Danijela Fišakov: The results are significant

Most importantly, businesspeople have confidence in their organization in terms of supporting their business path, primarily in Serbia but also in Slovenia

The Slovenian Business Club (SPC) has been operating in Serbia for almost two decades. The SPC President, Danijela Fišakov talks about changes in our country during that time, the potential for cooperation, and the potential for growth.

The Slovenian Business Club was established 16 years ago. What have been the biggest challenges you have faced during all those years?

– Since its inception, the Slovenian Business Club has encountered a variety of challenges on a daily basis. Going beyond these daily challenges, maintaining the reputation of the Slovenian Business Club all these years, and developing the Club to become an important and influential factor in business circles in Serbia and Slovenia, have all been big challenges that persist to this day. Today, the SPC is a representative factor with a good reputation. Many people also say that it has become a brand. If that is true, and I like the thought of that, the Club has achieved that by growing, developing its offers and activities, constantly expanding, listening to the needs of its members, adapting to their wishes, demands and market opportunities but also by always offering something new, some new idea, some added value.

The number of Slovenian Business Club members has been growing year-on-year. What has contributed most to the continued growth of membership?

– The most important thing is that business people have confidence in their organization in terms of supporting their business path, primarily in Serbia but also in Slovenia. It is not that easy or simple to earn that trust and keep it strong. Thanks to our dedication and investing ourselves in our work, we are doing very well for the time being. Each year, the number of members is slowly but surely growing and this year, it stands at 161. The most important thing is that we listen and recognize the needs of the members and then offer them adequate quality support. Due to the diversity of companies, all this work is quite complex, but the entire SPC team is very committed to it and works with dedication and love. In this way, we keep achieving good results, one after the other. One of the goals of the Slovenian Business Club is to “provide information on investment opportunities in Serbia”.

How have these opportunities changed in the last ten years?

– Two basic trends emerged in the last ten years – there was a period of decline, followed by a period of growth. The decline started immediately after the bubble burst, with the onset of the global economic crisis. Business conditions changed almost overnight. They became more difficult not only for what I call a “manipulative businesses” but also for businesses that base their operations on sound foundation and principles and which interests are represented by the Slovenian Business Club. Investments slowed down, the information was focused on survival and maintaining a presence in all markets, including this one. As with all diseases, the fever lasted for a while, and then business organisms that had strong immunity began to slowly recover. Global and Serbian markets have undergone significant changes. The development of new technologies has brought innovations in the ways business is done and accelerated opportunities. The Serbian state finally starting to walk down the path to the European Union and began to implement the same principles and rules as developed markets. Many deficiencies are still present, but, definitely, the Serbian business environment is characterized by fewer negative specifics. It is increasing-ly starting to resemble the open markets of the developed world. Adopting new values also brings new opportunities.

What kind of support do Slovenian business people in Serbia expect the most from the state in regard to further development of the economic ties between the two countries?

– Companies that operate in Serbia, both from Slovenia and from other countries, as well as domestic ones, general-ly have objections to the Serbian business environment. This is the case in all markets and this is by no means a negative phenomenon. Objections existed, exist and will always exist. The suggestions should be viewed solely as assisting the Serbian state in its efforts to make progress in improving its business environment. In recent years, Serbia has been doing a lot to make its business environment as friendly as possible and the results of that work are evident. A stable monetary exchange rate has been achieved, infrastructure is being built on a large scale, public finances are more consolidated and transparent, far more progress has been made in the digitization of state administration and local self-government, and various permit issuance processes have been expedited. The results are significant, but of course, more should be done. Business people always want more transparency, fairer market relations, more principled law enforcement, better dialogue between the state and the business, and further changes to laws in order to improve the business environment. Undoubtedly, besides the direct market participants – that is business people and companies – the entire Serbian state and society benefit from every improvement of the business environment. It brings a greater influx of investments, significantly contributes to the success and revenues of companies, and, ultimately, to greater state budget revenues.

Which economic segments have the biggest potential in terms of new Slovenian investors doing business in Serbia?

–  A significant number of gatherings took place recently and a lot of substantive discussions have been held on the topic of linking the economies of Serbia and Slovenia and the potential investments by one economy in another and vice versa. Quite evidently, there are many opportunities for this. The significant potential is found in the segments like IT industry, construction, digitization, agriculture, environmental protection and tourism. Expanding to, finding and conquering new markets is something that economies have been doing for centuries. Like all other living organisms, business entities are always on the lookout for territories that are suitable for their survival and prosperity. They explore, listen, try and communicate. Most notably, pioneers were responsible for the biggest shifts which have not always been the most profitable. That is why we should not be surprised if we see a Slovenian company interested in investing in a segment in Serbia that is not generally recognized as having great potential.

How would you rate the cooperation the Club has with representatives of the Serbian government and administration, the Chamber of Commerce and other institutions involved in creating the business environment?

– As an organization that helps develop cooperation between the Slovenian and Serbian economies, we have the support of the state institutions of both countries. This support is very important because we are therefore in a position to positively influence business relations in the Slovenian and Serbian markets, that is, to give initiatives and to be supported. We are present at important events where we promote our members and ask questions on their behalf. In our daily work, we cooperate 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 our calls. In recent years, we have had many opportunities to host high-profile Serbian and Slovenian officials and business people. At such meetings, the SPC members get first-hand information about the most recent stances of the Serbian state bodies and economic institutions influencing the Serbian market. Very often, such meetings are a unique opportunity for the SPC members to get in touch with people who are essential to solving their business problem, to get advice or guidance, and even a solid promise that their problem will be resolved. I must also underline the very important role of the guests at these meetings who are not top officials or as they are often called “high-level officials”. As a rule, the SPC members find these guests to be extremely helpful in operational matters. Meetings with these guests are somewhat smaller in scope, but more professional, more to the point and extremely useful.

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