Thursday, 30 September 2021

Petrinja Container Business Centre Breathes Life into Post-Quake Town

September 30, 2021 -The New Life Centre is a Petrinja container business centre offering locals the chance to go back to their businesses as the town still awaits the completion of its post-earthquake reconstruction.

The container settlements of Petrinja, the aftermath of the December 29 earthquake, are certainly not a cheery place to live as the locals await the reconstruction of their Central Croatian town to be completed.

The reconstruction process isn't over just yet, but the spark of hope for a new, better life after a tough year can be seen with the opening of the New Life Centre.

''The New Life Centre is a cluster of new, painted containers that have been stacked for months in Petrinja's neighbourhood of Sajmište,'' as described by Miroslav Šantek, the author for the local website PS-Portal. The first traders, workers, and craftsmen have already settled in, happy for a taste of near normality.

PS-Portal states that this idea was suggested by the Voice of Entrepreneurs Association (Udruga Glas Poduzetnika) to the then-mayor of Petrinja, Darinko Dumbovic.

''The idea was accepted, and then work on the infrastructure began. But, in typical Croatian fashion, there are always setbacks. The obvious lack of money slowed down the progress. Then came new town administration and new mayor Magdalena Komes who cooperated with the Croatian Government and got 30 million kuna to continue the construction of the centre,'' explained PS-Portal.

The deadlines, however, have been breached and it is uncertain when the Petrinja container business centre will actually be finished.

Nonetheless, business owners who could no longer wait for the complete conclusion of construction set up their businesses and started to work as the state aid dried out, and they wanted to go back to making a living for their families.

As PS-Portal continues, yesterday's opening morning was cold, but there was joy on that small square of container settlements. Citizens of Petrinja can now enjoy the offer of a big international cosmetic chain, but also smaller shops, a pizzeria, and grill diners run by local entrepreneurs.

Despite the lack of a grand opening due to ongoing construction works, Mayor Komes still visited and talked to entrepreneurs who started their businesses. She explained that the increase of construction material and the lack of construction workers are the reason for delays in the Petrinja container business centre's completion.

''Numerous Petrinja-based entrepreneurs lost their space to work after the earthquake. They worked in containers or in the few rental spaces one could find in the almost destroyed town. This modular centre is designed as a space for everyone who has lost theirs,'' writes Glas Istre.

The December earthquake in Petrinja, as well as the March earthquake in Zagreb, caused lots of problems for the residents of these areas. As TCN previously wrote, after a whole year of slow reconstruction progress, Croatian PM Andrej Plenković promised to speed up the reconstruction processes in September. Back in July, several education institutions got financial support for reconstruction, while museums, such as the School Museum in Zagreb, still awaits help.

The dreadful experience of the earthquake in Sisak, Zagreb, and Petrinja also woke up Croatian artists, such as Miroslav Arbutina Arba. You can see his photos of the Sisak earthquake in the Zagreb Contemporary Art Museum exhibition until October 10.

Not too far from Petrinja is Lonjsko Polje Nature Park, and you can learn more about it in our TC guide

For more about entrepreneurs in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Wednesday, 29 September 2021

Mate Rimac & Dario Zurovec, a Case Study of Politician Entrepreneur Harmony

September 29, 2021 - The entrepreneurial beacon of Sveta Nedelja lit up the Entrepreneurial Mindset 2021 conference in Zagreb yesterday, as Mate Rimac and Mayor Dario Zurovec gave a tantalising view of Croatia 2.0.

It is two years since the introduction of a new conference to the busy Zagreb congress calendar. Poduzetnicki Mindset - Entrepreneurial Mindset - brought together some of the top entrepreneurial names in Croatia to share their stories, visions, and failures. In the front row of the audience where not the usual politicians who left after the opening speeches, but students and high-school kids with entrepreneurial aspirations, looking to learn from the very best in Croatia. 

It was one of those rare days in Croatia day to day life (Croatia, the tourist destination is another animal) which dripped in positivity and hope. Attendees left feeling inspired, with so many success stories despite the realities of operating within the bureaucratic confines of the Croatian business reality.

The most high-profile speaker back in 2019 was Mate Rimac, whose entertaining presentation focused in part on how Slovakia built up an entire automotive industry, which today exports more than Croatia's total exports. You can read a report of his presentation in Lessons from Slovakia: Mate Rimac on Croatian Car Industry Potential.  

A lot has happened in the Rimac story since then, including plenty of good news for the Croatian automotive industry, as high-profile investments from the likes of Porsche and Hyundai culminated with the acquisition of Bugatti. 

Rimac was back at Entrepreneurial Mindset 2021 yesterday, one of a number of star speakers, who also included Silvio Kutic, co-founder of Croatia's very own first unicorn - Infobip. A full recap of an illuminating day can be found here. You can also watch the entire conference on the YouTube video below.

Rimac shared the stage this year with Mayor of Sveta Nedelja, Dario Zurovec, who has been trailblazing in pioneering ways of his own since entering the political scene as Mayor of Sveta Nedelja in 2016. Having won just 22% of the first-round vote in 2016 before going on to win in the second round, Dario Zurovec win a landslide victory in 2021 with a stunning 64.5% of the vote. 

