Last year’s trade exchange between Slovenia and Serbia exceeded 1.5 billion euros, while this exchange has more than doubled over the past ten years. The Slovenian Business Club has for years represented a source of new ideas for the development of cooperation between the two countries’ businesspeople

The Slovenian Business Club considers it an obligation to support cooperation between the Slovenian and Serbian economies and will continue to do that, as it always has to date, with dedication, says Danijela Fišakov, President of the Slovenian Business Club.

Considering the experience of the companies gathered together in the SBC, how would you assess the possibilities of further developing cooperation between the two countries’ businesspeople?

– The Serbia-Slovenia Business Forum, which was held at the beginning of this year, as well as the number of companies interested in participating in it, i.e. the level and a number of over 600 business leaders present, best,  illustrate the importance of interconnectivity between the economies of Serbia and Slovenia. The level of trade achieved between the two countries and the fact that cooperation is on an upward trajectory indicates a favourable business climate that is improving every year. I believe that better mutual relations in the foreign policies of the countries will further contribute to even faster growth in the exchange then has been the case to date. The Serbian market constantly produces interest among Slovenian companies. Companies that were discouraged and at some point withdrew from Serbia are again interested in this market and relaunching their operations here.

We pride ourselves on the fact that our members are raising their own bar when it comes to planning future activities. When it comes to the experience of business leaders, there are many examples in which Serbia is the second most important market for Slovenian companies after Slovenia. In our ranks we have significant examples of good practise, that is, the successful conducting of business in accordance with established goals. Such examples encourage other companies and I think that their number and the volume of exchange still remain far below realistic possibilities.

To what extent are topics and speakers at SBC events changing with the expansion of cooperation between the two countries?

– The Slovenian Business Club demonstrates its engagement on a daily basis by monitoring all current affairs and trends in the development of cooperation between Serbia and Slovenia. This kind of activity is very important for our members who operate in these markets. With the aim of providing timely information and adequate support to its members, the SBC realises close cooperation with the chambers of commerce and industry of Serbia and Slovenia, the Embassy of the Republic of Serbia in Slovenia and the Embassy of the Republic of Slovenia in Serbia, as well as with other relevant state and other bodies in Serbia and Slovenia. The SBC also cooperates with other bilateral chambers.

With the high volume of work they perform on a daily basis, many companies find it difficult to always remain informed in a timely manner regarding all happenings, but in that they can always rely on the SBC

With the high volume of work they perform on a daily basis, many companies find it difficult to always remain informed in a timely manner regarding all happenings. This is precisely where they are helped by the SBC, which primarily provides its members with information and invitations to attend conferences, fairs and similar gatherings. Then the SBC also itself organises events that address current topics, and where relevant guests familiarise participants with the issues in question and answer their questions. The number of topics addressed has been increasing constantly over time, due to new ones constantly appearing, while many dating back to earlier periods still remain topical.

The business forum held between the two countries at the beginning of the year was sponsored by NLB Banka, which is an SBC member, while one of its main topics was the digital transformation of the economy and the state. Which forms of cooperation between the two countries’ businesspeople are possible in this domain?

– This year’s topic of the Serbia-Slovenia Business Forum, under the title “Digitalisation of Economy and State”, met with a great response among companies and the media. It seems to me that this response was the largest to date. A successful panel debate on the topic of the digitalisation of the economy and the state was organised within the plenary part of the forum. One of the participants in this panel discussion was NLB Banka CEO Branko Greganović, also a member of the SBC Management Board, who presented his bank’s operations in light of digitalisation.

In the opinion of those present, this panel debate received the highest rating. Significant and important experiences of the business leaders of both countries were exchanged, while numerous opportunities for future cooperation in this area were mentioned.

When it comes to digitalisation, how much has the SBC modernised its communication with members in this domain?

– The internet and platforms based on it represent a dramatic leap in the development of all industries, including those that deal with communication. Smartphones have become virtual offices, while social networks are now interactive bulletin boards, accessible to users even in places where it was previously almost impossible to imagine.

