What is the best way to make a contact with French businesses and what is the best time to make an appointment? Will the German market of stiff drinks grow or fall down in the future? How to organize the promotion in Austria? Could our businesses have an influence on the creation of the European regulations?
Small business 'tricks' and managing skills on the international markets, being specific for many reasons, as well as the exhaustive market analyses and strategic consultations sometimes know to be decisive when concluding a business deal . The four directors of the Representative Offices of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Serbia in Brussels, Frankfurt, Vienna and Paris, along with their yet five colleagues in other countries, have these 'details' at their fingertips.
Gordana Zrnić, Milanka Vučić, Vera Vidović and Vesna Pacail, together with their not numerous assistants, connect hundreds of Serbian firms with international partners, organize events where the economy from here is being promoted, introduce foreign businesses to their counterparts from Serbia...
‘Our main task is to support the Serbian companies to manage themselves in the role of exporters on the markets of the countries we work in. We very often find ourselves in a situation that firms address to us and ask for contacts. They do want to sell their goods abroad, to get in connection with strategic partners, to offer facilities for sale. We do regularly pay a visit to the regional chambers of commerce throughout Serbia. In that way we get an insight into the situation in our regions and get to know businesses at the local level’, Vera Vidović says, director of the CCIS Representative Office in Austria.
As soon as they are familiarized with domestic firms, their products and strategies, the representatives of the Chamber are able to estimate which international markets are the direct hit for certain products. The brandy makers could count on the market of Russia, for example, while their products could hardly compete in France.
These four ladies are very successful thanks to their previously gained experience in business. No matter how much smart or diligent you are, when you find yourself in some other country you need a certain time to 'learn to walk'. Having these four women with experience in doing business on these four markets, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Serbia just skipped that part.
‘When I came to the CCIS Representative Office I brought all my business experience gained in Austria, the working system, contacts’, Vera Vidović says, who used to work at the German company Solvadis Group before getting the position in the CCIS Representative Office in Vienna.
Vesna Pacail previously worked at the representative office of Jugometal and was the owner of the consultancy agency in Paris. Gordana Zrnić, director of the CCIS Representative Office in Brussels, gained her previous business experience at the Dunav Insurance Company and at the state administration, while Milanka Vučić, director of the CCIS Representative Office in Germany, used to do business with the foreign trade companies, and in Serbia she worked at the petrochemical industry.
‘Every state is specific for itself. The essence of our job is the same meaning that we have to promote our companies. How it will be done depends on specific features of the country we live in’, Gordana Zrnić says.
The hardest thing is to make the first steps – to attract an investor. Sometimes it make even harder because they have to tackle the prejudice and poor reputation of the state.
‘When an investor learns that there are conditions for running a business, that he could use up, for example, the lower labour price, flexible deadlines, then he more seriously starts thinking of making the cooperation’, Vesna Pacail adds.
If you would take a look in the offices of their colleagues from other countries you would have an opportunity to see their assistants, analysts – the whole team. In our Representative Offices you could not seen 'one man show' atmosphere, but along with the director there is very often one assistant only. On the other side, the support is strong.
‘The Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Serbia has the integrated group of experts who are relevant for doing business. I only address to my mother house and immediately get all information needed’, Milanka Vučić says. Her colleague Vera Vidović adds:
‘None of us could know all in the aspect of business. Without this support we would not have a chance to do anything. The Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Serbia is quite good mechanism for the expert support. We have sectorial associations with excellent experts’.
When a contact is made, our interlocutors say, the investors are first of all interested in how to offer their goods in Serbia. This is a good way to make cooperation – in order to sell something to somebody you have to buy something, too. This trade exchange enables the investors to research and other specific features of Serbia. They are interested in life issue as well – whether there is a school in foreign language.
‘I used to cooperate with many investors who just commence to pick up a new destination. They have to prepare for the Board of Directors the complete documentation involving a certain country. They should be provided with all information needed, ranking from sectorial analyses to the price of electricity and an average salary in a certain region. Therefore, we could play an important role at the very beginning of some potential investment’, Vesna Pacail says.