And no wonder. His business-friendly approach was paying early dividends, even without the Rimac factor. In an age of emigration, unemployment and depopulation, the population of the small town outside Zagreb has grown 10% since 2011, there are 20% more jobs since 2017, full transparency in local administration, free bus travel for all was introduced last year, and local taxes slashes to encourage more businesses to move to the town. It is little surprise that Sveta Nedelja has been voted the best medium-sized town for the economy three years in a row, or one of the top 5 places to live in Croatia

Mate Rimac and Dario Zurovec took part in a discussion moderated by Hrvoje Balen called The Leadership Ecosystem - Building Blocks of a Sustainable Future. It was, for me at least, the highlight of a very stimulating day. 

The presence of Zurovec at the conference at all was telling of his political mindset. Apart from one MEP, he was the only politician who was present. His declaration that politicians should be there to serve the people sounded a little strange in the Croatian context, and the disconnect between entrepreneurs and the state has been one of the ongoing themes of the conference presentations over the last three years, although several speakers declared that things were slowly getting better. 

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Rimac and Zurovec are clearly glad to have found each other. Friends for some time, Rimac revealed that he has been talking about building his campus even before he became mayor. The campus was one thing, the expanding business another, both of which provide challenges for the local administration to provide the necessary infrastructure and services to meet this increased demand. 

Rimac explained that there are now no less than 45 different nationalities working with him in Sveta Nedelja. With the population growth and with more families making the move, there is a growing demand for more schools and kindergartens which now take up a significant part of the Sveta Nedelja budget.  Rimac currently employs 1,500 people, the vast majority in Sveta Nedelja, but the campus will bring an additional 2,500 people. 

"This campus is a great asset, the largest private investment that has taken place in this part of Croatia, if not beyond," said Zurovec. "And I see only pluses here. The best protection against unemployment is to have a place to work. Some 20 years ago, opposite that campus, there was a company where my father worked, unfortunately, during privatisation, the company went bankrupt, and my goal was always to return to that part of entrepreneurial activity. I am glad that I had the good fortune to come across Mato Rimac and that positive energy that he wanted to invest something. That is courage."

Accommodation, schools, facilities will need to be found for this new influx of people, which brings with it both challenges and opportunities to develop parts of the town to meet that new demand. With a dynamic private sector and a progressive local administration, the development of the building blocks of an ecosytem for a sustainable future are very much in place in Sveta Nedelja. Visionary leadership from the public and private sector working in harmony for the people and the development of the economy does not sound too revolutionary a concept. But it is sadly a rarity in Croatia today. The Sveta Nedelja bubble will be an exciting one to watch.  

It would be easy to dismiss the story as being 100% due to the Rimac Factor, but a closer look at what is happening in Sveta Nedelja shows that there are plenty of other businesses contributing to the success story and evolving ecosystem. I was surprised to learn, for example, that Rimac was not even the biggest show in town - at least for now - with another Sveta Nedelja business turning over more than 250,000 million euro a year (Read more in Meet Sveta Nedelja's Biggest Company, a Success Story Born in Syria).

Zurovec pointed out that in Sveta Nedelja they approach each investment individually and thus remove obstacles in the process. He said that more than 920 businesses are now operating in the town.

The Croatian entrepreneurial class has much to contribute to the Croatian economy, and the removal of barriers and bureaucracy will only increase that contribution. Few towns will have a superstar like Mate Rimac, or a true public servant such as Dario Zurovec, let alone both, but the more entrepreeneurs and politicians can find each other on this path, the quicker the ecosystem of a sustainable future can take hold. 

An inspiring day.   

Thursday, 3 December 2020

'Voice of Entrepreneurs' Writes to PM, Seeks Immediate Dismissal of Minister Coric

December 3, 2020 - A letter to Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic from Glas Poduzetnika (Voice of Entrepreneurs), seeking the immediate dismissal of Minister Coric. 

Dear Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister,

Glas poduzetnika Association considers it inadmissible that Mr. Ćorić is still the Minister of Economy. Namely, the Minister has already shown several times that he does not care that the Croatian economy is failing, that many companies will close their doors and that tens of thousands of workers will lose their jobs. We believe that it is unfitting for the Minister of the Government of the Republic of Croatia to avoid taking responsibility. Also, we have expected of Mr. Ćorić to offer specific solutions and initiate the necessary systematic reforms that would enable the survival of small and medium-sized enterprises.

Many entrepreneurs in recent weeks have been shocked by Minister Ćorić's statements about the situation in our economy and the seriousness of the situation. We are surprised by the lack of tangible assistance and compensation for companies that are facing a large drop in revenue and are not formally closed. We must also point out that the Ministry of Economy ignores all our inquiries, requests and suggestions. Minister Ćorić allows the destruction of micro, small and medium-sized companies and acts as if it does not concern him. In a hopeless situation in which many entrepreneurs found themselves, the minister showed frivolity and nonchalant behavior, and the last straw was the statement "that not all businesses will fail without more generous help from the state, as the entrepreneurs themselves claim."

