February 16, 2018 – Continuing our look at the foreign entrepreneurs trying to make it in Croatia, meet Markus Borlinghaus, the CEO of Scalable Global Solutions in Zagreb, which offers recruitment and business process outsourcing solutions.
1. First and foremost, why Croatia?
Well, I have done a market research about the things that were in accordance with my business plan. Not only does this involve topics like cost, how to start a business, paying taxes, trading across borders, etc., but also making sure that I would be able to hire and train the right people. Functionality wise, this meant young, open-minded people with excellent language skills. Of course, It was not only based on research – but equally on the co-workers I already had from Croatia. I have learned that the “after war” generation in Croatia (young people who are today between 22,23 and 35 had some of the most important professional skills which simply can’t be taught in a classroom or measured on paper. We have a great training programme for recruiter trainees and organize assessment centres to select the ideal candidates. We can provide the functionalities, but If you want to strive in working with people, the importance of soft skills is crucial. Communication, IT and social media skills. Problem-solving skills, reliability, motivation, persistence cannot be taught – but only nurtured by the individual himself. That is why the attitude of average university educated, well-spoken young persona was a great starting point for me.
2. Tell us about some of the differences in your expectations of running a business in Croatia and the reality.
I suggest starting with the topics that were as I expected them to be, for example, Business communication, Business meeting etiquette, Cost of living were as I have expected them to be – therefore my reaction was positive. When It comes to work-life-balance, nothing changed for me – I work 24/7 independent of where I am, so no change there.
The things that did differ from my expectations were bureaucratical issues and administrative roadblocks that I have encountered later on. I still nowadays have to be reminded to ask for R1 by my accountant. This is one of the complications which I think could have a much more simple and effective solution. If I drive to see a client, I cannot deduct my mileage or the cost of gas. I can only use a car as an expense if the car is in the company name. Of course, I did expect having to adapt, but some things just do not make much sense.
3. What (if any) bureaucratical issues have you encountered and how did you overcome them (i.e. any advice to the would-be entrepreneur?)
Luckily, not so many – but I think this was mostly due to good preparations. If you have a good lawyer and/or a trustworthy colleague, plus a good accountant, everything is easier. The issues I have encountered are more in relation to unnecessary paperwork and the cost of the above mentioned. This is why I recommend getting a good lawyer and a trustworthy colleague, as more often then not, you will need a translation of either linguistically or cultural differentiations.
4. How is your product or business perceived in the Croatian market?
As far I as I am informed, and due to the intensified period of economic migrations from Zagreb to Germany, the vast majority see recruitment as temporary agency work or staffing. Yet these are completely different terms. In our business, precisely talent acquisitions, it comes to find the best candidate not only among the applied, but also among the sourced candidates. We do not only serve our clients on recruitment marketing and employer branding, and candidate experience, but also spent a big amount of time in sourcing and selling the right candidates. The average amount of time necessary to find and hire a candidate via job posting is cca.50 days. Our clients mostly need their candidate persona yesterday. This is where we can shine – we have an internal database which is already in full accordance with GDPR. I strongly believe that recruitment must be performed in a measured and combined way. Our associates and colleagues come from different industries, in which they have held senior management positions for numerous years. We consider the combination of those two crucial elements to be the driver of our client’s success.
5. What were the opinions of your friends and community, were they supportive of your idea, or…?
To be honest, I did not even ask them.
6. What are some of the greatest challenges you have faced in business in Croatia?
I would not necessarily say challenge, but in some ways I did undergo a challenge in how to solve these situations. We had outsourced some of our services, and I personally do not like the philosophy where the provider comes with one solution and one pricing model, and then raise the prices without explanations, or do not hold deadlines. I am used to making clear expectations and do not think surprises ever come handy in business. Communication is key, and some company owners lack it. Also, punctuality.
7. If you knew then, what you know now, would you have come?
Yes, I would. The positive beats the negative. At the end of the day, it is all about the people you surround yourself with. And I love my team.
8. What are 3 things you love about Croatia?
Fine cuisine, wine and culture.
9. What are 3 things you would like to see improved in the business climate in Croatia?
Effective communication, less paperwork and persistence in quality when it comes to services.
10. How is it working with Croatians in terms of a business mentality?
I would not generalise. I have met successful and reliable people, and I have met the opposite. Attitude and persistence is what counts. Also, although we are based in Zagreb, we have people from Croatia, China, Germany, Serbia, UK, France, Belgium working together and are successful in working side by side. Also, the only Croatian thing in my company are the employees – We live to a code of Ethics and Professional Practice Guidelines, a Client’s Bill of Rights and a Client’s Charter, all of which are designed to dictate the SGS company culture – every employee of ours is a match from a personal and cultural perspective into the organisation. We do not have clients in Croatia, as this is not our niche nor in size nor in type.
11. Advice for foreign entrepreneurs thinking of coming to Croatia?
Being well informed is crucial. The rest is the beauty of doing business in Croatia. Or, from Croatia in my case.
To learn more about Markus’ business, visit the Scalable Global Solutions website.
If you are a foreign entrepeneur in Croatia and would like to be featured in this series, please contact us at [email protected]