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It was the worst of times, it was the best of times. I know I've re-ordered Charles Dickens' well-known words. But it so aptly describes my emotions at the Horasis Global Russia Business Meeting in Limassol, Cyprus in mid-April. We were all still reeling over the tsunami devastation in Japan and the continually unfolding revolution in the Middle East. Add the lingering global economic woes, and the prevailing picture is of lives, governments and economies left in tragic disarray. A gathering of 350 business, investment and government leaders from 30 countries to vision about global growth for a sustainable future seemed, well, like a drop in the ocean.
48 hours later, the mood had changed. Lightened. Even in the face of daunting obstacles - and maybe, in a way, because of them - the focus was clearer. The message? Whatever happens in business, in nations, in economies during the coming months and years, we have to be working hand in hand. We're in this together. Or, in business terms, we're partners. And that realization alone is ample reason for optimism.
It's time for business to do what people are already doing - globalize. In the wake of wars and a disaster in which we got news from tweets and YouTube, globalization has aligned us person to person. Now it's crucial for business to do the same.
Let me be clear. We're talking about true partnerships. My colleagues in Cyprus weren't discussing the best way to open their own branch of multinational operations in Russia, Eastern Europe or anywhere else. They're looking to develop local partnerships where an outside company has a technology, product or service and the local organization brings market intelligence, local production, and delivery. Conversely, there are plenty of local companies who have innovation insights, but need a foreign partner to bring it to fruition, either with R&D, investment or other knowhow.
The new coin of the realm? Technology - and the exchange rate favors the innovator. No single country stands out as a savior. The power is in breakthrough ideas, whatever their source, giving rise and strength to these partnerships.
Where should we look first? Russia and Eastern Europe are poised for enormous growth and are reshaping systems and mindsets to reduce barriers and attract outside partners to help them achieve it. Russia, for example, is committed to expanding her economy beyond the vast natural resources into technology and modernization. I heard loud and clear that the commitment extends to creating business- and investor-friendlyclimates.
This wasn't just lofty theory either. After sessions I saw heads together in earnest conversation - bold leaders channeling ideas and proposals to other decision makers interested in stimulating economic growth. There were "next steps" being put into motion. And there were plenty of follow-up meetings being planned. In fact, I'll be making a trip to Russia myself for further talk.
Bottom line? As a new economy emerges - from disaster, revolution and tough times - investors, business leaders and policymakers have to take a new view. The smart people will form business partnerships that use technology to advance the interests of both organizations - as well as the countries where they do business. The not-so-smart? They'll continue to go it alone.
How about you?
Scott E. Rickert is chief executive of Nanofilm, Ltd, located in Valley View, Ohio. His e-mail address is
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