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Updated survey of ‘hidden champions’ in central, eastern, and south-eastern Europe


In 2011, almost 30 years after Hermann Simon coined the term “hidden champions” to describe compelling small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Germany and examined their role in and implications for his country‟s economic development and innovation, the International Association for Management Development in Dynamic Societies (CEEMAN) and the IEDC-Bled School of Management Postgraduate Studies team embarked on a far-reaching project to uncover the hidden champions of central and eastern Europe (CEE), Kazakhstan and Turkey. The study involved 18 research teams working with more than 165 companies. Researchers aimed to compare their findings with those of Simon and identify the support that those hidden champions in CEE and other dynamically changing environments might need to grow. The study resulted in a research report, Hidden Champions in CEE and Dynamically Changing Environments,published in 2011, and a book, Hidden Champions in CEE and Turkey: Carving Out a Global Niche,3 published in 2013.

In November 2017 IEDC-Bled School of Management, Postgraduate Studies, and CEEMAN decided to delve once again into the world of Hidden Champions. The aim was to explore the growth and present-day status of the hidden champions identified in the 2011 study and to pinpoint and analyse the characteristics of new hidden champions in central, eastern and south-eastern Europe.

Research was conducted in 22 countries in 2018 and 2019: Albania, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Estonia, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Kosovo, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Poland, Romania, Russia, Serbia, the Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Turkey and Ukraine.

This report presents the research team’s findings on each country. It details the methodology behind the study, then summarises the hidden champion landscape in central, eastern and south-eastern Europe, identifying those industries in which hidden champions are likely to emerge, the characteristics they share, their best practices and the main ingredients of their success. The report then lists the hidden and potential hidden champions identified by the study. The final part of the report is given over to company snapshots based on interviews with the companies in question. These snapshots offer insights into the hidden champions in terms of financial performance, the nature of their market leadership, their competitive advantage and the core lessons they have learnt on the path to business success.

This publication has been produced with the assistance of the EBRD. The contents of this publication are the sole responsibility of the authors, IEDC-Bled School of Management and CEEMAN, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD).

The full report will be published by IEDC- Blend School of Management and CEEMAN

Read the paper 


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