The Slovenian Business Club keeps pace with all contemporary trends in this area and actively applies them in its communication with members. The broad geographical distribution of our membership and the plethora of obligations of leading people in member companies, on the one hand, and a large amount of information that needs to be made available to them in a timely manner, on the other, dictate the necessity to use all modern communication tools.

Of course, regardless of their undeniable usefulness, modern communication tools cannot completely replace direct conversation. A personal conversation between two people is irreplaceable. At the Slovenian Business Club, we pay special attention to this activity.

New technologies have not only enabled us to communicate faster and better with our members, but rather also, driven by ecological awareness, we minimise the use of paper within the scope of SBC activities and propagate such a practice among our members.

This is the sixteenth year that the Slovenian Business Club in Belgrade has been striving to build business relations in the business domain with its members that are a close as possible to a friendship. In which primary areas can SBC members expect your help and support?

– The focus of the Slovenian Business Club is always on its members, and we try to create an atmosphere in which representatives of every member will feel free to express their needs and desires. And all of our activities are directed towards creating benefits for members.

The Slovenian Business Club in Belgrade strives to always get necessary information promptly and timely, as well as to find the appropriate contacts that are essential for members to solve some problem they have. We encounter various situations in our daily work with members. We often direct members towards one another in terms of perceiving problems through specific business models and examples of good practice.

Every situation is always viewed individually and directed towards relevant people from a particular sphere or to find solutions through the channels available to us.

In our ranks we have significant examples of good practise that testify to Serbia being the second most important market after Slovenia for many Slovenian businesspeople

Some new additions, such as individual advisory services for companies, proved to be good. In which way and how often do you advise members on changes to working formats?

– Business is a living organism and participants sometimes need time to direct their operations in the right way. Most companies, regardless of how much they’ve previously researched a market, face various challenges when launching operations in some different environment that can sooner or later ensure that primarily micro and small companies realign or redirect their operations to a segment, i.e. niche of business, that may differ from what they planned initially.

Our members, both at the start of their operations and in later phases of work, often address us in their search for solutions to the problems they encounter. We adapt and change the formats of our activities in accordance with their needs. Contact occurs daily, and we are open to suggestions.

How is your cooperation in Serbia with state institutions and organisations that deal with support for the development of business and employment?

– There is an ever increasing number of events at the national and regional levels that are focused on connecting the economies of Serbia and Slovenia. Various incentives for investment and new employment are current. Development agencies exert efforts to secure subsidy programmes and present businesspeople with conditions of current and future calls for subsidy applications, opportunities to gain state aid, possibilities of accumulating incentive measures etc.

Also contributing significantly to advancing cooperation are numerous bilateral meetings organised at different levels and in different forms. The SBC cooperates with all relevant bodies in both countries. We try, both at our own events and those of others, to provide members with the necessary information and to host people who cover areas that are of interest to members.

For example, at one of the events organised last year, the SBC hosted representatives of the Support Unit of the Coordination Commission for Inspection Oversight. At the start of this year, we enabled our members to get informed about the possibilities of using EU funds, as well as about Serbia’s progress towards the EU. We achieve extremely close cooperation with the Chamber of Commerce & Industry of Serbia, the Tax Administration of Serbia and the development agencies of Serbia and Vojvodina. We will also transfer the positions built up into good practice this year as well. The reorganisation of several other events of this format is also planned.

Given that you collaborate closely with the Embassy of Slovenia in exploring new investment opportunities in Serbia, can you tell us what the focus of your attention will be this year?

– Since its very inception, the Slovenian Business Club has achieved close cooperation with the Embassy of the Republic of Slovenia. In our joint mission to support the work of Slovenian companies in Serbia, the SBC has organised a multitude of events together with the Embassy and provided support to many companies on various issues. When we consider the Embassy of Slovenia in Serbia, we consider it as being extremely close to us, while I would say that we see ambassadors, economic councillors and other diplomatic staff members as friends. Since I’ve been working on this mission, this is now the third ambassador and third economic councillor with whom I’ve worked and this closeness is confirmed every day.

We recently implemented a joint project in the field of IT-digitalisation by organising a successful panel debate at the Technical Fair, and in the second half of this year, we will organise a business forum in the field of IT-agriculture in cooperation with the Chamber of Commerce of Vojvodina.