We believe that Minister Ćorić's behavior in this situation is inappropriate, and we see his unwillingness of dialogue, lack of understanding of the economic issues and lack of experience in the private sector as the main problems. We have a very unusual situation in which the Minister of Economy has not worked a single day in the private sector. In addition, we have to point out that Mr. Ćorić is related to numerous current scandals in which Croatian taxpayers' money has been stolen.

UGP believes that Croatia can offer a much better and more competent person to lead the Ministry of Economy. In a sea of ​​bad predecessors, entrepreneurs cannot think of a worse minister than the one we have today.

We hereby plead with the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister to urgently relieve Minister Ćorić of his duties and appoint a Minister of Economy who will be competent for the said position. Also, we insist on behalf of all entrepreneurs in Croatia that the next minister should be someone who has experience in the private sector. We believe that only such a person will be able to understand the specific problems of entrepreneurs and that they will be open to dialogue and cooperation.

Sincerely,

Hrvoje Bujas

President of the Glas poduzetnika Association

For more on the Glas Poduzetnika movement, follow the dedicated TCN section

Thursday, 26 November 2020

Inspiring Croatia's Next Generation: 2nd Entrepreneurial Mindset for Youth on Friday

November 24, 2020 - The second edition of Entrepreneurial Mindset for Youth takes place this week, as Croatia's top entrepreneurs will inspire the next generation. 

There are only two main things wrong in Croatia today - the system and the mindset.

Changing the system is only possible if we change the mindset, and there are several great initiatives out there which are aiming to do just that. 

One of the best such initiatives in recent years has been the Poduzetnik Mindset (Entrepreneurial Mindset) conference, which first took place last year. Some of Croatia's biggest entrepreneurial minds shared their experiences of success - and failure - showing that it is possible to succeed in the modern Croatia. As part of the initiative, Croatia's leading entrepreneurs also committed to supporting a second conference, Entrepreneurial Mindset for Youth, donating their time and expertise to inspire Croatia's next generation of entrepreneurs. 

The second edition of Entrepreneurial Mindset for Youth takes place online tomorrow, due to the current situation, and more details are in the press release below. 

On Black Friday, November 27, 2020, the Entrepreneurial Mindset for Youth conference will be held. Guided by the motto "The future is you", the conference will help high school and university students in their professional orientation by presenting them with successful Croatian entrepreneurial stories. Special emphasis will be placed on the visionary ideas of the younger generation of entrepreneurs and everything they have encountered on the road to success.

Due to the epidemiological situation, the conference will be held via YouTube, and high school students, students and other young people can follow the conference for free with prior registration on the website: Entrepreneurial Mindset for Youth.

“The Entrepreneurial Mindset for Youth Conference is being held for the second time. With it, we want to bring young people closer to people who are more than leaders for us. They are people who can be an inspiration to all generations, especially young people. It is those young highly motivated people full of great ideas who can encourage an entrepreneurial venture. For a happy future in Croatia, we need to build a new mindset, the entrepreneurial one ", said Ognjen Bagatin, the initiator of the conference.

The conference will last for four hours - from 10 am to 2 pm.

Hrvoje Balen, a member of the Management Board of Algebra, and Andrija Čolak, founder and owner of the Čolak Franchise Consulting Group and the Surf’n’Fries brand, will speak about the professions of the future.

Berislav Horvat, Country Managing Partner of EY Croatia, and Luka Abrus, leader of the digital agency Five, will deal with the topic "Where is the formula for success?".

"Go or stay?!" - is a dilemma faced by many young people, and the arguments for each of these two choices will be carefully analyzed by Dr. sc. Siniša Marijan, an experienced manager from the company Končar.

Saša Cvetojević will talk to Irena Tinagli, a member of the European Parliament from Italy, about the opportunities offered to young entrepreneurs by the European Union.

Hanza Media board member Ana Hanžeković will lead a panel in which Tomislav Car from Infinum and Albert Gajšak from CircuitMess, will talk about the importance of a good mentor and quality leadership in the beginnings of the company.HT Management Board member Boris Drilo will talk to Alan Sumin, co-founder and co-owner of Nanobit, about one of the most interesting business events in Croatia this year - the sale of Nanobit to the Swedish Stillfront.

Marko Emer, director of Moj-eRačun, co-founder and member of the Management Board of Poslovna inteligencija Anita Cvetić Oreščanin and member of the Management Board of Sv. Katarina Jadranka Primorac will all be on a panel moderated by Bojana Božanić - How important is connecting the 'common mindset?'

In the second panel, the young leaders will deal with the topic What does tomorrow bring? The director of Slavonija DI, Martina Ravlić, the co-founder of Bazzar.hr, Tana Zimmermann, and the director of Naftalina, Matea Pirić, will take part in the discussion. The moderator of the panel is the director of 24sata Boris Trupcevic.

For more details about the online conference, and to take part, visit the Poduzetnik website dedicated conference page

Sunday, 6 September 2020

Entrepreneurial Mindset 2020 Conference Speakers: Meet Ognjen Bagatin

September 6, 2020 - The second Poduzetnik Mindset (Entrepreneurial Mindset) conference takes place online on September 10. Continuing our look at the speakers, co-organizer and Mr Positive, Ognjen Bagatin.  

