Seven Deadly Sins of Georgian Business
11 July, 2015
Seven Deadly Sins of Georgian Business
For many years, all we’ve been hearing from our government(s) is how important small and medium enterprises are for the economy and how they need to be developed. Small business, they would say, needs to be supported, financed, given benefits and then supported and financed some more. However, consumed by good intentions as they were, our illustrious leaders have omitted the extremely important issue of mentality.

Traits of nouveau riche mentality still remain in the minds of many Georgians, making
them their own worst enemy when starting or joining an enterprise.

Back in the Soviet Union, free enterprise was something from the realm of fantasy. Only those who were very well-connected were allowed to have something distantly resembling a personal business. Needless to say, in a country where having a 20m2 apartment and a rust bucket on wheels was considered luxurious living, calling someone a businessman was akin to calling him a god. People used to gossip in hushed voices about that neighbor’s uncle’s friend who had a business (!) somewhere in the West (!!) and thus managed to send his family a pair of jeans once (!!!).
But one fine day, the USSR crashed and burned, and the tumultuous nineties came, with all the anarchy and chaos that usually ensue when a state collapses. The people were overwhelmed by their newfound freedom, but while some stood with their mouths agape, others went out to grab the bird of happiness by the tail. In the intense struggle for territory and capital that followed, only the most ruthless and unscrupulous survived, forming a vulgar and aggressive but very affluent social class of nouveau riche. These people were driven by a constant desire to flaunt their wealth while at the same time being consumed by constant fear of losing it. They drove massive armored SUVs with tinted windows, walked around with huge guard dogs on chains made of precious metals, hired personal security for their bimbo girlfriends and built opulent, tasteless villas surrounded by towering walls. Such were the first businessmen of the post-Soviet era.
Their behavior has left a very deep imprint on Georgians, a select few of whom managed to also join this new social class. The word “businessman” acquired a new meaning – now it meant a bullheaded man with a beer belly who wears enough jewelry to sink a ship, smokes expensive cigars and wipes his backside with dollar bills. And you better not ask where he got all that, or someone might find you in a shady park alleyway, sporting way too many holes.

An average Georgian businessman does not want to wait. He wants everything here and now, and to hell with the consequences.

In the 2000s, when Georgia got its things together and its younger generation finally started to understand what running a business really meant, many people, me included, breathed a sigh of relief. However, a new problem soon emerged: Businesses started by Georgians were constantly going bust, with only a few lucky exceptions. In addition, many of our compatriots found it either very difficult or near-impossible to do business in the West. After studying the topic for a while, I made a conclusion that traits of nouveau riche mentality still remain in the minds of many Georgians, making them their own worst enemy when starting or joining an enterprise.
These traits are as follows:
Greed. Completely ignoring the old and trusted proverb “a cheapskate pays twice”, many Georgians pinch pennies whenever possible, saving a couple on this and a dozen on that. This is especially true for local construction companies: Many have absolutely no problem replacing expensive, high quality materials with cheaper ones or hiring inexperienced architects because their services are not as costly. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out how dangerous this is.
Impatience. An average Georgian businessman does not want to wait. He wants everything here and now, and to hell with the consequences. Long-term planning is discarded in favor of chasing instant gratification, which frequently ends up leading overeager businessmen into corruption, shady connections, even shadier deals and eventually prison.
Arrogance. The phrase “I know best” has been killing businesses and people since times immemorial. In the 21st century, almost every type, form and kind of enterprise has already been tried, tested and extensively discussed. Terabytes upon terabytes of information on anything a wannabe businessman might possibly want to do are just one click away, but our dear compatriots stubbornly ignore them, preferring to do things in their own (often grossly uneducated) way. As a result, they end up walking into elementary traps and falling prey to issues that were overcome by the rest of the world long ago.

When an average Georgian imagines himself in charge of a business, he imagines sitting in a leather chair of a CEO with his legs on the table.

Excessive ambition. Probably the most harmful of the traits left by the nouveau riche mentality. When an average Georgian imagines himself in charge of a business, he imagines sitting in a leather chair of a CEO with his legs on the table. Very few imagine sleepless nights, careful planning, meticulous calculation, risky gambles and other difficult moments that inevitably accompany running an enterprise. Discovering all this is very unpleasant for a newbie businessman with delusions of grandeur and almost always results in him losing motivation and his business collapsing.
Lack of time management. Georgian businessmen very rarely bother with timeframes, deadlines, schedules and the like. If they do, they almost never adhere to them themselves, completely ignorant of the example they set for their employees. Their attitude can be described by the motto “It’s done when it’s done”. One does not need to be a business administration major to understand what consequences such a lax approach has. Being unpunctual soils a businessman’s reputation, general tardiness makes the business unable to keep up with the competitors, and failing to meet a contract’s deadline may very well spell a company’s death sentence. In extreme cases, the underachieving business owner might try to whip his employees into frenzy in a rabid bid to meet a deadline that the company cannot afford to exceed. Many of these employees will quit after receiving such treatment, costing the company a pretty penny anyway.
Disunity. The chaos of the nineties, in which only the fittest survived, has made Georgians, and especially Georgian businessmen, deeply suspicious and mistrustful of each other. Now we have a whole army of these “lone wolves” viciously guarding their businesses from intruders and, incidentally, potential partners. Thoughts that come to their minds upon meeting a fellow businessman are full of paranoia and fear. And even if some of them manage to team up, the union is rarely long-lived, falling apart due to neither of them willing to compromise. Or, alternatively, the paranoia proves true and one of the partners actually takes over another’s business.
Nepotism. Instead of hiring competent, professional employees and winning their loyalty, Georgian businessmen frequently prefer to take in their relatives, friends and girlfriends instead. Needless to say, lifespan of a business staffed by people with only a superficial connection to it becomes drastically reduced. Moreover, sometimes it even succumbs to infighting, with intrigues running rampant and numerous “nearest and dearest” clashing in an attempt to subvert their superiors or gain their favor. Also, employees not included in the nepotistic circle rarely stay in such companies for long, since their bosses almost inevitably force them to work harder in order to cover up for incompetence of those not hired on their merit.
Therefore, I want to tell my fellow countrymen the following: The Soviet Union is dead. The nouveau riche are dead. Please stop embarrassing yourselves and our country with your obsolete attitudes towards entrepreneurship. Get on the internet, get educated, get to business.

Author: Zura Amiranashvili
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