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Stories From The Field

This is a section for real entrepreneurs running real business in Moldova to share their experience, frustrations, lessons and insights with the community at large.

Category contains 27 blog entries contributed to teamblogs

If you are wondering why you haven't heard from me in a long time well... life has been a bit hectic. Running Smokehouse, opening Taproom 27 (yes! we have a new bar actually :) and countless hours spent working on the nuts and bolts of the problems I have described in this blog with FSEA have taken their toll on my free time. But I have started to miss the blog and an organized way of telling our strange tale. In thinking about what would be next for OSE I had a realization - talking is easier than writing! Over the last year various groups have asked me to come to events as a guest speaker or panelist and after some thought I have decided to officially announce (drummroll please) that I enjoy such events. More importantly, I feel they are a great mechanism for sharing the Smokehouse story and to help educate the next generation of Moldovan entrepreneurs and leaders in the reality of the situation, the many challenges, and the reasons for hope and excitement about starting a business in Moldova.

So without further ado I will announce that I will cease to neglect this blog and simply put it on hiatus for a time. Meanwhile, please follows OSE on Facebook for random, funny thoughts I have about corruption, bureaucracy, and business in Moldova in general. 

And... if you happen to be in an organization looking for an Expert Speaker on the topics of Corruption, Bureaucracy, Reform and Hope for the Small Business sector in Moldova reach out! My email is This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

 

Open Source Entrepreneurship

"Expert Speaker on the topics of Corruption, Bureaucracy, Reform
and Hope for the Small Business sector" is not where I thought my
life was going a few years back... 

 

For more information - check out this flier!

The-Art-of-Corruption-Free-Business-in-Moldova.pdf

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Această postare este tradusă, textul original fiind în limba engleză. Mulțumim voluntarilor care au editat și tradus acest blog!!

În sfîrșit am revenit. A trecut ceva timp și, sincer vorbind, probabil mi-a lipsit mai mult decît credeam efectul cathartic al acestui blog. De-a lungul ultimelor 4 luni am fost cam în totalitate concentrat pe afacere, fapt care a produs două obstacole destul de semnificative pentru oricine încearcă să mențină o activitate precum acest website. În primul rînd, am fost extrem de ocupat. Să gestionezi un restaurant în primul său an nu înseamnă doar să-ți dedici tot timpul lucrului, dar și să traiești constant cu memoria gîndului că niciodată nu îndeplinești mai mult decît 20 % din lucrul planificat pentru o zi, și că ziua următoare va aduce și mai mult lucru. Există și o doză complementară de vină care te face să renunți progresiv la pasiunile tale (ceea ce, evident, nu-i bine pentru sănătatea mintală). Al doilea obstacol în actualizarea continuă a acestui website este un pic mai cinic. Sincer, am început să fim indiferenți față de anumite lucruri. Circumstanțe care anterior îmi trezeau indignare, au început să-mi trezească doar rîsete și apoi nimic. Am fost într-o vacanță frumoasă și acum am revenit în modul de rîs, pe care vreau să-l păstrez. Indignarea persistă, dar e ascunsă sub un paravan de așteptări abisal de joase, fapt care-i un element de bază al gestionării afacerilor în Moldova.

Așadar, pe această notă sumbră, mă voi lansa într-un subiect care, cred eu, va crea un tablou despre ce înseamnă să faci afaceri aici (și care expune o doză de frustrare), dar este orientat spre cum ar putea fi lucrurile. Mai exact, cît de multe oportunități sunt aici pentru oricine dorește să muncească mult și să încerce. Cînd am început să scriu acest articol cu cîteva luni în urmă, l-am întitulat „Lucrul cu furnizorii (sau: Coca Cola, așteptam mai mult de la tine)”. În mod hilar m-am abținut, pentru că nu voiam să menționez tare și răspicat numele Coca Cola. De atunci am pierdut această inhibare (și veți vedea de ce).

Trecînd direct la subiect, iată cîteva motive pentru care Moldova este plină de oportunități pentru oricine își dorește să le înhațe.

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Nu… Nu găsesc nici o brînză
(asta spune totul)

 

Partea 1: Majoritatea „Afacerilor” refuză să facă „Afaceri”

Ca  alternativă, această parte ar putea fi întitulată

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Taci și ia banii!

Activitate cu care se ocupă cineva în scopul de a obține profit.
- Definiția afacerii din Google

Această formulă simplă nu se aplică prea bine în Moldova. N-o să vă obosesc cu multă analiză, dar  voi prezenta cîteva exemple – concluziile le faceți voi.

Povestea 1: „Cazul meselor de picnic”

Această poveste e veche, dar simplă și ilustrativă. Cu aproximativ 3 săptămîni înainte de primul nostru eveniment de deschidere (mijlocul lui mai 2015), am participat la  Yardsale Moldova (un eveniment fain care se desfășoară aproape în fiecare lună și aduce împreună artizani, cafenele, artiști și altele într-o ambianță de iarmaroc urban). Acolo Smokehouse a avut un fel de debut - am vîndut  pentru prima dată carnea noastră BBQ sub numele nostru.

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Cei care privesc atent vor observa flagul Virginiei expus cu mîndrie ;)

Cu două zile înainte de eveniment, ne-am pornit într-o expediție de cumparături pentru amenajarea cortului alimentar. Aveam nevoie de mese înalte pentru ca clienții să poată cumpăra mîncare și să aibă unde să o savureze împreună cu prietenii lor.  Un magazin din Atrium vindea exact mesele care ne trebuiau, la preț de 500 de lei, și noi am decis să le cumpărăm. Matt și Vlad s-au dus să le cumpere și iată cum a decurs conversația:

Vlad: Salut, am dori să cumpărăm două mese de acestea.
Vînzătorul: Nu, nu le putem vinde astăzi.
Vlad: De ce nu? Noi am fost ieri aici și ne-ați convins să le cumpărăm.
Vînzătorul: Dar acum e stricată.
Vlad: Nu, nu este! Și chiar dacă ar fi, eu vreau să o cumpăr!
Vînzătorul: Îmi pare rău, dar nu pot să vînd asta. Să aveți o zi bună.

(Nota autorului: eu am adăugat “să aveți o zi bună”) 

Așadar, ce s-a întîmplat? Vlad mă sună și-mi spune că deja nu mai avem mese și eu construiesc 2 mese rotunde din resturi de lemn. Costul total 50 de lei ($ 2,50) + 5 ore. Am folosit mesele și am trecut peste acea zi, și cît de comic ar suna, mesele sunt în restaurant chiar și acum.

Rezultatul: noi am vrut să cheltuim 1000 de lei pentru mese, dar am cheltuit zero. Și niciodată nu ne-am mai întors la acel magazin (el s-a și închis de atunci).