There has not been a lot to smile about for most people in 2020, and that is certainly true if you are a Zagreb-based entrepreneur. The double whammy of corona affecting business and an earthquake damaging your home and business would be more than enough to wipe the smile from anyone's face, but not Croatia's Mr Positive, Ognjen Bagatin. 

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(Ognjen Bagatin with his Berlin award)

A trailblazer in the global medical tourism industry (his Bagatin Clinic was named International Cosmetic Surgery Clinic of the Year 2019 in December at the International Medical Travel Awards in Berlin), and a passionate promoter of Croatia 2.0 and stronger business links with the diaspora, Bagatin is one of the co-organizers of the excellent Poduzetnik Mindset conference, which will have its second edition on September 10 in Zagreb and be broadcast online. Bagatin is also speaking at the event and offered some thoughts on the progress of the entrepreneurial scene and changing mindset in this TCN interview.

The second Entrepreneurial Mindset conference takes place on September 10, following last year's successful gathering. How has the entrepreneurial scene changed in Croatia in the last 12 months?

Although it seems like we are moving slowly, I think in the last 12 months there has been movement in having more and more entrepreneurial stories in the media. We have a new show on TV called Entrepreneurial Mindset, in partnership with EY Croatia on N1 Television. This is becoming very popular because we share great stories and amazing entrepreneurs who are changing the world for the better.

Through our media platform, we have met and talked to hundreds of amazing and successful entrepreneurs and have seen the better side of Croatia and our purpose is to share their stories to the public so they will inspire more and more young and old to go and chase their entrepreneurial dreams.

With corona coming, entrepreneurs had a tough time dealing with this issue, but they will come out of this stronger and more connected among each other...

The things are changing, I see so many examples of excellence, and the next step is to grow that community so that it can bring positive change for the Croatian economy.

Corona has obviously affected your plans considerably. Tell us about this year's conference and some of the key presentations. 

Indeed, but that didn`t ruin our plans to organize it anyway... We had planned this conference to be in Concert Hall Vatroslav Lisinski for 1800 people, but corona has ensured that even more people will listen to our speakers speak.. We have more than 3000 applications at this moment and our proud that this content is very popular and that we are helping these great speakers become new role models for others.

This year we will have great speakers and it is very hard to underline just a couple, so I will mention them all because EY Croatia and Poduzetnik team have picked them carefully just for you.

So this year, our audience will have an opportunity to hear an amazing sessions from successful and experienced entrepreneurs , and here is the list: Joe Bašić, founder and director of MPG South East Europe, organizer and promoter of Ultra Europe ; Paul Bradbury, owner and founder of Total Croatia News; Bernarda Cecelja, member of the board at Bernarda d.o.o.; Saša Cvetojević, owner of MBE Adriatic; Jan de Jong, director of Webpower Adria; Ivan Franičević, president of the board at RASCO; Ana Hanžeković, member of the board at Hanza media; Jasminka Horvat Martinović, president of the board at Wiener osiguranja VIG; Korado Korlević, croatian scientist and astronomer, head of Zvjezdarnice Višnjan; Ana Lisak, director at Catering Lisak; Orlando Lopac, director at OrlandoFit; Zoran Mamić, president of supervisory board at TOMMY; Mate Rimac, founder and CEO at Rimac automobili i Greyp bikes, Manny Stul, CEO tof Moose toys, Emil Tedeschi, president of the board at Atlantic grupe; Boris Trupčević, director at 24sata; Ana Volk, member of supervisory board at Sunce hoteli d.d.; Ksenija Vrbanić, owner of Xenia Design and others...

One of the nicest touches last year was to have the front row filled not with politicians but high school students with entrepreneurial minds. You then organized other events for the younger generation. Tell us about that, and the levels of interest from the students. 

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Yes, our goal for this year is to inspire our students in 4 different cites (Osijek, Zagreb, Rijeka and Split), but due to corona, our plans were canceled, and instead, we organized Enterpreneurial mindset for students and young people with the goal of promoting entrepreneurial values among them. We had in our live event 1200 students listening to our conference from 7 different countries and 35 different Universities and schools. This was a big win for all of us, because this is proof that young people and students are considering entrepreneurship and are looking for inspiration from successful entrepreneurs.

We will definitely continue with these kinds of events and help inspire and support hundreds and thousands of new young entrepreneurs and professionals who will stay in Croatia and help us build a great economy here.

The entrepreneurial eco-system seems to be getting stronger in Croatia, and the Glas Poduzetnika association is a great focal point. Tell us about that eco-system, as well as the areas you see the biggest opportunities for change. 

I will reflect on that every crisis is an opportunity, and corona has brought us a major crisis. But in that crisis, new communities have grown such as Glas Poduzetnika, and I think this is now a turning point for Croatia to put the focus on the economy and how to grow it, how to attract more investment, have to export more, how to grow our GDP in the next 5-10 years, and find some higher purpose for all of us that will unite us (like the famous World Cup in 2018.) 

