1. What are the challenges and difficulties that small economies of the former Yugoslavia, including Slovenia and Macedonia face?
Sonja Smuc: Slovenia and Macedonia, we are both new kids on the block with all the enthusiasm and problems that come with it. Although being small can be an advantage, and new seems interesting, in the world of global economy and politics the combination of small and new is a tricky one and usually means less influence on global market and policy. Therefore small countries have to develop special strategies, some call it ‘size-strategies’ to be successful in modern world and to become brands in its own right. I believe that both Slovenia and Macedonia are still figuring out this strategies. While joining EU, NATO and euro zone was a good move for Slovenia, last decade prooved that that is just not enough. To be recognised as an attractive, export-oriented economy small countries have to work on their strenghts – education, geographical position, infrastructure, connections, nature … – and be very smart in tailoring competitive business conditions. Usually it is difficult to ‘sell’ this philosophy in our countries since the results would be seen in 3-10 years time and parties that would push in this direction would, at least in Slovenia, not have much chances of being reelected. To help in developing this longer term view and pulling strenghts form our recourses inciatives as Macedonia 2025 and Summit100 business leaders of SEE come along.
On the other hand luckly not everything depends on politics and economic policy, so in both our countries we have great companies that thrive through specialisation on nich markets.
2. What are the advantages of the Slovenian economy compared with the other countries from the region and member states of European Union?
Sonja Smuc: Investors report about loyal and skilled work force, innovativeness, infrastructure (http://www.investslovenia.org/why-slovenia/). Slovenia is also among best in literacy, road-transport-density, international trade, rate of turism growth, quality of education, perservance of nature.
3. What is business ethics and is it used by managers today in managing their companies?
Sonja Smuc: We went through hell regarding business ethics. Some managers that were considered heros 10 years ago have vanished from business circles due to their misconduct. Era of growth boom, almost unlimited money for rent and people’s belief that sun will always shine, along with incompetent supervisory mechanisms have caused a lot of headache to our economy and a lot of heartache to many families that were victimes of – not global crises but – misdeeds of top management and owners. It is a shamefull period of our history. But I believe we have learned a lot. Discussions about business ethics are not rare among managers and integrity of a person, especially if you recruit for top management, has become an important part of the process. Managers Association of Slovenia has played a crutial role in this development. Our code of etichs is our constitution that we use to measure deed of our members when a problem arises – and we have excluded 6 members on this ground; last year we have contributed to Slovene Principles of Corporate Integrity that where signed by over 80 companies.
4. Your specialization is women’s management. Can you explain what that means and whether the region has successful women managers?
Sonja Smuc: Talent is a starting point for every nation. Fact is that talents are equaly distributed among men and women, and yet women in top positions – be it busienss, academia or politics – are rarely seen. It makes me sad to see such a waste of talent. Women simply don’t get the same amount of opportunities in which their talents could grow and be recognised. They are also not trainedor raised in the same way as men on how to make such opportunities for themselves. If we use only half of our capabilities we will never get as far as we could. In many ways our region has a better starting point then many other European countries to leap forward in this regard.
5. Which way can every individual lobby for the interest of their own economy?
Sonja Smuc: Lobbying is an art. In my naive opinion one should only lobby when the interests that you are arrgumenting are not only in your self-interest but can be also useful to others or at least would not hurt. In small countries an individual has more opportunity for influencing and with that also bigger responsibility. We can not just sit back and blame others, we have to take part if we want better future. And we also have to learn how to appreciate and champion good ideas and deed of others.