My name is Djordje Petrovic. I was born in 1977. and I spent a big part of my life as a professional sportsman. Until 2009. I was mostly in sports, and that year I did something that was a big wish of mine,for almost my whole life, I started my own business. As every beginning mine was also full with ups and downs. Of course, there was much more downs. I would learn everything on a hard way, mostly hitting my head on a wall and learning on my own mistakes.
Somewhere in May of 2010.., with my head full of bumps, quite by accident, in a way which only life can arrange, I met Eric Ponsen, a Dutchman, who was already for 6 years, due to the love to his Serbian wife, living in Mionica, only 300 meters from my home. We get close almost immediately and we started spending almost every day some time together. In the beginning of our friendship we spoke about a lot of things, which were a common to us, but not one thing about entrepreneurship. After some time, Eric started to be more interested about my business, to ask me about the challenges I was facing, how I solve them, what are my plans, and then after I would answer he would suggest some things I could do, in order to solve those issues and improve my business. With his every advice that I would took, my business grew. So fast that for me at that moment it was hard to follow on that.
How do you know all this things?
What I didn’t know at that moment was that Eric, who was 63 at that time, had for more than 30 years his own business in The Netherlands. Before his decision to stay in Serbia he had a holding, with 6 companies in it, which all had multi-million turnovers.
In the coming years I spent every day hours with him speaking about entrepreneurship, how to run a company, mindset that successful people have and their way of thinking, life lessons that he learned, how to motivate people, sales…All that resulted in one moment with the idea of starting our own partner company.
In March 2014 Companies Connected was created
Thanks to Eric’s network and the reputation he had, from the beginning we started to cooperate with some of the world’s biggest companies on different projects. At that moment, for me that was totally unfamiliar world, but that contributed to the fact that I learned huge number of new things which contributed to my daily progress. After every day, I would have a conversation with Eric where he would ask me how I saw some meeting or event, what other side told us and what actually they said, what should be the next step to take, how the potential client react on certain suggestion, how to improve our business…After every conversation that we had Eric would, as he would tell, plant a seed in my head, from which after some time a new knowledge would arise, new perspective, better understanding of certain processes and a world around me.
In June 2016. Eric has passed away
Once he told me:„I learned so much in my life and I will learn until I am alive. It would be crazy to take all that with me in my grave, it would mean that all the knowledge is wasted, so I will try to learn you everything I know“. Through 7 years spent with him I learned things that you need a life time to learn. Some things he told me a few years ago, I now completely understand. For some I am still not 100% sure. He was prepared to share with me all his knowledge and experiences, to be my friend, mentor, support, but also the biggest critic. With this time distance, when I look on my time spent with him, I undesrtand how much that shaped me as a person, as well as an entrepreneur.
Internet series "I, Entrepreneur"
Based on my personal experience I understood how important it is to have a mentor, have an opportunity to learn from someone, from someone’s experiences, as well how much you can improve really fast in that way. At the same time I was aware of the fact that most of the people doesn’t have a mentor, they don’t learn from others, even though thanks to modern technologies that is now much more available than ever before. After Eric’s death I learned listening to other successful people from all around the world. I was also knew that some of their solutions and suggestions are not applicable to Serbia. But, I had no possibility to hear experiences of successful Serbian entrepreneurs.
With all that thinking, somewhere in the beginning of 2018., for the first time I’ve had an idea of the series. And it needed some time for all the pieces to click. I wanted that we give a chance with the series to all the people thinking about starting their own businesses, as well as to the ones who have one, to learn some valuable business and life lessons from entrepreneurs who succeeded to make certain results with their companies. kompanijama. Till now some of the best entrepreneurs of Serbia were my guests, from the ones who are more than 20 years in business, but also the ones who are 2 years in business. In any case from each of them there is a lot to learn. Through interviews you can hear how they started their companies, what were the challenges, how they handled them, how much they needed to work to achieve the results they have now, advice they would give to someone that starts now…All that together should help to those watching the series improve, to learn new things and to become better entrepreneurs, but also better persons.
In a way, I want with this series to personally repay, to offer to others at least a fragment of the opportunity which I had, thanks to my friendship with Eric, on which I will eternally be grateful.
Dutch - Serbian Business Assciation
With three more entrepreneurs, Bojan Lekovi, the owner of KupujemProdajem, Tom de Boer, the owner of Todebo, and with Cees Hilhorst, the owner of S-Biom, who unfortunately recently passed away, we started initiative, and with the huge support from the Embassy of the Netherlands in Serbia, we officially founded DSBA in June 2018.
Some of the biggest Dutch companies joined us, like Heineken, Ahold Delhaize, Unilever, Levi9, Vahali, as well as a lot of small and medium enterprises. The Netherlands employs over 15.000 people in Serbia and has invested almost €2.5 billion from 2010. till 2018. in Serbia, which makes it the biggest country investor in Serbia in that period.
On General Assembly, which was held in February 2019., I was elected as Executive Director and a board member of DSBA, which I look as one of the highest achievements of my professional career, but also a huge responsibility as well. DSBA at this moment has more than 30 members, good relations with other associations and chambers of commerce have been established, we had several networking cocktails and educational events , so DSBA in a short period of time did a great work on which I am really proud of. Cooperation with Board and DSBA, as well with colleagues from other associations, gives me opportunity to constantlly learn and develop, which I find priceless.
European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD)
In 2019. I started a company in Serbia, Companies Connected Consulting, which provides consulting services in management, organization, marketing, design, digital transformation, as well as in education of employees in companies, in areas which are expertise of myself and my colleagues. During that year we started cooperation with EBRD, where we as a company work on their projects and help other companies through that projects to maximize their potentials.
I consider cooperation with EBRD definitely as an exceptional recognition, confirmation of the expertise, quality, work and a huge effort, which I invested in the past years. When you do what you love, and with your work you contribute to the clients you cooperate with to become better, to improve their companies, when you make people in those companies better, and by that also the communities in which they operate, at the end of the day you really feel fulfilled and happy. I am immensely grateful that I have an opportunity to do my work and that I have a possibility to meet phenomenal people, with whom I can share and exchange knowledge.