We need a powerful vision of Croatia in 2030. and a mission that will drive us forward.. I think doubling our GDP per capita in the next 5-10 years is a very powerful vision, and then we find leaders and doers who will help us achieve it.

Jan de Jong's campaign for a digital nomad visa has shown spectacular results, and this will be a great thing for Croatia. How significant is this in your opinion, and how do we take full advantage? 

I think it is amazing, and I have heard about that idea last year at an MBA Croatia conference from Andreas Gerdes. Then it was just an idea, and now, with brilliant Jan de Jong spreading the word and helping the government look at the opportunities of this niche we are getting into. This will, together with the student visa (referring to Hrvoje Balen from Algebra), be a new era of tourism in Croatia and all year round.

We need these niches to bring us more opportunities and brainpower from all over the world. I think this is just the beginning and beg our government to speed the law policy issues so we can launch it next year as only the second country in Europe..

We will take full advantage by opening up for professionals from all over the world, not just foreign, but also our diaspora, because this could motivate them as well to return home.. The good thing, everything is in our hands, and I beg our government to not „drop the ball“ this time and go from talking to realizing this idea.

The conference is called Entrepreneurial Mindset. Why is the mindset so important here in Croatia, and how do we change it? 

With this conference we are promoting new values like vision, courage, innovation, creation, growing through mistakes, never giving up, taking responsibility, cooperation, celebrating others success and so on, and this is kind of values and mindset is what we want to be mainstream in the years ahead.

We want to open the eyes of people and make them aware that opportunities are everywhere and we bring them people that have succeeded in Croatia, that are willing to share their stories and help others grow. We will succeed only when we start to appreciate others' success as our own, because the more people who succeed in Croatia, the easier it will be for the rest of us to succeed.

Our young families are moving abroad in search of happiness and we want to show them it can be here if we all have a common goal like doubling our GDP per capita in 5-10 years..

You are the pioneer in medical tourism for Croatia, an industry with huge potential. Where are things at the moment, and what needs to happen to push things forward?

This was supposed to be the best year ever for medical tourism, but... 

Things started rolling after lockdown but not in the numbers we all wanted, but this is just temporary, next year there will be new opportunities for our healing spas, clinics, hospitals, and medical wellnesses. Especially because we as a sector must have a chance to be able to apply to new EU funds 2021-2027.

If we want to grow as a country economically then this is a niche we need to be not among the best, but the best. We have great private health and dental institutions that are doing an amazing job, and now we need to bring some new investment in this sector.

The health sector needs to work together and create a whole eco-system that supports this industry, from schools, to EU funds, positioning Croatia as a hub for health tourism and taking advantage of digitalization of our processes inside of our health institution. If we work on that and have government support (not just oral support), then we can make this happen.

I personally will do everything I can to make sure Croatia is one of the leading countries for health and medical tourism in Europe.

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To learn more about the virtual Poduzetnik Mindset 2020 conference on September 10 - and to register - visit the official website.  

Friday, 4 September 2020

Entrepreneurial Mindset 2020 Conference Speakers: Meet Jan de Jong

September 4, 2020 - Next week sees the second edition of the Poduzetnik Mindset (Entrepreneurial Mindset) conference, a wave of positivity for Croatia 2.0. TCN will be interviewing a few entrepreneur speakers of the event. First up, Dalmatian Dutchman Jan de Jong. 

Can a positive entrepreneurial mindset make a positive difference in Croatia? The growing eco-system of Croatian entrepreneurs certainly believes so. One of the most positive and inspiring conferences of 2019 was the inaugural Poduzetnik Mindset conference in Zagreb (read the TCN report on last year's event - Croatia 2.0 Cloaked in Positivity at Entrepreneurial Mindset Conference in Zagreb).

This year's event will be online due to the corona situation, but with some 10,000 people already registered, its reach will be a lot bigger than last year. Among the many great speakers is man of the moment, Dutch entrepreneur Jan de Jong from Split. Having sent an open letter to Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic on July 11 asking for a digital nomad visa for Croatia, just 44 days later, the PM tweeted that his government would introduce such a visa, and it was formally introduced as an amendment to the Foreigners Act the following day. 

TCN caught up with de Jong ahead of the conference to learn more about his entrepreneurial mindset and perspective at this exciting time for the development of Croatia 2.0.

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1. You make it look so easy. You arrived as a student, started a company which employed 400 people, sold it, then started another one which is doing very well. Meanwhile, you send an open letter to the Prime Minister asking for a digital nomad visa, and 6 weeks later it is introduced in Parliament. Croatian bureaucracy is supposed to be impossible. What's your secret?

My secret is: Ask nicely. You will be surprised how often people say “yes” when you just ask them nicely. Let me take you back 19 years. I was 17 years old and working in a call center where I had to sell products and services over the phone. With my voice as my only weapon, you give potential customers arguments why they should buy your product/service…all over the phone. What made the biggest difference between a well-performing and non-performing sales agent was that the well-performing sales agent would at the right moment kindly ask for acceptance of the proposal. Do we agree on this? <yes>

2. How is the perception of an entrepreneur different in Croatia and your native Holland?

I wrote about this once in one of my LinkedIn posts. I am sad that in Croatia entrepreneurs don’t always get the credit they deserve. From my point of view, entrepreneurs are often very passionate individuals, who dream of a better tomorrow and who strongly believe that their company can help us all to get to that “better tomorrow” by providing their products and/or services. 

