Old and new way of doing business in Serbia

12 February 2007 - Comments (0) Reflections

Old and new way of doing business in Serbia In Serbia, much more than in the West, there are many people still trying to do business the wrong way. That is hiding information, confusing partners, lying, being shameless and trying to squeeze money out of you. All of that in order to get maximum profits in minimum time and being as shortsighted as it is possible to be. We believe this way will soon be outdated. Let's explain why.

Wrong way

First they make you believe that you need them. They have their connections here and there, they can get things done for you in no time and they have lot of experience. In fact, they try to keep you in the dark, not explaining, not giving you any details and they want to be your sole interlocutor. They try to confuse you. They make you believe that they do a favor just to get that thing done for you.

You can agree on a price for a given service but it is never enough. They had to pay that guy to get it done and they didn’t tell you about that other thing. You don’t realize how much they do for you… Their best chance is your ignorance and your fear to get things wrong.

Have you been there? We had. We started to prospect for a land to buy before we made the move to Serbia. We actually found one and we started to go into the procedure of buying, registering and making the urban planning. At the same time we were also forming our company. We were not naïve but rather inexperienced on all the procedures we had to follow and we really needed help to get it through. We ended up with an old family friend to help us out. Sadly for us, he was part of that wrong school of doing business and tried to swindle us. At the end, we limited the damage but it was a lesson learned the hard way.

Limits of the wrong way

How can you have a sustainable business while ripping people off? Well, actually you can as long as your next customer doesn’t know about your track of records and as long you don't need your customer back. That is possible in a society where information does not circulate. The Internet is slowly changing the game by making information circulate seamlessly. It can take years to build up trust but it takes no more than a few days to ruin it. Companies now understand that and try to build up brands that are easily recognized and that people can trust for good reasons.

And that is another aspect of doing business the wrong way. You cannot build up on a brand. In the real estate market for instance, some investors are doing many lucrative projects. They don’t sell on quality and they don’t care about customer satisfaction. They don’t promote a brand so they are anonymous. Each project is a new one and buyers don’t know about the previous ones.

This goes beyond our understanding as we deeply respect the people we interact with and as we base many aspects of our business on trust. But we had to deal with more than one shameless person with little values besides its own wealth. That is why, as we go along, we tend to stick with the same persons once we built up some trust. Not to risk being deceived again. This is especially true in the construction business, which is like a small pool with too many sharks swimming.

It is also true elsewhere like in car service. We got our car serviced in a small garage only to discover later that we paid for things that didn't get done. So the guy there got an immediate profit of an hundred euros and lost a potential loyal customer. This is very short sighted.

New way

In the information age, a satisfied customer may or may not talk about your business. But an angry customer will certainly write against your business in a forum, in a blog or elsewhere. The angrier the customer is and the more likely she is to write against you. The only way to stay in business is to provide genuine quality and value. To build up a brand that people associate with positive values means to take customer satisfaction at the very center. You want to be transparent.

We didn’t see many Serbian businesses understanding that to a full extend. Many of them still think they can get along with their poor services or products or even their dishonest attitude. We already saw things changing in the West. Time will come for Serbia to change too. And that will be for the best.

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