What Entrepreneurs Can Learn From The Slovenian Mindset
Slovenia quickly became one of my favorite European countries for its dramatic natural landscapes, unique mix of Mediterranean and Alpine geography, meticulously built towns and cities, and amazing food and wine. But that wasn’t even what impressed me the most during my visit: it was how much I learned from the Slovenian people’s entrepreneurial mindset.
Slovenians are an impressive group of people. The influences the country has absorbed from the Mediterranean, the Balkans, and Austria, Hungary, and Germany has made them mostly bilingual, culturally flexible to navigate different situations with ease, and quite competitive with its neighbors, which shows in the ways that the country has been economically excelling since it was founded.
As a Slovenian friend told me during my visit, “whatever we do, we try to nail it. We strive to be the best every day.” Despite being a young 26 years old (the nation gained its independence from Yugoslavia in 1991) and having only 2 million inhabitants, Slovenia is well on its way to establishing its place in the world. The country boasts a highly educated workforce, an impressive list of world-renowned industry leaders and sports champions, award-winning innovative products, and recognized entrepreneurial ventures. They’re seriously naturally born entrepreneurs!
I found many parallels between the Slovenian mindset and the current Millennial philosophy around entrepreneurship, which is ironic considering that, at the age of 26, the country is a Millennial. Specifically:
Learn From Your Experiences And Persevere
Throughout history, Slovenia has been surrounded and governed by large empires including the Kingdom of Italy, Austria-Hungary, and later Yugoslavia. Consistently, the country has had to fight these superpowers to preserve its culture and identity and, most recently, it had to learn to get back on its feet after an uncomfortable transition from a socialist to a capitalist system.
Adversity seems to have worked to Slovenia’s favor, which is apparent in the many ways the country has continuously found ways to grow from its challenges. This highlights a key lesson in entrepreneurship: setbacks and difficulties are unavoidable, but what ultimately matters when it comes to achieving success is whether you give up or persevere. Entrepreneurs don’t see problems – they see learning opportunities. If you can reframe your mindset, you can quickly grow yourself and your business.
Excel In Your Niche
What instantly struck me about the Slovenian people is their dedication to quality. Just to name some: they make some of the best wine in the world, have a renowned gastronomy scene (a Slovenian just won The World’s Best Female Chef of 2017), their cities are functional and clean (the capital, Ljubljana, won the European Green Capital Award for 2016), and their natural wonders are carefully taken care of. Additionally, Slovenia is the world’s first country to be declared a green destination for its relentless commitment to sustainable tourism.
Slovenia’s economy is built around quality and service: two-thirds of the labor force works in the service industry, and the country is gaining a reputation for its niche, focused, and high-quality work. This includes high-tech products (such as Nasa-awarded, ultra-light aircraft brand Pipistrel), top-rated wine, nautical, salt production, and automobile industries, sports innovation (it recently ranked among the finalists for the prestigious Global Sport Tourism Impact Award), and scientific contributions to the world.
The quality control and delivery that I found all over the country reminded me of another important trait that needs to be present in strong entrepreneurship: the drive and determination to excel in whatever you do.
Choose your strengths, capitalize on them, and have precision in your craft. Not only that, make sure to constantly evolve in your niche by consistently refreshing and adjusting your product or service. Entrepreneurship is a constant process of refining and evolving yourself and your offering so that you have the best possible product or service available for the market.
Always Make The Time To Enjoy The Fruits Of Your Labor
One of my favorite things about Slovenia is the simplicity with which people still conduct their lives. Despite their work ethic and drive, Slovenians enjoy the art of slow living. The size and outlay of the country help shape this mentality: Slovenia is so small that it doesn’t take long to get from one place to the other, and life is much calmer and simpler by nature. For example, there is a huge culture of growing fresh fruit and veggies in one’s garden, picking mushrooms as a hobby, and spending weekends in the outdoors (hiking, skiing, swimming, etc).
I found the Slovenian rhythm to be slow, easygoing, and relaxed, which was startling considering their natural competitiveness and drive. It was an important reminder of how crucial it is to know how to work hard and enjoy your quality of life.
When life becomes busy and hectic, especially in the entrepreneurial path, it’s always important to check in with why you started – was it for financial and personal freedom, the ability to create your own opportunities, and a higher quality of life? While working hard is important, make sure to take the time to enjoy and celebrate your achievements.
Originally published on Forbes.