Entrepreneurs are individuals who cheer for each other’s successes. Individuals who support each other to reach goals and avoid obstacles. You being a winner doesn’t make me a loser. We can all win – through collaboration.

I am always super excited when I meet young entrepreneurs. I will be the first one to offer a helping hand where I can. In my LinkedIn post I wrote that (successful) Dutch entrepreneurs are often seen as show-offs, successful American entrepreneurs are looked at as stars and successful Croatian entrepreneurs are looked at as semi-criminals.

You hear people in Croatia gossiping. Who did he have to bribe to get that contract? You don’t want to ask a successful entrepreneur how he made his first million. He probably pays really bad salaries…profiting off of his poor, hard-working employees.

It’s sad that this happens, because if I would only look at the amount of time I have invested into my businesses to get to where I am – I should already almost be entitled to retire – and I am only 36 years young.

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(Photo credit Drazen Tomic)

3. What are the advantages and disadvantages of being a foreign, rather than a Croatian entrepreneur here?

I believe its always good if you have the ability to differentiate yourself from your competition. Differentiating yourself and your company you can do in many ways, but in my case – being Dutch in Croatia already makes me different. At least, most of my meetings we can start with a casual talk and answering the question “How on Earth did you end up in Croatia?”

4. Your LinkedIn following is growing and it has become a beacon of social media positivity. You claim that you only see opportunities here, while so many are emigrating. Why are others not seeing what you see?

Because many people have blurred vision as a result of being surrounded by toxic people who also have blurred vision. If you spend a lot of time with people who only complain about how the weather in Ireland is better than in Croatia – then before you know it, you will start believing that Ireland is a nice sunny place. Whatever people complain about, whatever people think is not good enough – all of those are business opportunities. It just takes the right entrepreneur to start solving those issues and start charging for that solution. 

I believe that starting a business in the Netherlands is equally difficult as starting a business in Croatia – just for different reasons. The Dutch market is known for being very innovative, with a lot of competition and competition that has big budgets to fight you. In Croatia, you have a chance to soon become a market leader if you find a product or service that allows you to be a first-mover in Croatia.

I am all about being first with something and using first-mover advantage. When I started my contact center business in 2007, we were among the first professional call centers in Croatia. When I started Webpower Adria in 2016, we became the first locally present company specialized in email marketing & marketing automation. Both industries were already highly saturated in the Netherlands with strong local competition. In the Netherlands, I would not have stood a chance by opening such businesses. In Croatia, I became market leader with both companies.

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5. Are you seeing much change in the entrepreneurial scene in Croatia over the last couple of years? In which ways, if yes?

Yes! I see more and more young entrepreneurs entering the scene and building amazing companies that are solving global problems. Take companies like Include from Solin with their smart bench, Agrivi revolutionizing the AgriTech scene, Nanobit. We even have our first unicorn with Infobip. There have been more and more success stories in Croatia – which creates wonderful employment opportunities in Croatia.

6. The eco-system of Croatia's entrepreneurs is getting stronger, and initiatives such as Glas Poduzetnika have certainly helped. What should we be focusing on in the next year or two to improve things in your opinion?

I am supporting the efforts made by Udruga Glas Poduzetnika from day one simply because I believe that governments should listen more to their entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs are the driving force of every economy and I am putting my money on Croatia's entrepreneurs to move this country forward. 

Our focus should be on making sure that we don't create a situation where it looks like “entrepreneurs against the government“. Both entrepreneurs and the government should want the same for Croatia. Being able to have constructive conversations between entrepreneurs and the government – where we can see Croatia progress as a result of joint efforts - that will be a key component in making Croatia a better country to live in for the next generation.

7. And I am sure a lot of our readers will be curious - what's next for Jan de Jong once you have finished with the digital nomad visa?

My heart right away wanted to share some huge news, but my mind was stronger this time. I am currently working on something really big and exciting, something that will require large capital investments in Croatia, something that will help Croatia to increase export figures, something that will provide employment to many people, something that won’t easily be affected by events like Covid-19, and something that Croatia is traditionally very strong at. 

Please, be patient. I hope I will be able to make a big announcement soon. If you want to be among the first ones to know what I am working on…follow me on LinkedIn.

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To learn more about the virtual Poduzetnik Mindset 2020 conference on September 10 - and to register - visit the official website.  

Thursday, 23 April 2020

Dutch Entrepreneur in Split: Buy Local & I Will Hire More Croats

April 23, 2020 - As campaigns to 'Buy Local' took root around the world, Dutch entrepreneur Jan de Jong in Split makes an intriguing pledge to hire more Croatian staff. 

People often complain that while Croatia is a beautiful place for a two-week holiday (it IS!), the realities of living here are another story. No jobs, corruption, negative mindset, nepotism, the list goes on. And so the young emigrate for better opportunities. 

As one of the relatively few people who decided to emigrate from my home country to Croatia as everyone else was leaving, I have perhaps a different perspective on things that many who just dismiss the impossibility of a decent life in Croatia. 