 

Povestea 2: „Despre echipamentul de bucătărie”

La momentul de față Matt (care a construit bucătăria) ar putea scrie o carte despre această prostie. Eu mă voi rezuma la o scurtă anecdotă.

 

Dina Cociug și MGM sunt două companii care practic dețin monopol asupra pieței de echipament comercial de bucătărie din Moldova. Principalul motiv este că ei pot negocia terenul minat al reglementărilor vamale și de import (a se citi „corupție”) pentru a aduce produse din Europa. Noi am vrut să cumpărăm un cuptor (una din primele noastre achiziții pentru bucătărie). Iată cum a mers…

 

Matt: "bună ziua, puteți să-mi spuneți vă rog cît costă cuptorul numărul cutare de pe site-ul vostru?” 

DINA: “lăsați-ne să vă trimitem un expert ca să vorbiți despre ce aveți nevoie” 

Matt: “de ce? Eu am nevoie doar de prețul unui cuptor” 

DINA: “putem veni în această după-amiază să vorbim? ” 

Matt: "uuuuh, cred că? Adică eu vreau doar cuptorul"

DINA: "Suntem în drum spre voi!"

 

Apoi ei apar ca să discute lucrurile… cu peste 3 săptămîni mai tîrziu, fără anunț (între timp noi am sunat de multe ori, apoi am adus un cuptor de la altcineva). Cînd au ajuns erau 5 persoane- 3 agenți de vînzări, 1 director și un “bucătar șef cu 5 stele Michelin”. Ei au început agitat să facă o listă cu MII de echipamente pe care doreau să ni le vîndă (multe dintre care fuseseră deja comandate din alte surse) la preț de 1 pachet mare. Bucătarul șef era ferm convins că noi nu eram îndreptățiți să întrebăm prețul anumitor articole, pentru că EL era un important bucătar șef și știa mai bine ce ne trebuia.  De fapt, cînd i-am explicat că multe dintre lucrurile despre care vorbea, inclusiv “bucătăria la pachet”, nu erau deloc relevante pentru afacerea noastră, el  s-a indignat și ne-a informat că noi nu aveam nici un drept sa îi spunem *lui*  de ce avem nevoie, pentru că el era “bucătar șef”. În cele din urmă, i-am dat naibii afară din restaurant.

 

Rezultatul: noi am construit cu propriile forțe o bucătărie, apelînd la alți furnizori mici, și nu am adus aproape nimic de la Dina Cociug – ceea ce era mai mult decît ne doream.

 

Povestea 3: “Problema chipsurilor nacho”


Noi cumpărăm 30+ kg de chipsuri nacho în fiecare săptămînă. Aceasta înseamnă o grămadă de bani pentru cineva care vinde chipsuri nacho. Dacă găsești așa persoană, sună-mă.

 

b2ap3_thumbnail_smokehousenNumber.gif

serios, eu voi cumpăra chipsurile

Aparent, să ne vinzi chipsuri nouă e „greu” și nimeni nu pare dornic să o facă. Inițial curățeam Metro la fiecare cîteva zile, pînă au încetat să mai vîndă chipsuri. Un angajat chiar mi-a spus (cu exasperare) că ei au încetat să le mai pună pe raft pentru că eu le cumpăr pe toate. După aceasta am trecut la supermarketul nr. 1 (care este mai scump), iar după ce am curățit fiecare din cele 5 magazine ale lor la fiecare 2 zile timp de 3 săptămîni, și ei au început să-mi dea același răspuns. Răspunsul meu? „Atunci spune-mi cu cine pot să vorbesc  pentru ca să cumpăr direct de acolo sau să le rezervez”. Metro a consimțit și armonia în livrarea de chipsuri s-a menținut timp de 3 luni… pînă cînd au încetat de tot să le mai vîndă. Iar Nr. 1 continuă să joace cu noi probabil cel mai elaborat  joc de-a prinselea la telefon, în istoria de refuz a banilor.

Rezultatul: Clienții mei sunt frecvent frustrați pentru că nu am chipsuri. Eu ramîn cu bani necheltuiți. Vînzătorii sunt extrem de fericiți pentru că nu mă văd aducîndu-le acești bani lor.

 

Concluzia acestor istorioare? Majoritatea companiilor cu care avem de-a face ratează ÎN FIECARE ZI oportunitatea de a face bani.

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Uneori pur și simplu nu avem suficiente mîini


Partea 2: Nu există cultură de servire a clienților

Consumatorii pot fi dificili. Ei au multe idei proprii despre produsul tău și foarte, foarte des au nemulțumiri. Eu le-am auzit pe toate – de la idei despre muzica de fundal, la neînțelegerea absolută a produsului („Am venit aici pentru BBQ American și tot ce aveți este „pulled pork”!! Sunt ATÎT DE SUPĂRAT!!”), la cazuri legitime și rușinoase cînd eu sau echipa mea rămînem fără produse. Rolul proprietarului de restaurant în oricare din aceste cazuri, este să-și ceară scuze și să facă mai bine în viitor. Eu înțeleg acest lucru și echipa mea la fel. Însă în mod caraghios, oamenii de la care primim cea mai multă critică și furie nu sunt consumatorii cu așteptări mari, dar furnizorii care caută zîzanie. În orice lună auzim de la furnizorii noștri (adică oamenii care iau banii mei și mă numesc „clientul” lor) mai multe strigăte decît toate problemele legate de clienți pe care le-am avut de la deschidere.  

Cel mai bun exemplu în acest sens este furnizorul nostru de carne. Nu voi da numele, dar oricine din oraș îl poate deduce. Primele noastre 3 luni cu ei au fost un coșmar… și continuă să fie așa. Noi facem comandă de costițe, iar ei le livrează tăiate pe jumătate (adică osul este tăiat la mijloc/ o partidă de costițe cu lățimea de aproximativ 1 inch). Permanent ne livrau spatele de porc tăiat în bucăți mici. A fost un caz cînd nu ne-au livrat comanda (un caz – ha!), iar cînd am sunat ca să aflăm de ce întîrziau, am fost informați că șoferul era plecat în vacanță pentru 2 săptămîni și nu urma  să primim nici o comandă.

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Nu am nici un răspuns

Printre altele, eu ador filmul Joe împotriva Vulcanului… un film minunat

Timp de aproape 2 luni noi am întors 50 % din carnea primită. Însă nu ne-am limitat doar la un comportament pasiv agresiv sau strigăte la telefon. Noi chiar am mers la măcelăria lor și i-am instruit – de două ori – cum să taie carnea. Nici un folos. În cele din urmă am fost informați că managerul de vînzări chiar dorea să ne ajute, dar pentru măcelari cerința noastră părea „dificilă”.

