Slovenian and Serbian companies, as well as companies from other countries operating in these two markets, have recognized their interest in cooperating with us and are joining us. Commitment, perseverance, one-on-one work, and the consistent pursuit of our vision have expanded and determined the development path of our organization and continue to do so.
To be a reliable partner to your members and the two countries for 15 years is a success definitely worth mentioning. Hence, the Slovenian Business Club (SBC) dedicated the entire 2018 to this important jubilee. We talked about the SBC’s recipe for success and its longevity with the organization’s president, Danijela Fišakov.
What is the recipe for the longevity and vitality of the Serbian Business Club?
Our members are the main driving force behind the Slovenian Business Club and the ones that gives the Club life and soul continually. The task for the Club’s management is to give shape to this energy and direct its activities with the help of their knowledge and experience. Over the years, the SBC shared the destiny of its members, while experiencing ups and inevitable downs caused by turbulent changes in the global and local economy and society. The Club has managed to survive and demonstrate that it is a stable pillar for its members and a solid bridge of cooperation between the economies of Slovenia and Serbia.
In the first few years, the SBC members were mostly large Slovenian companies, but, over the course of time, their number, percentage-wise, started diminishing due to the changes in their ownership structure and an increasing number of active SMEs joining the SBC. Today, most of our members are micro, small and medium enteprises which is a true reflection of both Slovenian and Serbian economies.
While following economic and social trends, the SBC has evolved into a modern organization. In addition to having regular meetings with eminent representatives of Serbia and Slovenia and intensive and abundant activities, we also organize working breakfasts, working meetings, sports-business meetings, seminars, panel discussions and meetings with the goal of connecting with other business associations.
If we were to illustrate in numbers the development trajectory of the Slovenian Business Club from 2003 onward, which numbers would you single out?
2003 was the year when the Slovenian Business Club was founded. That year, we had only 44 members. This year, however, we have 153.
In 2005, we organized a gathering with the highest number of people in attendance. That was the promotion of the Ada Bridge, with 450 people present.
Since our establishment to date, we have organized over 250 events, attended by more than 40,000 peoople. Over 120 companies presented their activities.
2013 was especially significant for me because I was appointed president of the Slovenian Business Club that year.
In which way to you canvass the opinions of your members and assess their need for support? Which new activities did you start to implement based on the suggestions of your members?
Each member has their reasons for joining the Club and, in accordance with these reasons, expresses their wishes and expectations. All members are completely familiar with the way the SBC operates. There is open communication and each member is able to express their suggestions, and request support or information via e-mail, telephone or in person.
We always underline that membership makes sense only if it is active. To that end, we are constantly encouraging our members to express their wishes and suggestions, to find time and to be present at events. Events are the place where our members have the opportunity to inform themselves, meet other members, present their companies, present problems they face in their work, find partners, and answer questions that are important to them, perhaps, even to make some decisions on the future business of their companies.
Following the initiative of our members, we have formed two departments in the SBC – Industry and Digitalization. They provide companies, related to these segments, with opportunities to establish a firmer connection, to exchange their experiences and information about the relevant trends at constructive meetings and to follow trends in incorporating modern technology in business processes.
Compared to other business communities in the region, how big is the Slovenian business community in Serbia and how does this affect the position that the SBC has in Serbia realtive to other business clubs in your network?
Serbia is the second biggest destination in terms of the size of the Slovenian investments abroad. The constant growth of foreign trade between the two countries shows their economic connection. There are many good Slovenian companies and business people in the Serbian market but unfortunately, there are significantly fewer Serbian companies and business people in the Slovenian market. However, that is changing for better and this situation led to the SBC having numerous quality members. It also resulted in the fact that, thanks to its dedicated work on organizing its members, the SBC is one the most successful Slovenian business clubs in the world, considering all relevant parametres. That’s why I like to say that we are lucky to do business in Serbia.
Fifteen years ago, the Slovenian business community was the strongest foreign community in Serbia. Today, it is not ranked that highly in terms of numbers because there are numerous companies and investments from countries with much stronger economies than the Slovenian one in the Serbian market. However, considering investments and number of employees, Slovenian companies still occupy a very important place in the Serbian economy.
The Slovenian business communities in the regional countries are comprised of similar market stakeholders like in Serbia, but there is no co-relation between the size of an individual business community and the size of a business club in that country.
What is your communication with institutions and organizations in Serbia like? How do you communicate the challenges that Slovenian companies face?
As an organization that helps to develop cooperation between the Slovenian and Serbian economies, we enjoy the support of the state institutions from both countries. This is of great importance because we are in a position to positively influence business relations in the Slovenian and Serbian markets, that is, to launch initiatives and to be supported. We are present at important events where we promote our members and ask questions on their behalf. In our day-to-day operations, we work with various state institutions and in most cases, we are satisfied with the cooperation. State institutions recognize the importance of cooperation with Slovenian companies in Serbia and respond to the SBC’s calls.
In previous years, we had many opportunities to welcome high-level Serbian and Slovenian economic and state officials that are important to business people from both countries. At these meetings, the SBC’s members receive first-hand information on the most current positions of Serbian state bodies and economic institutions which affect the Serbian market. Very often such meetings are a unique opportunity for the SBC’s members to establish a direct contact with the people who are important for solving some of their business problems, get advice or instructions, and even receive a binding promise that an important problem will be solved.
I also have to underline the importance of the guests that are not considered the top state officials.
What recommendations from your members would you like to single out as most important for bolstering the business climate in Serbia?
Changes in the market of one country slowly overspill to neighbouring countries, the region, and the whole world. The business climate Serbia has to inevitably change, and it has been changing for the better, not only year-on-year, but also day to day. The development of technology and the market expansion and deepening positively affect all aspects of business, but the establishment of an ideal business climate will, in all likelihood, require more time and effort from both state and business entities.
The SBC members are companies that are striving to achieve their business objectives, i.e. their mission and vision, but with full respect for the business environment, the local community and the environment in which they operate. They follow trends and invest in new technologies in all sectors in order to constantly improve their business and positively affect the business climate and environment in general in the markets where they operate.
What is seriously hampering further development, and this is something that the SBC members are constantly reiterating, are the deep seated bureaucracy, complicated administration, passivity, inefficiency and laziness of the legal system, as well as corruption.
What are your plans for 2019? What goals did you set for the next year?
In its work, the SBC has always been guided primarily by the urgent needs of its members, while the Club’s activities have closely followed the changes in the Serbian and Slovenian economies. The Club provides adequate information and services to its members in a timely manner.
The SBC and its members will have the very busy and challenging 2019 that will require the organization of adequate activities to respond to the demands and needs of our members in a successful and highly professional level in the future too.
In the year in which are celebrated the centinery of the end of the First World War, the words of the victorious duke Živojin Mišić come to mind:“ One that dares, can! One that does not fear, goes forward!” By remembering the century-old echo of this heritage, we are steadfast, persevering and consistently continuing on our path towards improvement of the cooperation between the economies of Serbia and Slovenia, while finding new solutions for further successful growth and development of the SBC and our members in both markets, and, dare we say it, in other markets too.