Firstly let's agree on some things. Croatia really IS the most beautiful country in the world. And the Croatian lifestyle really IS the best in the world. And if you have lots of money, it is paradise indeed. 

If you don't have lots of money,  life is harder. 

But that doesn't mean that life is impossible. As with anywhere else in the world, hard work is an essential ingredient to success. I have worked harder in Croatia than at any time in my life, without the supposed millions in my bank account that all foreigners apparently have by default, and I have a lifestyle here which I would not swap for any other in the world. 

And one of the secrets of a happier life in Croatia is something which is very obvious, but relatively few people embrace here. 

Surround yourself with positive people, and your world will be immediately a lot more positive. 

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I have written before about the default negative Croatian mindset. Everyone is entitled to feel as they like, but my experience Croatia has some of the most positive and forward-thinking people in the world. You just have to seek them out, surround yourself with them, and let those positive juices flow your way. 

Try it. It really does work. 

One great example is Dutch entrepreneur Jan de Jong, who has employed well over 500 people in Croatia since moving here in 2006 (the number is probably much higher). I am beginning to think he has Croatian blood in there somewhere. He lives, breathes and buys Croatian. 

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A few days ago, I reported on one of his linked in posts, "Croatia Has All Ingredients to Offer Best Standard of Living in Europe."

So how does  Mr. Positive respond to the current business climate of mass unemployment and client cancellations?

By encouraging others to do as he does - buy local. And if enough people do buy local, he will create more local jobs. He has pledged it publicly. 

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From Jan de Jong's LinkedIn:

✋? I, Jan de Jong, co-founder of Webpower Adria, hereby solemnly swear, to hire 1 full time employee for every 25 companies that switch from MailChimp to Webpower Adria. ??

Yes, its that straight forward! Switching from MailChimp to Webpower allows us to hire more people in Zagreb, Croatia.

MailChimp - with over 20 million clients worldwide - probably doesn't even know where Croatia is.

At Webpower Adria we know all our clients personally and we take very good care of them.

Contact us to hear more about our BuyLocal campaign and switch your email marketing business to Webpower Adria.

Your business is very much appreciated, by us and by HZZ ? CroatiaFirst LivingTheCroatianDream entrepreneurship email marketing livechat marketingautomation Croatia

About Jan de Jong:

In 2006 I moved from the Netherlands to Croatia. In that same year I founded my first company, M+ Group. Over the years M+ Group expanded rapidly and developed into the leading Contact Center service provider in the Adriatic region. End of 2015 I sold my shares of M+ Group, making my first successful exit from a company I founded. At that time, the company employed over 400 people

After making an exit from M+ Group, I continued focusing my efforts on growing our full-service, award-winning, digital marketing agency, Younited Agency. Today we have offices in Zagreb & Belgrade, employing 25 full-time marketing professionals, servicing over 50 clients.

Just 1 month after my exit from M+ Group, I co-founded a new company, Webpower Adria.

Nowadays, we are the leading Email Marketing Automation Provider in Croatia & Serbia. We support the largest retailers, e-tailers, telco’s, national airliners, insurance companies, banks and hospitality service providers by delivering them the best possible email marketing experience.

All in all, happy and proud of what we have accomplished over the past 13 years, but even more so excited about the upcoming years. I am an open-minded entrepreneur, dedicated to make every company I am connected with the best in its industry.

You can connect with Jan de Jong via LinkedIn.

Learn more about his entrepreneurial experiences in Croatia in Jan's TCN feature in our Foreign Entrepreneurs in Croatia series

 

Thursday, 16 April 2020

Glas Poduzetnika Survey: Transparency of Public Institutions Expenditures

Zagreb, April 16, 2020 - The latest survey from the Voices of Entrepreneurs, Glas Poduzetnika, focuses on transparency in public institutions.

After the implementation of measures to save the economy and job posts in the private sector, we can also see initiative aimed at the transparency of information about the users of these measures. Glas Poduzetnika supported this initiative immediately, considering the idea that transparency is crucial on all levels and in all sectors. Moreover, we suggested right away that in the spirit of openness, taxpayers should have visibility on how the money they sent to the state budget is expedited, as well as the expenditures in all other public institutions, businesses, chambers, communities, among others. We asked a question, Do you think that the expenses of all state institutions, state-owned enterprises, units of local government, chambers, communities, and associations funded from the state budget and trade unions should be transparent and accessible to citizens online?

The responses we received from an almost record number of participants are nearly unambiguous:

In total, more than 99% of participants believe that transparency is crucial and should be introduced. A direct response "Yes" gave just under 73% of participants, and just under 23% of them agreed that transparency is necessary, also adding the Church among mentioned institutions, which, in their opinion, should function transparently. Only a negligible percentage of people, 0.2%, believed that transparency was not necessary.

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Do you want transparency?

Yes, data should be publicly available

Yes, including the Church

No, it’s their thing

I’m not sure

Given such precise results, we hope that the initiatives that will allow this will also start with work as soon as possible. It is good that we also have some examples of cities that have already self-initiated such measures, and shortly after achieved significant savings in their budgets.