Un alt exemplu este unul dintre furnizorii noștri buni – un producător de tortilla. Ei sunt o afacere mică și ne fac livrări de cîteva ori pe săptămînă. Produsul lor este bun și ei răspund la solicitările noastre. Îmi place de ei. Apoi am vorbit cu bucătarul nostru principal și ea spune că de fiecare dată cînd face o comandă, femeia cu care vorbește este grosolană și strigă. Ea încearcă să ne forțeze să cumpărăm mai mult. La. Fiecare. Comandă.

Nu-i asta o nebunie?

Partea 3: Stimulentele sunt greșite

Am menționat Cola Cola mai devreme? Cred că da…

Să fac o precizare înainte de a începe istorioara. Eu iubesc Coca Cola. Nu doar produsul, dar brandul și compania. Am făcut studii in Atlanta (Georgia) și am fotografii cu priveliștea de la fereastra dormitorului meu, dominată de sediile centrale ale Coca Cola. Noi aveam unicul local Pizza Hut din America care servea Coca Cola în loc de Pepsi. În Atlanta Coca Cola este atît de respectată, încît te-ai putea întreba dacă Biblia ar putea conține un capitol special dedicat acestei invenții americane dulci și siropoase. În caz că nu e clar, vreau să subliniez că nu aveam nici o prejudecată față de Coca Cola înainte de a cumpăra produsul lor.

Deci ce înseamnă să cumperi Coca Cola în calitate de restaurant în Chișinău? Primul apel nu a fost promițător…

Vlad (sunînd la numărul furnizorului): „bună ziua, sunt Vlad și am un restaurant nou și fain care se numește Smokehouse și se deschide în curînd. Vreau să cumpăr Coca Cola și să o servesc acolo pentru ca oamenii să fie fericiți!”

Reprezentantul 1: „unde vă aflați?”

Vlad: „în centru, pe Ștefan cel Mare”

Reprezentantul 1: „nu este sectorul meu, sunați reprezentantul 2 la nr. (și întrerupe apelul)”

Vlad (apelînd reprezentantul 2): „bună ziua, sunt Vlad și am un restaurant nou și fain care se numește Smokehouse și se deschide în curînd. Vreau să cumpăr Coca Cola și să o servesc acolo pentru ca oamenii să fie fericiți!”

Reprezentantul 2: „eu nu lucrez pentru Coca Cola de 2 ani (întrerupe apelul)”

Vlad (sunînd la reprezentantul 1): „salut din nou - numărul pe care mi l-ai dat e greșit.”

Reprezentantul 1: „nu-mi pasă (întrerupe apelul – și niciodată nu a mai răspuns la apelurile noastre)”

N-o să vă spun cît de dificil a fost să găsim pe cineva care să răspundă la telefon, dar e suficient să menționez că această izbîndă a implicat contactarea Camerei Americane de Comerț și obținerea unui număr pentru biroul lor din Moldova. Cînd am reușit să primim un răspuns și în sfirșit am găsit o persoană de contact, am umblat după Coca Cola o săptămînă, cerînd să ne trimită un contract pentru ca să-i putem plăti. Cînd l-au trimis, iată ce am primit:  

 

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Da… aceasta este fotografia necalitativă a unei hîrtii… ei voiau să o tipărim și să le-o trimitem ștampilată prin curier. 

Fără comentarii. Următoarea durere de cap a fost primirea frigiderului/ paharelor/ articolelor promoționale (semnelor luminoase etc - țineți minte că eu cred în această companie și e vorba de statut American). Aceste apeluri sunt inutile în mare parte, dar ni se promite un frigider. Săptăminile vin și trec și, într-un final, frigiderul ajunge. Noi am solicitat un frigider mic care să încapă în bar. Ei ne-au adus…

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scuze… abilitățile mele de fotograf lasă de dorit cînd rîd prea tare

Este evident că acest frigider e potrivit pentru un magazin. Ei au fost foarte nemulțumiți pentru că le-am spus să-l scoată dracului din restaurant, dar noi cu siguranță nu aveam nevoie de o mașină care să mănînce toată energia electrică.

 

Ce legătură au toate acestea cu stimulentele, vei întreba? Faptul că sunt cam prostești? (cert). Iată și cireașa de pe tortul acestei istorioare.

 

Cu vreo 2 luni în urmă am aflat că directorul general Coca Cola Moldova va veni la Smokehouse pentru o ședință. Primul meu impuls a fost să port cu el o discuție despre felul abominabil în care își tratează clienții. Apoi mi-am zis să nu fac acest pas, pînă cînd s-a întîmplat ceva amuzant. În ziua din ajunul vizitei planificate, 3 directori de la Coca Cola Moldova au venit la restaurant. Eu nu eram acolo, iar ei au făcut abstracție de partenerul meu Vlad și au început să indice și să decidă unde să amplaseze lucruri. Unde va sta frigiderul Coca Cola? Dar semnele luminoase? Două în interior, unul pe fațada clădirii. Dar paharele? Vlad i-a întrebat dacă poate să-i ajute cu ceva. Ei l-au ignorat și l-au tratat cu o imensă lipsă de respect. Ei erau de la Coca Cola. Titanii titanilor. Cine era el? Ei l-au informat prompt că președintele lor va veni a doua zi și se așteptau ca Vlad să respecte schema lor de decor. El i-a alungat din restaurant.

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Tu vii în casa mea și mă tratezi în acest hal
Asta schimbă un pic jocul

Așadar, cînd președintele/ managerul general Coca Cola Moldova a venit la restaurant, eu am vorbit cu el. Nu sunt sigur dacă bănuia ce structură de nimic gestionează, dar i-am explicat eu. Detaliat. Mai mult decît îmi permite timpul pe care-l am aici.

Nu-s sigur dacă Karma există, însă Coca Cola s-a retras din Moldova cu o săptămînă mai tîrziu, iar sub management ucrainesc lucrurile stau mai bine.

Concluzii:

Ok, David, ce încerci să spui? (altceva decît că ai o supărare personală constantă cu Coca Cola). Ce încerc eu să subliniez, este modul în care acest episod scoate la iveală o structură incorectă de stimulente în business-ul moldovenesc. Angajații Coca Cola cu care ne-am ciocnit nu erau orientați spre servirea clienților. Nu erau orientați spre vînzarea produsului. Nu erau orientați spre a reprezenta brandul. Ei erau ghidați doar de frica față de șeful lor. Această frică se manifestă prin nevoia de a crea fațade care să impresioneze. Imagini false. Imagini care să spună „aici totul e bine”. Imagini care să spună „noi cu toții muncim atît de mult pentru cauza noastră și oriunde mergi, vezi asta”. Imagini care sunt proiecția unei realități menite să-l facă pe șef să se simtă bine.

Printre altele, oricine din comunitatea donatorilor internaționali sau din domeniul dezvoltării internaționale probabil înțelege exact la ce mă refer.  

