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The Optimistic Alien: Fighting Back in Risky Markets is a book of survival in risky markets. It represents Mike Willard’s journey in overcoming both personal and business challenges in his 15 years in Eastern Europe. We believe it will be of interest to any expatriate who has ever set foor in a foreign land, or any adventurer who has ever dreamed of pulling up stakes and doing so. One day Willard was bobbing up and down on his live-aboard cabin cruiser on the Potomac river in Washington, D.C., and two weeks later he was taking steps to launch businesses in Moscow, Kyiv and Istanbul. The Optimistic Alien, an odyssey: The ups, the downs and the all-arounds of an American entrepreneur in the rough-and-tumble world of East European business.
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J. Michael Willard has had a varied career as a newsman, political and policy advisor to U.S. Senators, senior public relations and advertising counselor, author, publisher and entrepreneur. Before becoming a founding partner of The Willard Group, he was managing director and market leader of Burson-Marsteller's operations in Russia and Ukraine, supervising services in public relations, research, governmental relations, special events and advertising. Willard has worked in Eastern Europe for more than 15 years. In 1998 he purchased the Kyiv office of Burson-Marsteller and formed The Willard Group Companies. In 2001, the company opened a Moscow office and in 2005 an Istanbul office. Willard launched B-M's first commercial operation in Ukraine in 1996 and in 1997 helped lead the Russian B-M team to a successful transition from government-funded projects to commercial work. First coming to the former Soviet Union in 1994, Willard led B-M's largest government funded project in the region, the Ukraine Market Reform Education Program. During this period, Willard provided counsel to the Bosnian government in Sarajevo on issues not resolved in the Dayton Peace Accords, working directly with the Prime Minister. Today Willard serves as a policy advisor to several Central and East European governments. Prior to joining B-M, Willard was president and owner of Willard & Associates for nearly a decade before selling the advertising/public relations agency to his employees. Willard was director of U.S. Sen. Robert Byrd's Democratic Leader's office when Byrd held that position, also serving in the capacity of communications, foreign affairs and domestic policy advisor for seven years. Wanting to open a business in West Virginia, Willard first returned to the state as Communications Director for then Gov. John D.Rockefeller IV. Willard served as a political advisor to Rockefeller in his successful bid to win a U.S. Senate seat. A native of Vidalia, Georgia, Willard calls Charleston, West Virginia his home. He is a graduate of the University of Florida with a degree in advertising and marketing and is a former member of the board of directors of the European Business Association. Willard is publisher and a columnist for Willard Marketing Monthly, a magazine launched in August, 2009. He is a former publisher of The Ukrainian Observer.
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