Slovene businessman and investor
Ac constant fixture of the Slovene business landscape since the mid-1970s, for the past four decades Otmar Zorn has held various positions at a wide variety of companies in Slovenia, including director of planning, organisation, information technology and business systems, as well as company director, chairman, shareholder and owner. One of his most recent and largest business transactions was the sale of two related electrical equipment companies, Iskra Zaščite and Varsi, to the Greek rm Raycap for an undisclosed sum, indicating that he intended to use the proceeds to invest in several Slovene firms in need of fresh capital. As a respected member of the business community, he currently sits on the board at several different companies, and in 2013 became the chairman and principal owner of Solvera Lynx, a public limited company specialised in the provision of information and communication technologies for energy management in the energy supply, construction and transport sectors. In 2014 he was named entrepreneur of the year by the Chamber of Craft and Small Business of Slovenia. Mr Zorn received his PhD in the eld of venture capital from the Faculty of Economics at the University of Ljubljana, and during his working career he has also acquired vast hands-on knowledge in the areas of mechanical engineering and electrical engineering. In addition to his business dealings, Mr Zorn is a member of the Council of Farmland and Forest Fund of Slovenia, the president of the Slovenian Philharmonic, and a long-time driving force behind and active member of Rotary Slovenia.
YOU HAVE MORE THAN FOUR DECADES OF EXPERI- ENCE IN SLOVENE BUSINESSES. HOW HAS THE BUSI- NESS ENVIRONMENT CHANGED THE MOST DURING THAT TIME?
Unfortunately, if I’m completely honest, then I would have to say that over the course of my working career the business environment in Slovenia has changed too little. It is still too bureaucratic and there is a lack of understanding for the development of businesses and the business community. Generally, however, there has been a change in both attitude and philosophy that we need to further develop the Slovene export sector, because this is really the only condition for progress. Since there is so little support and acceptance in the larger business environment, we need entrepreneurs to be more resourceful, tenacious and innovative.
WHAT SEPARATES GOOD SLOVENE COMPANIES FROM MEDIOCRE ONES? AND THE BEST SLOVENE COMPANIES FROM THE REST?
Commitment to quality, innovation and exports. In particular I can highlight the Akrapovič company, as well as Pipistrel, which has both managed to become world leaders in their niche industries. In addition, there are many other companies, numbering at least in the hundreds, that are outstanding in terms of innovation, knowledge and exports.
WHAT ARE THE MAIN CHALLENGES OF DOING BUSINESS IN SLOVENIA, ESPECIALLY AS COMPARED TO OTHER EU STATES?
For us there is still a great desire to succeed and prove that we actually belong in the category of the most developed nations in the world. We are restless and we can improvise, and we are al- ways looking for new opportunities and challenges. Throughout history Slovenia has been left enthralled by the business world, and collectively behaves with an eye towards both the necessity for existence and progress.
MORE AND MORE SLOVENE COMPANIES ARE FINDING FOREIGN OWNERS. WHAT BENEFITS DOES BRING TO BOTH THE COMPANIES THEMSELVES AND THE COUNTRY IN GENERAL?
Foreigners owners can bring great value when they buy Slovene firms, in terms of corporate development, increased equity, and in particular access to foreign markets. Normally, companies that are under foreign ownership and management continue to evolve over time when compared to their peers, as in addition to the establishment of good business practices and a good programme, foreign owners and managers tend to particular value human resources, bringing on and encouraging highly successful engineers and other personnel for example. This is perhaps one of the most lucrative things that they actually buy and invest in, a well-educated, productive and industrious workforce. And a a result the state benefits by seeing an increase in the number of workers, as well as increased tax revenue.
THROUGHOUT YOUR CAREER YOU’VE BEEN VERY AC- TIVE IN THE ROTARY CLUB. WHY ARE ORGANISATIONS LIKE THESE IMPORTANT?
The work of Rotary International in Slovenia is very important, as is that of the Lions Clubs and various other similar organisations. Bringing about changes in knowledge, behaviour, the culture of cooperation and information, and of course connections across the globe has many direct and indirect bene ts for businesses as well as the larger society. I also feel that such organizations are particularly important for the younger generations, who are able to create a global network and feel that they are part of something bigger.
WHAT ARE SOME GOOD TYPICAL SLOVENE GIFTS TO GIVE TO BUSINESS PARTNERS FROM ABROAD?
It of course depends on the specific occasion, but in most situations Idrija lace makes a perfect gift for business partners from abroad (or anyone for that matter), as well as any number of other handcrafted products, many of which have some connection with nature and the countryside, such as those made from wood. And of course if you need something very special, there are locally produced crystal items.
WHAT DO YOUR FOREIGN BUSINESS PARTNERS FIND MOST SURPRISING WHEN THEY COME TO SLOVENIA FOR THE FIRST TIME?
Most of the foreign visitors who come to Slovenia for the rst time are amazed at how beautiful it is – the breathtaking scenery, friendly people, the kind of quiet, peacefulness that can be found almost everywhere, and of course the relatively high level of development of the country.
DO YOU EVER HAVE TIME TO TRAVEL IN SLOVENIA AS A TOURIST? AND IF SO, WHERE ARE YOUR FAVOURITE PLACES TO VISIT?
Well, to be honest I don’t really have the time to travel as a tourist in Slovenia, but I do have the desire to get to know the less visited corners of this beautiful country, and hope that one day I will get to do so.