Și orice cititor perspicace va observa asta în povestea chipsurilor nacho de mai sus. 

...și orice iubitor de istorie va recunoaște un Sat Potemkinian. Mă abat…

Bine, vreau să fie clar. Eu nu atac etica sau cultura muncii din Moldova. Defel. Eu am 25 de angajați și ei toți muncesc cu multă sîrguință și istețime. Eu atac managementul moldovenesc. Managementul absent. Managerii care răspund la măguleală și cred că dacă dețin un titlu, ei pot munci mai puțin decît oricine altcineva. Aici aceasta este o normalitate în multe feluri (vezi You Have Two Cows...). Aici managementul este, în general, detașat de scopul primar al procesului decizional în afaceri - Profitul.

Partea 4: Toate industriile sunt slabe- rezultă Oportunitățile

Există cîțiva furnizori pe care îi consider minunați. Oameni buni, dar și mai important, afaceri bune. Ei mă prețuiesc ca și client, iar eu prețuiesc relația pe care o am cu ei. Ei sunt respectuoși, niciodată nu întîrzie și niciodată nu promit lucruri pe care nu le pot livra. Unii dintre acești furnizori cer mai mult decît concurenții lor. Eu cumpăr de la ei pentru că știu că concurenții livrează produse atunci cînd vor, cu ambivalență. Acești băieți livrează ce promit, cu modestie. Ca să dau cîteva exemple...

Litra Brewery (Chișinău) – bere artizanală bună livrată cu zîmbet. Să colaborezi cu un business mic înseamnă să afli despre produsele noi chiar din gura berarilor, cu tot entuziasmul care trebuie să însoțească o bere nouă.

Beermaster Brewery (Bălți) - Beermaster este mai curînd un producător industrial decît artizanal, dar are niște beri foarte bune. Ei sfidează hegemonia brandului Chișinău și o fac avînd un produs bun, fiind mîndri de el și avînd multă grijă de consumatorii lor. 

Elvis Brewery (Puhoi) – Nu, nu acel Elvis. Denumirea este, de fapt, un acronim care vine de la numele copiilor primului berar, și chiar dacă e puțin derutantă, reflectă perfect spiritul de familie al acestei afaceri. Stas, actualul manager și berar, aduce niște băuturi îndrăznețe și experimentale în mica sa berărie rurală și mereu le livrează cu un zîmbet contagios și gesturi prietenoase. 

Leonard Caffe (furnizor de cafea) - Vlad Talambuță este cel mai muncitor bărbat din domeniu. El vinde cafea, arendează mașini de cafea la oficii și restaurante și este extrem de pasionat de afacerea sa. Înainte de deschidere, Vlad și Matt au petrecut o după-amiază încercînd diferite amestecuri personalizate de boabe, pînă au izbutit să creeze amestecul Smokehouse cu gust tradițional de cafea americană. Într-o zi Vlad a fost lovit de o mașină, dar chiar și așa a ajuns la Smokehouse pentru a rezolva o întrebare de business și a lua un espresso (serios).

Fruitbox – fructe și legume proaspete livrate la ușa ta cu personalitate. Serghei întruchipează eficiența serviciului de livrare a fructelor și legumelor proaspete. El are o mustață perfect aranjată și conduce un microbuz VW (care s-a defectat lîngă restaurant cel puțin o dată). În fiecare zi el ne aduce o selecție de fructe și legume proaspete și niciodată nu ne dezamăgește. Am dat peste el și în cele mai arbitrare locuri din oraș, întrucît este mereu în căutare de clienți diverși – vrei fructul dragonului? Serghei e omul tău. Ce zici de o rădăcinoasă rară din Amazonia? Dacă poate fi găsită sau adusă în Moldova, el o va face.

Dulce Plai – miere pentru o cauză bună. Dulce plai este o întreprindere socială din Ungheni care produce miere de cea mai bună calitate. Ei își prețuiesc clienții și orice conversație cu echipa lor te face să te simți un consumator apreciat și important. Acum ei au și un website pentru comenzi online, dar chiar poți conta pe orice membru al echipei pentru o livrare în orice punct al Chișinăului.

 

De ce vorbesc despre acești furnizori? Pentru a accentua puterea micului business. Toate aceste afaceri sunt mici. Ele sunt orientate spre consumator și știu că a avea un produs bun nu este suficient. O cafea, o bere sau o ceapă bună nu mă fac să vorbesc despre aceste companii cu zîmbetul pe față. Dar relația pe care o am cu ei și tratamentul, serviciul pe care îl primesc. Aceasta este o comunitate de business. Acesta este un ecosistem antreprenorial.

În Moldova nu prea există așa ceva. Oportunitatea elogiată în titlul acestui articol ar trebui să fie clară. Ar putea exista cu mult, mult mai multe afaceri de genul acesta. Toți jucătorii mari pot fi înlocuiți, iar consumatorii ca mine ar fi ÎNCÎNTAȚI să-i înlocuiască. Eu aș fi ÎNCÎNTAT să găsesc un nou furnizor de carne, produse uscate etc etc.

Nu sunt sigur că vei vedea ceva optimist în cele expuse, dar sper sincer că da. Eu cred în oportunitățile din Moldova și cred că dacă avem un ecosistem puternic de business mic, putem prospera cu toții. Așadar, de ce să nu te alături?

 

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Posted by on in Stories From The Field

So at long last I'm back. It's been a while and frankly I've probably missed the rather cathardic outlet of this blog more than I knew. For the last 4 months or so I've been pretty much totally focused on the business and this has yielded two rather significant obstacles to anyone who seeks to keep an account such as this website. Firstly, I've been extremely busy. Running a restaurant in it's first year is not only about all of your hours being taken up by work but also living the the constant knowledge that you never accomplish more than 20% of your work in a given day and that tomorrow will add more and more. There is a certain guilt that accompanies this, once known, that drives you to progressively eliminate your hobbies (obviously not good for mental health). The second obstacle to my continued updates to this site is a little more cynical. Frankly, we've begun to get numb to things. Circumstances that used to invoke outrage in me began to invoke only sputtering laughter and then nothing. I took a nice vacation and I'm back in laughter mode which is where I intend to stay. The outrage is still there but hidden beneath a veil of abysmally low expectations that is a staple of doing business in Moldova. 

So on that dismal note I will launch into a topic that I think is going to paint a picture of doing business here (and as such exhibits an amount of frustration) but with a focus on how things could be. Specifically how much opportunity there is here for anyone who wants to work hard and try. When I originally began to draft this entry a few months ago I titled it "Working with suppliers (or: Coca Cola we expected better of you)." Hilariously (in retrospect) I held off because I didn't want to call Coke out by name. I have since lost that inhibition (and you shall see why).   

