I recently returned from a journey to Eastern Europe. I briefly visited towns in Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria, and Romania. The tour caused me to reflect more seriously than ever on the freedoms and opportunities we enjoy in the United States.
We took a photograph of a bombed out building in Vukovar, Croatia, located on the Danube River. Someone had placed beautiful blooming flowers in several openings of the building where windows used to be. The symbolism was intense.
My professional life for the past fifteen years has been devoted to working with leaders of privately owned businesses. Most small to midsize businesses cycle – from relatively good times to relatively poor times. Occasionally a business is devastated. Even in “normal” times, my clients face difficult challenges. Some are fighting serious diseases while still running their businesses. Others are unable to pay themselves a salary for months at a time due to negative cash flow. Some are angry with and frustrated by lending institutions who offer little or no support. Still others must struggle through broken family relationships that are exacerbated by the demands of the business.
So it’s not surprising that businesses are sometimes figuratively blown up. Maybe more surprising are those occasions when, out of the ashes, something beautiful emerges. Individual perseverance and guts, and the unbending support of family or friends or customers or suppliers, produce bright color where only gray existed before.
Now, back to Eastern Europe. Having met and heard the stories of a number of people who once lived behind the Iron Curtain, I am struck by the power of having the freedom of choice. I’m more appreciative of having a system of checks and balances in a government that sometimes seems to be gridlocked. I’m grateful to live in a country where any entrepreneur has the freedom to choose his own next step. Doors may not be wide open at every decision point, but at least the doors exist.
Has your business ever seemed like a mere shell of the structure it once was? And you’re still standing? Then my photo from Vukovar is for you!