Despite all their market research and inquiries clients still ask me the question “Is it worth investing and doing business in Romania”?
This is of course a difficult question to answer and the answer will change over a period of twelve months. It is also very subjective. Had this question been asked of me at the beginning of 2014 there would probably have been a more guarded answer then the answer which I would give now. I am now more hopeful for Romania than I was this time last year.
The question is based on an attempt by the investors to find out the reality of Romanian business life. Not the platitudes issued by the Government or the Ministries; not the often bland reports which they will have been given by other institutions and those with an interest in encouraging them to come to Romania. They want to know the real position. The real answer. This is when it becomes hard.
There are a number of expatriates working in Romania and if you talk to them they will all give you different takes on the reality of working in Romania from their experience. The first comment that they often say is that Romanian businessmen have a different business culture from what they are used to. I have written about this before. My comment on this is that so far as the Romanians are concerned the expatriate investors have a different business culture to the Romanians. The expatriate appears not to trust Romanian businessmen and suggest that their ways of doing business are less than honest. I have had it said that Romanian businessmen cannot be trusted and all that they want to do is lie and cheat and take money from the foreigners. Whilst this may have been true in the past (1989 -1990) in my view this is no longer true. Why was it like this in 1990 and not now? To answer this question we have to remember where Romania was coming from in 1989 where the previous regime had developed lying and cheating as a way of life. If you did not do this previously you were considered stupid and you could easily starve. This is not the case now.
Another mistake which is still made is to do with language. A thing which I have mentioned before. As a foreign investor about to start working in Romania think of what it must be like for the Romanians you are dealing with. You the foreigner come into Romania, find someone who speaks English (in my case) and then talk to them in English at a speed which would put Louis Hamilton to shame. Then you expect them to understand everything. You use words and sentence construction that they may have never heard before. No wonder there is confusion and misunderstanding. Confusion and misunderstanding breeds distrust.
So what is the reality? After over twenty four years here in Romania I have had my fair share of asking myself what it is really like doing business in Romania. I have met more dubious characters from England in Romania than I did in London. So that tells you something about the business climate in Romania. Perhaps the foreigners are the ones which need to be watched. I have made a number of good Romanian business friends over the years and they have always dealt fairly with me. What has been important is to understand each person’s position and making sure everybody understands what is expected from them and of them. Communication is so very important and all levels.
Corruption? Sure there is corruption and it is now being more actively prosecuted than before. Will this continue – the new President with the help of the European Union institutions will continue the fight. It will be hard and there will be set backs but a more open economy and business environment is evolving. As I mentioned in a previous post the future lies with the post-revolution generation who will now proceed with the next step of the revolution.
Can one make money? The answer is yes. If not, why are there so many foreign investors and companies here? Why do foreign investors look either to invest in Romanian or export to/from Romania?
Romania has much to offer foreigners both at the business and cultural and dare one say at a personal level. It is a country full of opportunity but a foreigner needs to understand the country and work on that understanding. Remember it is not your country and you have to learn how it really works; then you will understand and make money.
Should you invest in Romania? If the reasons are soundly based then there is no reason not to invest. Keep your business brain with you when you leave home. Judge everything in a proper way; then and only then will you enjoy Romania and make money. Sure there are days when you will hate the country, but is that not true of every country? So even if you have a Romanian hate day remember that there are many successful foreign investors and businessmen here in Romania. Join them and you will be successful.