 

 

b2ap3_thumbnail_batmanNoFs.gifsays it all... 

 

Without further ado, here are a few reasons that Moldova is full of opportunities for anyone who wants to snatch them...

 

Part 1: Most "Businesses" refuse to do "Business"

Alternatly this section could be titled....

b2ap3_thumbnail_Shut-up-and-take-my-money.jpg

the practice of making one's living by engaging in commerce

                                             - Definition of Business from Google

 

This simple formula does not work very well in Moldova. I won't tire you all with a lot of analysis and I'll just launch into a few examples - draw your own conclusions. 

Story 1: "The Case of the Picnic Tables"

This is an old story but simple and illustrative. About 3 weeks before we first held a soft opening event (so mid May 2015) we went out to Yardsale Moldova (cool monthly-ish event bringing together artisans, cafes, artists and more in a county fair-in-a-city setting). Smokehouse made a bit of a debut there and sold our BBQ under our name for the first time. 

b2ap3_thumbnail_11120589_1104687166211851_5076852026452575759_n.jpg

those paying special attention will note the Virginia flag proudly displayed ;)

Two days before this event we went on a purchasing spree to equip the food tent. One of our main needs were small standing tables so that customers could buy some food and have somewhere to enjoy it with their friends. A store in Atrium mall had just the tables we needed for 500 lei and we decided to buy them. Matt and Vlad went to but them and this was the conversation. 

Vlad: Hello, we would like to buy 2 of these tables.

Clerk: Nope, we can't sell those today. 

Vlad: Why not? We were in here yesterday and you convinced us to buy them then!

Clerk: but now it is broken. 

Vlad: No it isn't?! and even if it was I still want to buy it!

Clerk: I'm sorry, but I can't sell this to you. Have a nice day. 

(editor's note... the "have a nice day" was added by me) 

So what happened? Vlad calls me and lets me know that we have no tables suddenly and I build 2 small round-top tables out of scrap wood. Total cost 50 lei ($2.50) + 5 hours. We used the tables and got through the day and comically enough they are still in the restaurant now. 

 

Result: we wanted to spend 1000 lei on tables and spent zero. Also we never went back to that store (they have since closed)

 

Story 2: "On Kitchen Equipment"

At this point Matt (who built out the kitchen) could write a book on this silliness. I'll keep this to a short anecdote. 
 
Dina Cociuc and MGM are two companies that basically hold a a monopoly on the commercial kitchen equipment market in Moldova. The main reason for this is that they can negotiate the minefield of customs and import regulations (read "corruption") to bring you items in from Europe. We desired to buy an oven as one of our first kitchen purchases. Here's how it went...
 
Matt: "hello, could you please tell me how much the oven number such-and-such on your website costs?” 
DINA: “let us send you an expert to talk about your needs.” 
Matt: “why? I just need a price for the oven” 
DINA: “can we come over this afternoon to talk?” 
Matt: "uuuuh, I guess? I mean I just want the oven"
DINE: "We are on our way!"
 
Then they show up to talk things over… 3 weeks later unannounced (we called many times in between and then bought an oven from someone else). When they arrived it was with 5 people - 3 salespeople, 1 director and 1 “Michelin 5 star chef.” They started bustling about making a list of TONS of kitchen equipment they wanted to sell us (much of which had been ordered already from other sources) and only pricing it as 1 large bundle. The chef was adamant that we had no right to ask for specific pieces of equipment because HE was an important chef and would tell me what I wanted. In fact, when we explained that much of what he was talking about including in our "bundle kitchen" was not relevant to our business at all he became indignant and informed us that we had no right to tell *him* what we needed because he was a *chef*. Eventually we threw them the fuck out of the restaurant. 

 

Result: we hacked together a kitchen from other small suppliers and bought almost nothing from Dina Cociuc - which was more than we wanted to. 

 

Story 3: "The Nacho Chips Problem"

We buy 30+ kg of nacho chips every week. This is a lot of money for someone who sells nacho chips. If you find such a person call me. 

 

b2ap3_thumbnail_smokehousenNumber.gif

seriously... I will buy all the chips

The problem is that selling chips to us is "hard" and no one seems to want to do it. Originally we cleaned out Metro every few days until they just stopped carrying chips entirely. One employee even told me (in exasperation) that they stopped putting them on the shelves because I buy them all. When they finished we moved to the more expensive № 1 Supermarket where, after cleaning out every one of their 5 locations in the city every 2 days for 3 weeks they also started giving me the same response. My response? "Then tell me who I can talk to so that I can buy them directly or have them set aside." Metro obliged and harmony in chip deliveries was maintained for 3 months... until they stopped carrying them entirely. № 1 is still playing what must be the most elaborate game of phone tag in the history of rejecting money with us. If they are to be believed they must have had a full staff turnover every 2 days... for the last 3 months. 

Result: My customers are frequently frustrated with me for not having chips. I am left with money unspent. Clerks are blissfully happy not to see me brining that money to them. 

 

Conclusion from these stories? Most companies we deal with leave money on the table EVERY DAY. 

b2ap3_thumbnail_200_s.gif

sometimes we just don't have enough hands... 

 

Part 2: Customer Service Doesn't Exist

Customers can be difficult. They have lots of their own ideas about your product and very very often have complaints. I've heard them all - from ideas about the music we should play to fundamental misunderstandings of the product ("I came here for American BBQ and I you have is Pulled Pork!! I'm SOOO MAD!!") to legitimate and embarrassing cases where me or my team falls short. The role of a restaurant owner in any of these cases is to apologize and try harder in the future. I understand this and so does my team. Comically though the people we get the most vitriol and anger from aren't customers with high expectations but suppliers with a bone to pick. We are yelled at more times in any given month from our suppliers (aka the people who take my money and call me their "client") than all the customer problems we've had since opening. 

The best example of this is our meat supplier. I won't name them explicitly but anyone in the city can figure it out. Our first 3 months with them were a nightmare... and it continues to date. We would order ribs and they would deliver them cut down the middle (aka the bone cut in the middle / a rack of ribs 1 inch or so wide). They regularly delivered the pork shoulder (Boston Butt) chopped into little pieces. One time, they didn't deliver (one time - ha!) and when we called to see why they were late we were informed that the driver was on vacation for 2 weeks so we wouldn't be getting any deliveries. 

 

b2ap3_thumbnail_32ca6ea0_hA5501DE7.jpg

I love Joe vs. The Volcano incidentally... great film

 

We sent 50% of our meat back for about 2 months. Now we weren't just being passive aggressive or yelling at them on the phone. We went to their butcher shop and instructed them - twice - on how to carve meat. No avail. Ultimately we were informed that the sales manager really wanted to help us but the guys in the butchery department found our requirement of consistency "difficult."

