Lance Bozman (’85) has grown comfortable with being uncomfortable. The managing director of AIG/Lincoln Hungary, a commercial real estate company in Budapest, he says the business and cultural environment is “so completely different from Dallas that every day is a learning experience.”
In planning and developing projects such as the high-tech InfoPark and the M1 Business Park, “I’ve had a front-row seat to history,” Bozman says. Since 1998, when he moved to Budapest to put together the InfoPark deal, “it’s been an unbelievable journey watching these countries move from a centrally controlled government to a free market.” Bozman also is managing director for S.E Europe, a company that has started an AIG/Lincoln office development in Romania and plans to begin projects in Croatia and Slovenia, as well as other formerly Communist countries and regions.
Before joining the Lincoln/AIG joint venture in 1997, Bozman represented EDS Corporation in the real estate markets of Latin America and Canada. When the chairman of Lincoln Properties asked him to join a new project in Central Europe, he accepted.
The InfoPark project was a crash course in post-Communist bureaucracy. Assembling land for a project can take two to four years; much of it is deeded to farmers who belonged to co-ops, and as many as 800 individuals may own a site as small as 20 acres.
He has spent just as much time finding local consultants and staff who can help him navigate Hungarian business customs and practices, Bozman says. “Americans tend to think they can overlay their own systems onto other cultures and they will work. You have to adapt to different ways of doing business,” he adds.
Bozman, one of a family of Mustangs (his father, sister and brother all have SMU degrees), says he “didn’t have a lot of interest in international markets” while earning a B.B.A. degree in general business. “I went to SMU because I thought I wanted to be a Dallas businessman. But SMU brings together so many different kinds of people; listening to their histories exposed me to different languages and ideas and cultures.”
The entrepreneurial emphasis in the Cox School’s academic programs provided an excellent foundation for working abroad, he says. “It’s such an instrumental part of international business to have that mindset, to be able to adapt to situations and to find and develop opportunities. For an entrepreneur in an emerging market, the opportunities are everywhere.”