we had clearly indicated that as much as Poland has advanced on numerous levels, there is still a lot left to develop and achieve.  While past results are not guarantee of future performance (as reiterated by one of our speakers, Ms. Dorothy Dabrowski of the American Chamber of Commerce in Poland), the trend of upward growth and relative stability is all the reason for those who are Polish to remain positive.  For outsiders, like me, looking in, it also gives me faith that after knowing the history of war and only the recent change to a democratic state (a democracy which is younger than many of us on this trip) that even for something as complex as uniting and building your democracy, the future has a way of working itself out.

The site visits since them gave us even more perspective on some success stories of local organizations and how they strive to thrive and, in a sense, shape Poland as it continues to develop.  Monday afternoon's visit led us to Startup Poland at the Google site in Warsaw -- certainly a positive visit, but one where after speaking to the presenter (Ms. Eliza Kruczkowska, CEO), I learned that the approach to both their own business as well as the ones they support, it's seems a bit similar to life: because many of these businesses are developing and growing at the same time, they are in essence just figuring out the secrets to success and prosperity for the first time on behalf of Poland.  This seems to be true of many businesses according to the various other feedback we've heard, including the tour guides -- existing businesses had to adjust to the democratic state, and therefore they are setting the benchmark and paving the way for future businesses to succeed.

Tuesday's visits took us to the Engineering Design Center, a partner of our Capital District native GE (of which that speaker, Magdalena Nizik, Managing Director, seemed excited to find out once we explained the connection -- perhaps she is one we will see again very soon!) and to the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, EBRD.  In short, both visits highlighted the positives, especially in recent years, of the Polish economy juxtaposed with known current challenges.

I look at these challenges with a bit of a biased eye, I have to admit, but only because I still cannot get over that emotional reaction I felt in that museum.  If this nation can overcome those types of challenges, then certainly they can work through these ones with politics and the governing bodies both in office now in Poland as well as within the EU.  It will be interesting to see how the next 10 years looks for these businesses as well as the Polish state and economy in general.

Despite my positive bias, it's clear that there is a lot to work out, but I tend to focus on the positive because it is hard to deny the general optimism that I've noticed consistently since our is also hard to deny the sense of national pride, especially as you see how the country unites to support the Euro Cup soccer (er, football) tournament currently going on in France.  I haven't learned it in Polish yet, but go Poland!!!

Off to our final site visit in Warsaw now....see you again in Krakow!

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