Another good example is one of our good suppliers - a tortilla maker. They are a small business and deliver for us a few times a week. Their product is good and they are responsive to our needs. I like them. Then I talked to our head chef and she says that every time she orders from them the woman is rude and yells at her. She tries to bully us into buying more. Every. Single. Order. 

Is that not insane?

 

Part 3: Incentives are Wrong

Did I mention Coke before? I think I did...

Let me clarify one thing before I go into this story. I love Coca Cola. Not just the product but the brand and the company. I went to school in Atlanta Georgia and have pictures of how the view out my dorm window freshmen year was dominated by the World Headquarters of Coke. We had the only Pizza Hut in America that served Coke instead of Pepsi. In Atlanta Coke is held in enough esteem that one could wonder if there might be a special book in the bible dedicated solely to this syropy sweet American invention. In case it is unclear I want to stress that this I did not hold any preconceived prejudice against Coke before trying to buy their product. 

So how does that go? buying Coke as a restaurant in Chisinau? The first call was not promising...

Vlad (calling the coke supplier number): "hello, my name is Vlad and I have this cool new restaurant called Smokehouse Opening soon. I wanna buy Coke and serve it there so that people will be happy!" 

Coke Rep 1: "where are you located?"

Vlad: "In the center on Stefan Cel Mare"

Coke Rep 1: "not my district - call Coke Rep 2 # (hangs up)"

Vlad (calling the Coke Rep 2): "hello, my name is Vlad and I have this cool new restaurant called Smokehouse Opening soon. I wanna buy Coke and serve it there so that people will be happy!" 

Coke Rep 2: "I haven't worked for Coke for over 2 years (hangs up)"

Vlad (calling Coke Rep 1): "hey again - that was a wrong number you gave me"

Coke Rep 1: "Don't care (hangs up - never answered our calls again)"

 

I won't go through just how hard it was to find someone to answer the phone but suffice to say it involved reaching out to the American Chamber of Commerce and getting a number for their Moldovan corporate office. When we did get an answer, and finally get a contact person we hounded them for a week to get them to send us a contract so we could start paying them. When they did it was this:

b2ap3_thumbnail_coke.jpgyes... that is a poorly taken photo of a paper... they wanted us
to print this and sent it to them by currier stamped. 

No comment on that. The next hurdle for us was getting a fridge / cups / swag (coke light-up signs etc - remember I am a true-believer in this company and it's American status). Those calls are dead ends mostly but they promise us a fridge. Weeks come and go and finally it comes. We requested a small fridge to fit in our bar. They brought us...b2ap3_thumbnail_IMG_20150619_112717.jpg

sorry.. my photography skills suffer when I'm laughing too hard

Obviously this is meant for a grocery store. They were very unhappy with me when I told them to get it the hell out of my restaurant but we sure as hell didn't need an open face air conditioner sucking up all our electricity. 

 

What does any of this have to do with incentives you ask? Maybe they're just kinda dumb? (fact). Well here is the icing on the cake of this story. 

 

About 2 months ago I became aware of the fact that the Director General of Coca Cola Moldova would be coming to Smokehouse for a meeting. My initial instinct was to go have a talk with him about his company's abysmal customer service. I talked myself off of this cliff (after all he would be my customer for a change) until something hilarious happened. The day before his reserved meeting 3 directors of Moldova Coca Cola came in. I was not there and they brushed off my partner Vlad and started pointing around and deciding where to position things. Where would the branded fridge go? what about the light-up signs? Two in the house one on the building front. What about the branded glasses? delivery inbound. Vlad asked them if he could help them? They brushed him off, and treated him with immense disrespect. They were from Coke. Titan of Titans. Who was he? They clearly informed him that their president would be here the next day and they expected him to comply with their decorating scheme. He threw them out of the restaurant with prejudice. 

b2ap3_thumbnail_godfather_respect.jpg

this changes the game a bit

 

So when the President / General Manager of Coke Moldova came in I talked to him. I'm not sure if he had any idea what a shitty establishment he runs but I explained it to him. In detail. More than I have time for here.

Not sure if Karma is a thing but Coca Cola pulled out of Moldova a week later and under Ukrainian management things are better. 

Conclusions:

Ok David, what are you trying to say here? (other than that you have a personal a abiding anger with Coke). What I'm trying to point out is how this episode highlights an improper incentive structure in Moldovan business. The employees we dealt with from Coke were not driven to provide customer service. They were not driven to sell product. They were not driven to represent the brand. They were driven by a fear of their bosses. That fear manifests itself in a need to create facades that impress. Fake images. Images that say "everything is cool here." That say "we totally we are all working so hard for the cause that everywhere YOU go you see it." Images that are a projection of a fake reality meant to make the boss feel good. 

As a side note anyone in the international donor community or in international development here probably understands exactly what I'm saying. 

Any shrewd reader will also notice this in the story about nacho chips above. 

...aaaand any fan of history will recognize a Potemkin Village. I digress...

Ok, I want to make one thing clear here. I am not attacking Moldovan work ethic or work culture. At all. I have 25 employees and they work very hard and very smart. I'm attacking Moldovan management. Absent management. Managers that respond to flattery and believe that because they have a title they get to work less than anyone else. This is a norm here in many ways (see You Have Two Cows...). Management here, in general, is detached from the primary driver of business decision making. Profit. 

 

Part 4: All Industries are Weak - Hence, Opportunity

I have a few suppliers that are amazing. Good people but more importantly good businesses. They value me as a customer and I value the relationship with them. They are respectful, never late and they never promise things they can't deliver. Some of these suppliers charge more than their competition. I buy from them because I know that their competition delivers product when they feel like it with ambivalence. These guys deliver as promised with humility. To name a few names here...

Litra Brewery (Chisinau) - fine craft beer delivered with a smile. The small business touch means that you get to hear about new products right from the brewers mouth with all the excitement that ought to accompany a new beer.

Beermaster Brewery (Balti) - Beermaster makes production rather than craft beer but they have some great brews. They challenge the hegemony of the Chisinau-Vitanta brand and they do it by having a good product, being proud of it, and taking great care of their customers. 

Elvis Brewery (Puhoi) - No not that Elvis. The name is actually an acronym forged from the names of the first brewer's children and while it's a little confusing it perfectly embodies the family nature of this business. Stas, the current manager and brewer, is bringing some bold and experimental brews to his small rural brewery and is sure to deliver them with an infection smile and slap on the back. 

Leonard Caffe (coffee supplier) - Vlad Talambuta is the hardest working man in coffee. He sells coffee and rents machines to offices and restaurants and is deeply passionate about his business. Before we opened Vlad and Matt spend an afternoon testing out different custom blends of beans until we had the "Smokehouse Blend" custom made to taste like American style large cup coffee. One time Vlad got hit by a car and still staggered into Smokehouse to resolve a business question and get a shot of Espresso (seriously). 

