In November 2013 Zühlke Serbia has opened its doors. This was the moment when I moved to Belgrade and started as Managing Director. I am sharing my experiences, surprises, discoveries, joys and sorrows with you in this blog series sporadically.
Although I knew based on the recruiting sessions that we will start with an excellent team, I was quite nervous while driving to the temporary Regus office on Monday, November 4th: people that never met each other before – and me in the middle. But what I experienced during the first day and afterwards exceeded my highest expectations: highly motivated individuals with great personalities resulting in a good team spirit from the beginning.
In December, our desired candidate for the local General Manager position, signed our employment contract. I am extremely happy about that. At the beginning of March we will be already 10 employees in Belgrade.
For some meetings and also for joining the Zühlke Year End Party, we all flew to Zurich. We had great fun – not only in the “Serbian Corner” next to the bar. What I enjoyed the most on this trip was to feel the utter familiarity from the beginning in all meetings between my Serbian and Swiss colleagues. In these moments I was absolutely sure that we not only picked the right nearshoring location but also the right people.
Before leaving to Belgrade, I prepared the whole first week concerning introduction sessions, infrastructure setup, meeting schedule, etc. But as you already know: “The plan is the first victim of the battle.” (Dwight D. Eisenhower) First of all, our notebooks got stuck on the customs. Worse, not only our notebooks, also the famous Swiss Zühlke chocolate became a victim of the Serbian immigration control. So, my improvisation skills got tested. After exhausting negotiations on the phone and personal meetings we finally received all items three weeks after start. In the meantime we started working on temporary notebooks and collaboration solutions in the cloud.
In parallel we had to make sure that our own Zühlke office in Blue Center gets fitted out and the furniture arrives on time (or even earlier). This phase was really intensive in order to coordinate all these tasks and suppliers while supporting the already working employees in the office. But at least it never got boring! And we eventually made it and moved to our brand-new premises on November 25th.
After various standard introduction lessons and some more intensive workshops concerning requirements engineering, quality assurance, corporate culture and strategy we started with a challenging education project but pretty soon got our first customer project – after having some worries about a rather empty project queue at the beginning.
I am really proud of what we achieved as a team in the last two months. Moreover, I am confident that we can use this positive momentum to keep up motivation and speed in order to reach our goals for 2014.