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Change is Hard, But You've Got no Choice.

As I navigate through the Balkan region, I can't help but notice that there's still some catching up to do when it comes to the mentality of US startups. It's something that keeps popping up and gives me cause for concern. Let me share with you a few issues I frequently encounter with entrepreneurs in the Balkans:

First off, a majority of entrepreneurs here tend to take everything personally, which often leads to defensive behavior. Now, when someone gets defensive, it makes people (e.g. investors, customers, etc.) feel like they perceive the feedback as criticism. And if that's the case, people might hesitate to share their honest thoughts with them or even stop communicating with them altogether. It's really up to the entrepreneur to decide what kind of "player" they want to be. In the words of Doc Rivers, "Average players want to be left alone. Good players want to be coached. Great players want to be told the truth."

Another issue I notice is that entrepreneurs in this region are often poor at follow-up and follow-through. "Follow-up" means checking in on something, like reaching out to a prospect to see if they're still interested in your product. On the other hand, "follow-through" means delivering on what you promised within the agreed-upon time. When you fail to follow up consistently and persistently, it sends the message that the person is not important enough for you. And if you don't follow through, it tells people that they can't trust you. Is that really the impression you want to make on those who can directly impact your success?

Here's another thing I've noticed: Some entrepreneurs in the Balkans want to "play" in the US market but behave based on their local market dynamics. Let me give you a couple of examples.

  • In the Balkan countries, it's relatively easy for a startup to get press coverage because there's not much competition in the startup news space. So, the media is hungry for any story. But here's the thing: getting press in your home country is one thing, but it's a whole different ball game when your startup gets recognized in the US media. That's when it truly counts. Don't let local success blur your vision of success.

  • And let's talk about work schedules. In Europe in general, there are more holidays and vacation days compared to the US. Now, if you're targeting the US market, it's essential to align your work schedule with the schedule of your target audience. You need to be ready to work based on the US holiday schedule. After all, you can't expect to cater to the US market while adhering to a different set of rules.

Ultimately, entrepreneurs need to make a choice. It's either one way or the other; you can't have it both ways. Trying to straddle the line between the two just doesn't work. So, it's important to reflect on what you truly want and adjust your approach accordingly.

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