Fruitbox - fresh fruits and veggies, delivered to your door with personality. Sergei embodies a fresh fruits and veggies delivery service. He has an immaculately pointed mustache and drives a VW Microbus (which has broken down at the restaurant on at least 1 occasion). Every day he brings us choice fresh fruits and veggies and never disappoints. I've also run into him in the most random places around the city as he seeks out various customer needs - want dragonfruit? Sergei is your man. What about some rate Amazonian root plant? If it can be found in, or brought to, Moldova he will do it. 

Dulce Plai - honey with a good cause. Dulce Plai is a Social Enterprise from Ungeni that makes artisanal honey at the highest caliber in a variety of styles. They value their clients and any conversation with their team makes you feel like a valued and important customer. Now they even have a website for ordering but you can rely on a team member to bring it to you anywhere in Chisinau. 

 

Why am I talking about these guys? To highlight the power of small business. All of these businesses are small. They are customer oriented and they know that having a good product isn't enough. Good coffee, or beer or onions don't get me to talk about these companies with a smile on my face. It's the relationship I have with them and the service I get. This is a business community. This is an entrepreneurial ecosystem. 

In Moldova there isn't much of this. The Opportunity I vaunted in the title of this post should be clear. There could be many many more businesses like this. The big players are all replaceable and consumers such as me would LOVE to replace them. I would LOVE to find a new supplier of meats, dry goods, etc etc etc. 

I'm not sure if you would construe any of this as optimistic but I honestly believe it is. I believe in the opportunity in Moldova and I believe that with a strong small business ecosystem we can all flourish together. So why not join us?

 

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One year in a reread of my original "Choosing a Bank" seems like quite a strange journey into a far more naive past. In the year since I wrote that we've talked a number of other times about our experiences banking in Moldovan and moving money here (loansmoving money and the general state of the banking sector / the theft of the century). 

 

b2ap3_thumbnail_crook630_420.jpg

When looking for tie in here I punched "crook" into google images. This is first.
I like to imagine this man swooping into Moldova and stealing 1 Billion
Dollars leaving the country to destroy itself in finger pointing while he
rides off into the sunset. Oddly this is a more comforting
image than the truth...

 

Disclaimer: Can't stress this enough but take all of this with a grain of salt. Your experience may differ by your point of contact, size of company / account or even the tides. I can only tell you my impressions and you can take that as you will. As of now I would not consider banking with banks other than these three in Moldova (especially with the current crisis). That said, you may have a totally different experience. 

Bank International Affiliation Evaluation
 b2ap3_thumbnail_default-img_295.jpg Groupe Societe Generale (French Banking Giant)

Intro

When founding our company we chose Mobias Bank. This decision was largely fueled by their affiliation with Groupe Societe Generale - a large French Bank. This meant our money was insured by a larger international entity and therefore more secure than a domestic Moldovan bank (hopefully). This is the bank we have the most experience with so this is the most in depth critique by far... take that as you will. 

Pros

  • Our money is still there which says something
  • The service is generally polite 
  • Convenient locations and ATMs
  • No international scandals and a feeling of security because of their international affiliation

Cons

    • No Visa. Mobias Bank is exclusively Mastercard / Maestro. Want to accept visa cards at your restaurant (like 99% of the world's business)? Nope. (we created a contract with MAIB to process our cards - they then send the payments to Mobias in 3 days... after taking a fee)
FEES
    . So many fees. Wanna check your balance? Transfer money? change currencies? FEES. 
    • It's normal to negotiate the exchange rate on international currency changes with your bank here. For a company of our size they are not interested in this so they just charge us what they want - this is higher than the national bank rate but what can we do?
    • We have a business debit card. If we want a 2nd card it will cost 150 euro. If we lose this one it will cost 150 euro. 
  • They are dumb. As was discussed before we had some trouble moving money between out US and Moldovan banks but eventually figured it out... or so we though. We recently processed a loan between our companies - identical to previous ones - and they refused to process it. They froze our accounts "pending review by the national bank." We went in and asked "why?!" and they said "because you did the paperwork wrong." We replied "you approved and filed the paperwork we needed and this is our 2nd time doing it." They replied "not really our problem." 2 days lost trying to sort this out - not one person at Mobias wiling to help or accept any responsibility. Bottom line: if it isn't in writing with a stamp assume your teller is at best wrong or at worst lying to get rid of you. 
  • No Loans. Of the 7+ banks we talked to in Moldova Mobias was the only one that refused to let us talk to a loan officer. The other banks were less than helpful but at least we talked. Our Mobias rep refused to let us waste one of their officer's time. Quote. The other banks gave us terms and we were strangers. Mobias has tens of thousands of our dollars in their account and wouldn't give us the time of day.  
  • HORRIBLE online banking.
    • It requires a program that needs to be installed on your computer and tied uniquely to that computer for ever (aka if you want to access via another computer you need their tech team to create you another custom installation disk for 1 time use - takes min 2 weeks). 
    • It looks and feels as if it was made in the mid 90s
    • It has no exe file to the installation and requires you to manually install dll files in windows based on 2 instructional videos that accompany the film
    • ...did I mention it was really old?
 b2ap3_thumbnail_Pro-Credit-Bank-d-d-.jpg Procredit Group (headquarters in Germany) Intro

We essentially dismissed ProCredit a year ago because of their relatively small footprint in Moldova. Looking back I don't feel that this was a particularly well informed decision and that they warranted more consideration. The points below come from a mix of friends experience and information gotten from development / investment groups over the last year. 

Pros

  • ProCredit is designated as a small business investment bank in Moldova. In theory they should be looser with credit than the other banks here (and charge correspondingly higher interest). 
  • ProCredit was used by the US government for their banking in Ukraine just as MAIB is used in Moldova. This is a different branch of the bank but still represents a strong vote of confidence for me
  • ProCredit has avoided all the major scandals in Moldova and maintained their affiliations with international institutions
  • ProCredit has a great rep with business development agencies here and is their #1 recommendation when I mention the difficulty of getting credit, etc. I wish we had gone there just so I could tell them why we didn't take their offer

Cons

  • They are hesitant / unwilling to work with Americans at this time due to FATCA. Two friends of mine tried to open an account there for their Moldovan SRL and were rejected because of their unwillingness to go through the trouble of complying with America's comically stupid legal over-reaches (if you feel like reading equally comically stupid tirades against the law + occasional decent commentary check this link). Bottom line: if there's an American in your company forget it. 
  • I did not visit them looking for loans (one of the only banks) because a friend I trust strongly warned me against it because he believed them to be untrustworthy and guilty of forcing defaults to seize collateral. In retrospect I believe that to have been more of a personal prejudice than anything else but it's hard to say. Not really a con (possibly a missed opportunity for me) but worth noting. 
 b2ap3_thumbnail_logo_maib_pn_doc.png None - Domestic Moldovan Bank Intro

 

MAIB was our strong 2nd option for a bank here. The fact the Peace Corps and the US gov in general banks with them gives me a high degree of confidence. Furthermore, all of our dealing with them have been very professional and helpful. We passed because Moldova was being rocked by a domestic banking scandal at the time (Filat being ejected being of associations to possible money laundering at Banka de Economia).

