Drugi jezik na kojem je dostupan ovaj članak: Bosnian
In short, I found, discovered and actualized myself in this work. What more can a man ask from the work he does?
An important part of my personality and the wealth I possess are the people I met during my thirty three years of working in this field. And I met all sorts – from people of exceptional quality, to exceptionally bad people; from capable and modest to incapable and arrogant; from thieves to philanthropists and humanitarians; from criminals to academics; from normal to insane. The gallery of characters is overflowing, odd and fascinating, it expands every day. I’m elated and excited at meeting someone new, interesting, and different. Now that I have experience, I assign them to various categories more easily, which makes my daily life easier.
What I’m worried by in recent times is that with increasing frequency I keep meeting very dangerous people at various positions. According to my categorization they are either fools with initiative or stupid, but hard-working, and it is simply incredible how many there are in the highest positions, even in government. Completely incompetent for the job or responsibility they are entrusted with, they constantly rush from one idiocy to another, full of optimism and enthusiasm without any backing. But that would be a subject for an entire book, and psychiatrists are far more competent to write about this than I am, and that is why I put a stop on the subject here.
This is a job in which you work with people, with all the pros and cons that it carries. Hence, people, as an exceptionally perishable good, are at the center of the business and whoever wishes to do this job must be aware of this.
I’m blessed with very short memory, so I relatively easily forget the majority of bad things. I’m not revengeful, I don’t bare grudges, I’m no justice seeker in the cold of winter, nor do I like to dwell in the past. The injustices I’ve suffered at the hands of certain people I mostly forget. I believe that they are not worthy of my attention, but I learn from my mistakes, I’m ready to admit when I’m wrong and I try hard not to repeat the same mistake. Sometimes I manage, but some mistakes which are the result of the imperfection or the nature of my personality are, unfortunately, repeated.
With such an attitude I mostly remember nice things and I try to view people from a positive perspective. Everyone has a negative and a positive side to their personality, I try to work with the positive side, and to keep the negative one under control. As much as possible.
With such an approach I made many friends in the business. I have them in all countries of the former homeland, and throughout the world. They were my colleagues, clients, the media. In this business, besides professionalism, the quality of the human relationship between participants in a project is a decisive factor, for without it there is no success. Regardless of how professional you are, if you cannot establish a good relationship, you lose.
I can proudly say that I did not lose a single friend during the conflicts that raged in the former Yugoslavia during the ‘90s. As much as possible we stayed in touch, helped each other, only to take up where we left off, once everything settled down. It turned out that this war was a war of like-minded individuals, sharing the same state of mind, the same phonebook, where neither my friends nor I belonged. And I’m glad of it.
During the siege of Sarajevo, helpless to do anything to stop it, I found comfort in sending aid to my friends and colleagues, who remained in the city. We sent various necessities, from whisky to toners for printers. I suddenly fell in love with the music of Bijelo Dugme (to the despair of my progressive rock past) and started living for the day when I will return to that city.
That is exactly what happened in the spring of 1996, shortly after the signing of the Dayton Agreement when I arrived in a vehicle with Bulgarian license plates, with PRESS stickers all over, and I spent seven unforgettable days in a city where, instead of glass, windows were covered with nylon sheets. Those seven days I stayed with Bojan Hadžihalilović, the creative director of the Fabrika agency, and with his family, where I met up with great many people I knew earlier who would greet me with amazing sincerity. There were many tears of excitement and happiness at seeing each other. One thing is incredible – from taxi drivers, to friends, to owners of restaurants, I could not pay a single bill. That was a special confirmation that I was and remained ordinary cool.
I find it impossible to name here all the people who meant something to me, who helped me, who became and remained my friends outside of work. With all possible disclaimers and apologies for singling out one among a hundred others, I will mention a case in which a completely loser and marginal product turned into a business worth a few dozen million euros.
In the late eighties my country was living out its last days. Although the world around us was falling apart, the majority of people still could not believe it. And it started with the debunking of myths.
You could do anything, except mess with him. After his death, the famous slogan was created “After Tito – Tito”, and any tarnishing of his personality or its myth was a complete taboo. One of the first cracks in that granite occurred in 1987, in the “Youth Day” project.
Youth Day was a traditional celebration of Tito’s birthday, which was regularly held on May 25th in Belgrade, and each year it was organized by a youth organization from a different republic. That year, its organization was entrusted to the youth of Vojvodina, and the creative solutions for the visual image were done in Slovenia. The creative team – people from the leading youth magazine Mladina and the cult industrial rock group Laibach – created a green leaf with a hole in the shape of the partisan star. And everything would have been fine had someone from SUBNOR not protested, claiming that it looked like a vampire’s bite, that it was an attack on Tito and the Revolutionary heritage and our socialist self-government, non-alignment, etc. An incredible scandal broke out, accusations were flying in all directions, and the deadline was fast approaching.