‘Foreign partners like to get to know the business culture in Serbia. I am frequently a guest in the French regional chambers of commerce. They are very interested in what it is like doing business with Serbian companies – with whom to negotiate, how to organize meetings, whether the supply deadlines are flexible. In their media the economy issues are in the background, the policy and sports are in the foreground. The businesses are not quite informed on the economy of Serbia and our main activity is to familiarize them with our economy and vice versa. Sometimes we give the lectures to the domestic businesses on how to run a business with French companies. Our businesses do not have an insight into some details. For example, in France it is impossible to make an appointment in the period between the noon and two o'clock afternoon, you should not even try. Or that a meeting has to be arranged at least ten days before. Any possible delay should be previously announced, otherwise the meeting would be cancelled. All these are very significant details and if not being fulfilled, they would not be taken for serious business partners’, Pacail adds.
Vera Vidović says that it is important for Serbia to be promoted at forums, trade fairs and other similar events. ‘This is the reason why it is important to be connected with local promoters of the business cooperation, first and foremost, with the chambers of commerce of that place’, Milanka Vučić says.
‘In Germany, for example, the regional chambers of commerce are very strong – when Angela Merkel travels, she is accompanied by the presidents of the chambers of commerce. However, varied state agencies could be promoters, too. There are also structural associations. We are in communication with them. Therefore, a few years ago I got connected with the federal association for textile and fashion. Otherwise, Serbia has 1800 companies dealing with textile, while Germany has 300 of them. The institutions like these usually demand the presentation of the industry before the meeting. We make contacts directly with businesses also – at trade fairs and other events. Therefore, besides spending a lot of time in front of computer, our job involves travelling and meetings. We do the same job here, four times in a year we come to Serbia and organize meetings with businesses in all regional chambers of commerce. I have an impression that the interests and quality of companies we cooperate with are increasingly growing. A few years ago we would be approached by somebody who does not have an idea what to do with a company. Today the companies profiled themselves. During my last visit to Serbia I had thirty or so meetings and at least two thirds of companies have an opportunity for realisation’, she says.
Somehow different Representative Office of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Serbia is managed by Gordana Zrnić, director of this office in Brussels.
‘Apart from being in charge of the Benelux states, our task is to monitor the European regulations and be well versed in the EU legislative framework. We take an active part in the Enhanced Permanent Dialogue (EPD), to be fair, in the role of observers, but it is also important because the issues we could help about are very often discussed. The negotiation platforms had to be officially approved by the Chamber, which is not the case today. One of the remarks of the EU Commission is that the businesses and chamber system are insufficiently consulted. Best example for it is that the transition periods being agreed within the Stabilisation and Association Agreement are too short just because the businesses were not asked for the opinion. Our goal is to be involved in as soon as the negotiations are commenced. Without it we will require some revisions all the time. Besides it, being the members of the European networks we could participate in the creation of the EU policies, even in this phase of our relation with the EU. It is of extreme importance that we have a chance to learn mechanisms and that our companies know that there are ways for influencing certain regulations to be changed or some programmes to be created’, she says.
The logistics is needed and the assets, too, because the presentations have to be organized on certain level in order to be outstanding.
‘Austria is a very wealthy state where something constantly happens and where the offer is huge. If you want to be noticed, you have to do it in the right place and in the right way. You need the assets for it. I have the support from the Austrian companies already running a business in Serbia or longing for entering the Serbian market. I have contrived to make such contacts’, Vera Vidović says.
Vesna Pacail, director of the CCIS Representative Office in France:
Sometimes we give the lectures to the domestic businesses on how to run a business with French companies. Our businesses do not have an insight into some details. For example, in France it is impossible to make an appointment in the period between the noon and two o'clock afternoon, you should not even try. Or that a meeting has to be arranged at least ten days before.
Milanka Vučić, director of the CCIS Representative Office in Germany:
The Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Serbia has the integrated group of experts who are relevant for doing business. I only address to my mother house and immediately get all information needed.
Vera Vidović, director of the CCIS Representative Office in Austria:
When I came to the CCIS Representative Office I brought all my business experience gained in Austria, the working system, contacts.
Gordana Zrnić, director of the CCIS Representative Office in Brussels:
Every state is specific for itself. The essence of our job is the same meaning that we have to promote our companies. How it will be done depends on specific features of the country we live in.