Pros

  • Professional. We talked to 2 loan officers at MAIB and both were willing to work with us. One actually worked for a few days to put us together an offer. Furthermore, our interactions with them for card processing have been great. 
  • ATMs everywhere
  • Easy card processing - LOTS of businesses here process via them

Cons

  • Domestic bank - with ongoing scandals this is always concerning
  • Did I mention the bank scandals? MAIB hasn't been involved but.... why would anyone put money in a Moldovan domestic bank right now? right?

 

 

Conclusions:

If we had to do it again we would have gone with MAIB. We have grown to dislike Mobias over the past year and there isn't much of a way to shake that right now. The lack of VISA processing is frustrating and the online banking sucks but most of all it just feels that they do not want you as a customer. Our business account representative is very nice and helpful but is pretty clear where they are and aren't willing to work with us. We pay LOTs of fees and change money at a crap rate and can't see a loan officer even to say hi. This isn't how you treat a customer you want. Their schitzophrenia as to what we are and are not required to file with them for international loans is the icing on the cake. A major bank that can't give a clear answer about how to transfer money into their accounts isn't really worth your time are they?

I can't say if we're gonna change banks because that sounds like a TON of work and time. What I can say is that I'd like to try someone else. For all that negativity though Mobias is safe and, more or less, made account set up easy so for a new business they are at least an option. 

 

While I have you here...

Wanna see somethin' funny? Check this picture out:

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 ...that is a paper report of our sales for a month. This information exists in our POS system, in our accounting program and is summed up in government reports every month. Sound like enough bureaucracy? ha! nope. That stack of papers must be printed out and every. single. page. needs to be signed and stamped by the company administrator. Then we keep it for our "personal" records just in case the government ever asks for it. 

If anyone has a story on bureaucracy / time wasted that can beat printing, stamping and signing hundreds and hundreds of pages of useless reports just so they may be stored (for 3 years) in case someone from the government wants to come by please post in the comments. I'm *interested*

 

 

 

Closing Note: I know I'm not publishing according to my schedule in August. It was a long long month. I'm trying to play catchup here so I'll do my best to get a new post or 2 up soon - sorry for the delays!

 

 

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Posted by on in Stories From The Field
We Are Open / Year in Review

Note: for any of you in Moldova you likely realize that we have been open for just over a month (if you didn't know that come visit us!! smokehouse.md for directions).

Smokehouse opened for business on Monday June 29th 2015. As you might imagine the trials of a new business have completely consumed my time (and still do) which is why this is the first time I'm getting a chance to make an update. The reality is that this date was just 12 days away from the 1 year anniversary of signing the lease to our Smokehouse location. It feels like it's time for me to write a bit about our journey. 

 

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Start to finish feels like 2 different lives separated by a very long, strange
road. ...one that evidently never passed a place where Matt thought "hey, maybe I
should consider a change of wardrobe." I guess something needs to stay the same. 

 

If you've followed the blog in the last year you have some idea what an odd little adventure we've been on. Sadly I couldn't document every crazy story or experience and I feel like some good tales have been lost in the shuffle. With that said this seems to be a good time to start a bit of 'catch up.' In order to do that in a manageable way I'm going to try an commit myself to writing one blog update on the key topics listed below every week for the month of August.

The topics and a brief description are below but first I want to answer the question that most likely jumps to everyone's mind - would we do it again? We started out as idealists in many ways - determined to build a transparent, honest and (most importantly) strong business in a place many people said we couldn't. The reality, as you will see in the upcoming weekly updates, is far more sobering than any of us ever imagined. We all knew things would be hard but never quite imagined just how hard. We knew there would be corruption but we never guessed how deep it went. And we always knew that there was opportunity here but we never really knew just HOW MUCH there is. One year on I know I can say for the team that we would do it again in a heartbeat. We've run a tough race to get where we are but here is just the starting line - the real game is yet to come. 

 

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some days I wonder myself...

 

Now if you're looking for my recommendation as to whether you should also start a business here I can't give that straight. We're still too new and there are too many things that we don't fully understand to give that kind of advice to anyone. I firmly believe in the opportunity here... and in Moldova's ability to try and crush good things as quickly as it can find them. If you're brave and a little crazy I can say only that we'd welcome you at our bar and would be thrilled to talk over the process and connect you to any kind of resources we can to get you going. Moldova needs entrepreneurs and business people who are vocally working for a better environment here. Just as a rising tide floats all boats any entrance into a market this under-leveraged is nothing but good for everyone involved... if you're crazy enough to try.  

With no further ado - 

Topics for the Year In Review

1.) 5 Things You Didn't Know About Corruption in Moldova

A beginner's guide. This will be a crash course both in our experience with corruption in Moldova and an overview of how it works. As a hint I can say that things are likely both different and worse than you think. A question I get often is if people ask us for bribes frequently or try and shake us down. The answer is no (once in a year). The reality of corruption here is far more systemic. Stay tuned. 

2.) The Problem With Suppliers or Why Starting a Business in Moldova is a GREAT IDEA (no sarcasm)

Trying to use the equation "I have money, you have product, let's form a relationship" in Moldova is a failing proposition. Suppliers are (mostly) terrible as are wholesalers and most stores. We have some laugh and cry stories about how hard people have worked to avoid taking our money as well as some lessons about a developing economy like this one. Bottom line? Many businesses here are vulnerable to competition and society as a whole will celebrate you putting them out of their misery... if you have what it takes to get started. 

3.) Registering an SRL - New Perspectives

A post co-written with a guest contributor about the various different ways to organize an SRL and the flexibility that actually exists behind the "No" which the state registration office returns after any question. 

4.) Banking Part 2 or How and Industry Destroys Itself

Anyone familiar in passing with either customer service or good sense is unlikely to have much in common with Moldovan banks. Much of the blame for the system lies on the Moldovan government (and the American) but nonetheless things are pretty messed up. We'll have our updated recommendations for choosing a bank and trying to exist here as a company. 

 

 

With that commitment to an update schedule (something I'm only willing to do after sipping a Litra Pale Ale - deadlines remind me far too much of college) I will end this post. We have been here a year. It's had ups and downs and some upside-downs. But we are still here. We are open. And we are far from done this experiment. Stay tuned for many more stories to come. 

 

 

 

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