Branimir Bane Brkljač was the president of the youth of Vojvodina, he was and remains open minded, having always kept and still keeping abreast of the times. He had fairly radical views for the time – for the baton ceremony to be discontinued and for Youth Day, from an idolatrous manifestation singing praises to a dead man and loyalty to his person and deeds, to be transformed into a day when the youth of the country were supposed to speak up about their problems, desires, etc. (even today, as it did back then, it sounds very idealistic, but nonetheless). Hence that gathering of successful young people from the entire country, in which I also took part, and hence that newspaper clipping of me and all young “promising” people? Bane did have a problem because of this, but he also had a ready solution at hand – he came to us to rescue the situation and to provide a new solution. We did it, nothing spectacular, but the two of us met then and a friendship was born that lasts to this day.
Bane was very good at his job, very ambitious. As such he rose in the ranks very quickly: after his job as a youth leader, his first real job was that of an assistant general manager of Radio Television Novi Sad. Naturally, with all the perks – a Mercedes with “zero” license plates, immediately noticed on the streets, so it would be immediately clear that a “big wig” is driving by, a huge office, a secretary. He hit it big time. It so happened, probably because we were both very busy, that we did not socialize, from all his meetings he did not manage even to answer my telephone calls.
As young and promising “staffer”, Bane sometimes had to “take care” of some unpleasant business. Thus, he was assigned the “honor and privilege” after the “Yoghurt revolution and the happening of the people” in 1988 in Novi Sad, to be one of the speakers at meetings of the Communists of Vojvodina and “strongly attack the hegemonic, greater Serbia policies represented by Slobodan Milošević and his clique in Belgrade.” He suffered intense criticism when he said that “if Milošević’s policies are not stopped in their tracks, this country will become steeped in civil war.” This was assessed as “inciting fear in workers and citizens, peoples and nationalities.” Is it worth mentioning that after the Eighth (Parliament) Session in Belgrade – when Ivan Stambolić was replaced, and Milošević became the undisputed leader of Serbia – Bane was also “hit by a yoghurt”? He was fired swiftly and reassigned as junior clerk in the department for viewer rating research. Without a car, a secretary, an office. And with the label of an “autonomist”, which greatly reduced his options for employment.
After a certain period, as luck would have it, through an “autonomist” friend, he got an opportunity to try something, to extricate himself from the verge of abyss and to flee from his poverty and despair.
The opportunity took the shape of a strange, plastic sausage that the inventor dubbed Kosmodisk. That is when he remembered us, somehow found a “lost” telephone number and called to say that he would like to meet. After many excuses and requests to be taken seriously, he took out of his bag this contraption and said that he wanted us to do his campaign?! Rather unenthusiastically, wanting to help a man who was grasping at straws, I took two dozen of those to see the “miraculous results” for myself. As luck would have it, right then my mother was frequenting a physiotherapist often, who agreed to test this miracle on her patients.
After ten days she returned in disbelief and said that in fifteen of her patients, the condition improved. We got the medical validation and created a campaign, which to this very date is one of the most efficient ever created: Looks silly, but my back no longer hurts.
That was an incredibly important project for many of my people who went on to brilliant careers, and Bane also saw this as his chance at success. He fought day and night, worked innovatively and created success out of impossibility. A miracle was crafted, the ad did its job; besides our campaign, there were frequent promotional events which, with the participation of the charismatic inventor and bio-energy specialist, turned into séances. But the move forward was constant, new territories were being conquered, new sales channels, messages.
When sanctions were introduced, Bane used Kosmodisk to get out of the country. He purchased the patent and went to Slovenia. He started a company based on this product and after three years and over 100 employees, it became respectable, and Bane, with a little help from his former-youth-leader-turned-state-official friends was fast-tracked to his “distinguished citizen” status in Slovenia. He started developing a new sales segment – direct TV marketing. He introduced new products, expanded his product range and within fifteen years created the biggest network of TV shopping companies in Central and Eastern Europe. He broadcasts over 300 hours of programming daily in over twenty countries. And when someone tells me you cannot succeed in Slovenia or Europe because you are a Serb, I simply go nuts.
We remained close friends, we stick to the ritual of dining out together whenever we see each other, and his case proves the story of two researchers who went to Africa to research the shoe market, true. Namely, one of them said: there’s no work for us here, everyone is barefoot. The other said: this is an ideal opportunity, no one has shoes.
Bane belonged to the latter group.
What I learned
- When you work with people, focus on the positive traits.
- Some see the glass as half empty, others see it as half full.
- Successes are created where others failed to see the opportunity.