In December last year I visited my former colleagues in Bucharest. They work for the Microsoft Dynamics division which we sold to Xapt Hungary at the end of 2013. Our remaining LLP Group staff still work in the same office so we often meet and we’re still friends.
‘How is business?’ I asked, expecting gloom (since Bucharest is a gloomy place in the winter and it was a dark day), but I was surprised to hear that business was going rather well.
‘We’re selling more software than before. We’re the market leaders. Not only because we’re the best, of course, but because some of our competitors are now in jail.’
I’ve always insisted that we do business without offering bribes and favours and I like to think that even after 27 years in former communist Eastern Europe I am still not tempted. It’s meant that we’ve lost some business that we should have won, and it’s meant that most public-sector tenders have been closed to us.
But it seems that honesty really is the best policy in the long run.
My golden rule when offering any kind of hospitality or gift to an existing or potential client is that the recipient must be able to mention it to his or her boss, or owner, indeed to anyone. Losing business because of this rule was occasionally upsetting for our sales team, as for me, but they were proud of our principles nevertheless. Now they can be smug.
LLP never offered bribes, but some of our competitors did, and a few of them are now in jail, their businesses hobbled. Romania has been trying hard to clean up its act. It’s taken a long time, but corruption may finally be in decline in Central and Eastern Europe, even in the Balkans. I am an optimist.
Here are some of the sorrier tales from Bucharest: