It’s impossible not to be overwhelmed by the scenery of this beautiful Adriatic country.
It’s not what you know; it’s who you know. It’s a business adage we all recognize, if not actually subscribe to. It emphasizes the advantage of close connections to those in power as more important than “mere” knowledge and skill, and that making friends in high places is never a bad thing when you’re trying to make a buck.
It may be even more important when you’re travelling in foreign countries. Let’s just say, for instance, you’re a motorcyclist at the border of a former Eastern Bloc country — just for fun, let’s say it’s Montenegro — and the customs guard is rushing through a rapid-fire spittle of far too many consonants and not nearly enough vowels. The only word you catch might have sounded something like “insurance” but you can’t be sure. The only thing you can be sure of is that he is pointing across the road — with some emphasis! — to a building that looks too dilapidated to be a garage, let alone a place of high commerce.
Making the Connection
You are, at best, confused. You might even be scared. As in: the old “What the h-e-double-hockey-sticks am I getting myself into?” This is where, if you’re smart and connected, you’d text your new best friend Sergey, and in but a heartbeat, you would a) get directions to the building’s back office, where you would be b) assured that, yes, up those seriously rickety stairs and through the crusty door is c) a guy sitting in a barely lit room asking for 10 Euros — cash only! — who really is a legitimate insurance broker. Or, at least as legitimate as you’re going to get. More importantly, legitimate enough to get you into the country.
Thus do you get into the beautiful western tip of the former Yugoslavia with five minutes of smiles and thank yous all around rather than spending two hours yelling at someone who really didn’t give a you-know-what if you got into his country or not. That saving of time and aggravation, in case you’re still struggling with the metaphor, is the result of who you know … because it most certainly wasn’t what you knew.
As for who Sergey Vikultsev might be, well, the first thing to know is that he’s an expat Russian — long gone before the latest conflagration — who came to Montenegro seven years ago to work in IT on Peter Munk’s Porto Montenegro superyacht marina and resort project and fell in love with the charm that is the little postage stamp-sized country on the Balkan’s Adriatic.
Blessed with Slavic hustle and entrepreneurial spirit, he’s been managing money, moving automotive parts around the globe and, more important for my current need for people in high places, becoming Montenegro’s resident motorcycle touring expert. The guy to know, as it were.
He’s also one of the few people in the small country — just 620,000 people in 5,333 square miles (a little…