You can follow the latest from the Glas Poduzetnika Association on Facebook

Wednesday, 15 April 2020

Glas Poduzetnika Supports Transparency And Public Disclosure of Data

Zagreb - April 14, 2020 - Data on the use of economic measures, as well as detailed expenditures of state and local governments, must be published publicly, says Glas Poduzetnika. 

Today's speech by the Vice-President of the Croatian Parliament has reopened the question of the lack of knowledge of the vital topic. Our responsibility as an association of entrepreneurs is to clarify the main parameters, that way avoiding putting into question one quality measure because of the possible cases of its abuse by individual entrepreneurs. Its primary goal is only one - to maintain job posts and to keep economic activity at the currently highest possible level, and for all of us to, as quickly and simply as possible, return to "normal" life, once the days of coronavirus pandemic are at least partially behind us. 

In particular, it should be reiterated that the minimum wage financing measure adopted by the Government, including 3,250 kunas of support net per employee in the first package, and 4,000 kunas net per employee in April's package, is an action with which the state does not help individual entrepreneurs, but provides conditions for the stay of employees in the private sector on their job positions. At the same time, the entrepreneurs are obliged to keep employees in work relations for the next six months, and, consequently, the retention of all other obligations once the conditions improve.

All this is a much more favorable and cost-effective solution, comparing the situation with the one where, due to the current reduction in economic activity, many employees would be forced to go to the employment service, which would finally cost the state a lot more.

We in the GLAS PODUZETNIKA Association consider that the Croatia Government's economic measures are the measures for the maintenance of job posts and that the list of companies using these measures should be completely transparent and under supervision of relevant institutions. We also believe that any misuse of these measures by any party or unintended expenditure of funds should be promptly and effectively sanctioned. If anyone, including the Vice-President of the Croatian Parliament, knows about the abuse of this measure in the personal interests of the entrepreneur, and it is clear that only employees have the right to use the measure, we invite them to make such conclusions publicly available. That would be done to protect the entire sector of micro, small and medium-size entrepreneurs who are fighting to save jobs and business activity today, with the long-term idea of a better future for all of us.

We also advocate for a fully transparent society. The annual reports of all entrepreneurs are publicly available and have been available for many years through several financial services. From our side, we expect maximal transparency of all budgets and expenditures of local governments (some of them have already implemented this). The same goes for state institutions and all other associations, chambers, trade unions, and other organizations that now do not have to publish their financial reports publicly.

***

The GLAS PODUZETNIKA Initiative started as a citizens' self-organized group, most of which are small entrepreneurs, after the announcement of the first set of Government's measures, which the organizers deemed insufficient. The Initiative assembled more than 100,000 entrepreneurs, small business owners, self-employed, and the employees in the private sector in less than 15 days, drawing the media spotlight with its uncompromising requests and appearances.

Considering this, GLAS PODUZETNIKA positioned itself as a relevant factor in public discussions aimed to determine Croatia's new economic direction. Its position was also confirmed by the Government of the Republic of Croatia, having included some of the Initiative's suggestions in the second set of economic measures, thus confirming Initiative's undeniable influence. At the request of the Initiative's members, the GLAS PODUZETNIKA Association was created and received more than 4,000 applications for membership within a few days of its founding.

You can follow the Glas Poduzetnika Association on Facebook

Tuesday, 14 April 2020

Glas Poduzetnika Surveys: Using the Croatian Government's Economic Measures

April 14, 2020 - So what do Croatia's entrepreneurs think about using the Government's new economic measures? Some Glas Poduzetnika surveys. 

In the surveys conducted while the new set of measures still hasn't been adopted, we received information that just under 7% of entrepreneurs were using the initially proposed measures and that around 70% of them were waiting for a better set of measures.

Taking into account that after the first undertaken initiatives of Glas Poduzetnika that came to the realization, we also collected the new data on the use of economic measures. The first question was, "Do you use any of the Government's measures?" The results show significant changes:

Almost 69% of entrepreneurs use some of the recently adopted measures, with another 8% planning to start using them, and an additional 3% who will apply for their use once they meet the conditions. Interestingly, 20% of entrepreneurs did not use or do not intend to use any measures.

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Using the Croatian Government's measures
Yes, I do
No, but I plan to
No, and I don't intend to
Conditions were not met, but planning to

These results are quite positive and positively reflect the greater effectiveness of the new measures. We were also interested in, among those who use measures, what measures precisely do they use? We got the following results:

60% of participants use both wage subsidies and tax liabilities deferral, 31% use only wage subsidies, and only 6% exclusively use tax liabilities and charges deferral.
Given all the collected data, the Glas Poduzetnika Association believes that the measures that were requested and subsequently implemented are well-chosen and produce results at this stage. Of course, we should be aware that these are only emergency measures to put out fires and that for the longer-term prosperity of the economy, many other things will need to be changed, which the Association will also advocate.

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Measure usage?
Wage subsidies + tax liabilities and civil charges deferral
Wage subsidies
Tax liabilities and civil charges deferral
Other

You can follow the Voices of Entrepreneurs Association on Facebook

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