BSBA staff is working from home and all meetings and planned activities postponed, but stay in contact with our members and colleagues
Every day you are able to read the stories about organising of diplomatic and business activities by the embassies, institutions, companies, culture and public figures. We spoke with Mr. Hugo van Veghel, President of the Belgian-Serbian Business Association (BSBA) about how BSBA organized the activities during the state of emergency, how they contribute to the fight against COVID-19 virus, as well as how he is spending his free time, and what he will do first when the state of emergency is over.
“We are lucky to be in the position to do this as most of our work and businesses relations can be dealt with on-line. Planned physical meetings were rapidly shifted to Skype, Viber, Zoom, Face time and other video conferencing platforms” said Mr. Veghel.
How did you organize your business activities?
BSBA staff is working from home and all meetings and planned activities postponed, but stay in contact with our members and colleagues. Together with our Swiss and Hellenic colleagues we are trying to set up an @member2member action where companies make special offers for support. We hope that others will join us in this action very soon. The circumstances are testing the resilience of all types of organisations; it might become a useful learning exercise.
Privately, as a consulting company, we were able, from the very start to maximise the “work from home” principle. We are lucky to be in the position to do this as most of our work and businesses relations can be dealt with on-line. Planned physical meetings were rapidly shifted to Skype, Viber, Zoom, Face time and other video conferencing platforms. Staffs have received clear recommendations in line with those given by the relevant experts. #staysafe #stayhome, we need you now and later. The measure will have no negative impact on their salaries.
You signed together with other business association a document and sent it to Serbian Finance Minister, Sinisa Mali. What do you expect from Serbian Government, which measures should be implemented?
In Serbia there are 97.5% of micro and small companies, medium-sized companies up to 2%, big ones about 0.5%.
The Belgian Serbian Business Association is focusing its service on SMEs, mostly suppliers and service providers to the 0,5%. There are many family businesses where father, mother, children, sometimes neighbours, friends are involved in the business. These micro and small family businesses work from morning till evening, sometimes with people doing multiple jobs at the same time, often on weekends and holidays. They are for us the most vulnerable and a real concern.
I am sure that also the government knows that the private sector is financing the public sector, and that further measures need to be developed and implemented to secure the functioning of the state and save to the maximum its economic structure. The measures related to taxes and social contributions are in their hands, but other support measures could or should include the financial sector. The EU institutions for sure will be involved. If there is no “voluntary” valid move from the private banking sector, then the government could impose measures to activate/support their “corporate social responsibility”.
How are you spending your private time during the pandemic?
Now that private and professional responsibilities are even more merged than before we are spending time with the family, more than ever. Time for reflection on the power of nature and our own vulnerability. Discussing the developments in an open communication with all family members without any panic scenario, making sure that reason prevails. It is the sunny side of the situation. Never people have spent so much time with family than they do now. For those that are physically not reachable for whatever reason we have our phones and social media platforms… All medals have two sides; the good one these days is that one can see that solidarity still exists and is growing. People never called so often family members, friends or colleagues to ask if they are OK, if anything is needed… and together we talk about the “what after?“
What will you do first after the state of emergency is cancelled?
Business has to go on and professional duties will shift again from home to the office. Being prepared for a pandemic is hard and never one will be 100% prepared, but what we can do now is to prepare for the day the state of emergency is cancelled. I hope it will be cancelled in steps to give people time to adapt again. You will see that many things will have changed, not only on the economic level, but also on the societal and individual level. We have to be prepared NOT to be euphoric, still to be cautious, minimizing organisation of and participation in large gatherings till the end of the year. The risk is not “ZERO” from one day to another. For many it will be like rebooting their life, their business. Do it carefully. It will be easier and we will get there faster when you stay safe and stay home NOW.