From state-owned business to private business

Romeo Cristea, private pension broker, 52 years old Interview done by Gabriela Cristea

I only started my business in 1993. I had acquired the notion that I ought to set up some kind of ?private business?. Such a notion had previously been completely foreign to us. I had reached the conclusion that, as an engineer, there wasn?t much that I could still have achieved at the institute where I worked. Research had limited my options. After only three years it was obvious for anybody too see that research activities weren?t going anywhere in Romania. There were no money available for investments in the field and Romania had clearly become a retail marked for the rest of Europe!

I watched how things went around me and I set off to do something other than research. That?s how I got to meet a lot of people and to travel to numerous places ? It was a period of transformation for me. I had my vision then and I understood pretty well that I had to do something different. I am somewhat sorry that I had-n?t started doing what I began in 1993 a lot earlier, even as early as 1990. Those who started before me are those who are now richer and have managed to stay in all kinds of business up to now.

Well, 1993 had just begun and I, plucking up all my courage, resigned my job. I felt a bit sorry, but it was for the best. I chose to change my life, learn something new and get into trade instead of remaining a poor intellectual for the rest of my days. Some acquaintances of mine had tempted me to do so ? They had already got into trade and it was the period when people in Romania were free to own a passport and to travel all over the world. Once they had started traveling, they noticed that they could bring things back with them from the places they had visited, which they began to sell for a nice profit. But that wasn?t something new ? The Romanians, even before 1990, had had this sort of commerce bug in their blood. Whenever they traveled, even if the trip was only as far as Russia, they would take some goods with them and traded them for other things which they would bring back with them, and it was good stuff that people here really wanted to buy. They were also tourists of course ? This situation was continued after the Revolution but at a larger scale and involving more valuable items ? And more money, I might add ?

My business initiative was not very impressive. It wasn?t before some time that I noticed my trade was beginning to prosper. A thought kept popping up in my mind: I, an engineer, was selling things?! But there was really no other solution so I went on with it. I noticed that other intellectuals were doing the same thing, that it wasn?t only uneducated people involved in trade. I wasn?t envious. I even appreciated that people without much education prospered then and are still prosperous now, even better off than people with a university diploma. They have nothing to lose and they perceived freedom through a different lens. And they were even more daring! They have excellent opportunities of actually achieving something, although their fear of failure is a lot greater! They had the strong desire to win unlike many fellow intellectuals. The latter have no such desire because they have been educated differently.

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