Monthly Prestup features an interview with Dejan Trpkovic about the career aspects and his views and expectations of the Serbian market
Belgrade, Serbia & Montenegro – November 26, 2004 – Olivera Milos Todorovic of Prestup, a cutting edge independent monthly, talks to Dejan Trpkovic, the founder of Prodirekt, one of the leading management development firms in Serbia and Montenegro, about his career, views of his home country business landscape, the winds of change in local marketing and PR, and how he sees his country in the future.
Dejan Trpkovic graduated from the Belgrade Faculty of Economics and got his MBA at the University of Colorado in Denver, USA. At the young age of 31, he assumed Regional Director position in Hasbro and headed, first from London, and then from Vienna the regional business for one of the world’s largest corporations. Four years later, he moved into the world of telecommunications and digital media and became Vice President of the fast-growing company World-Link, based in New York. After accomplishing a great career abroad, Dejan returned to Belgrade, his birthplace. It’s a common thing for people who have lived abroad for a long time to idealize their home country. Questioned whether he actually knew what he was coming back to when the decision to return home for good had been made, Dejan answered with certainty:
“It’s true that people are prone to idealizing their home country, but it’s also common for us to glorify life in the western world. Although I believe that an ideal place for living is a very personal thing, our roots and childhood places are probably the most important. Having lived and worked in many countries, one realizes that life, social norms and habits typical for one country are by no means “better” or “worse” than any other – they are simply different. When you have lived more than two years in a foreign country, got to know diverse cultures and habits, only then you acquire objectiveness, and single-minded opinions become very rare. The fact that professionally I achieved so much as a relatively young man was in many ways crucial to my decision to return to Serbia four years ago. I wouldn’t want to use the worn out phrase “I’ve come back to help my country”. Although that is true in my case as well, still, the personal decision to go on living in “my” surroundings was the most important factor in my decision to return home”.
Dejan has set up several companies all of which, in their own walks of life, have made a name in the Serbian market. What made him invest in Prodirekt, a consultancy which develops managers, or in Prodide, a marketing and PR agency? His explanation is simple and earnest: “Although there were several lucrative corporate job offers, the opportunity to finally prove myself as an entrepreneur and a company creator prevailed. Professionals who excelled in the three different management roles of a business engagement – being a senior manager in a large corporation, taking up a successful management consultancy role, and finally, being a creator/owner of a business, usually command the highest value in the western economies. They have gained management experience from the three most important perspectives. Becoming an entrepreneur both filled the missing link in my career and proved a good opportunity to pass my experience to others in a very direct way”.
Asked about the low importance of marketing in the monopolistic Serbia and the fact that marketing is regarded as an expense and not an investment, Dejan Trpkovic says: “As the competition gets stronger, the game on the market will be changing, as well as the managers’ attitude towards marketing and other professional services. Unfortunately, it is true that there are still powerful lobbies and tycoons who scare people with foreign competition, representing it as a threat. Competition might be merciless in the beginning, but in the long run it would always prove better for the end consumer. I think the times have started to change in Serbia. It’s becoming obvious to our managers that they need to invest in marketing to survive”.
This was an excellent cue to share Dejan’s view on ethos in Serbia regarding the marketing profession: “In business, more specifically in marketing and PR professions, there is still no ethos, no clearly defined set of values, or at least it’s teething, in the process of being defined. An established set of values implies that there is the firm connection and harmony between education and business practice. Here, the vast majority of young people graduate from universities completely unprepared for real work. For example, many want to become PRs because it’s trendy, while they are unaware of how difficult and responsible that profession is. The true PR professionals are business elite”.
On the subject of how much globalization negatively affects the markets of Serbia and Montenegro, Dejan Trpkovic pointed out the importance of competition and free economy: “It is not that important who provides a certain service. The most important thing is that a consumer has a choice and that there is a healthy competition on the market. Foreign competition has its own advantages. Global quality standardization of services and products as well as the presence of foreign companies in Serbia bring the quality of the local market offering to a higher level and introduce professionalism in business relations. Although it is wise to be somewhat protective and careful about privatization of certain strategic industries that can directly and immediately affect the standard of living of citizens, it is crucial that our privatization law treats everyone equally. It is not good to favor an indigenous investor over foreign capital. We ought to choose what is best for us. The claims we sometimes hear in the media, stating “foreigners will take over everything, and then, exploit us” is at least fallible. Do you really think that local business chains and indigenous investors would do things differently, or that they can actually remain successful without reducing the excessive work force in their companies?
When asked what he valued the most in young, talented professionals, the reply was straight and heartfelt: “The courage to come to grips with the opportunities in life, and the stamina to endure in making these opportunities come true”.
Read the full article in the Serbian language: The Attraction of Success, by Olivera Milos Todorovic, Prestup, November 26, 2004