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Written by:
Bas Hollenberg


Belgrade team is firing on all cylinders

Last year witnessed the addition to “Team Koppel” of three more expert go-getters, none of whom you’re likely to bump into at the Amsterdam office any time soon as all three of them are stationed in … Belgrade! This recent cross-border foray of ours fits in perfectly with our modus operandi, as we will explain below.

The tightness of the Dutch labour market can turn the search for the right people into something of an obstacle course, as the founders of the IBEO accountancy practice experienced first-hand. Rather than allowing this to defeat them, they decided to cast a wider net – a wise decision, as the highly motivated and well-educated young professionals they had been fruitlessly looking for domestically turned out to be available in Belgrade. This experience inspired them to launch their own secondment agency named Becky. “Last year they paid us a visit to ask us whether we would be interested in availing ourselves of the services of well-motivated experts in exchange for a fixed monthly fee, which we most definitely were”, says co-proprietor Bas Hollenberg.

Distance is relative

It is Bas’s experience that the thousand miles or so that separate the Amsterdam and Belgrade operations does not detract at all from the smoothness of collaboration between the two. “As Koppel Consultancy we operate at an advanced level and on a fully automated cloud-computing basis. This puts us in an ideal position to make the most of this innovation. It’s chiefly a matter of slotting the right configuration into place, which is where modern technology makes an invaluable contribution. The team members have apps at their disposal for translating documents into English. Our IT platform is available to them to log on to whenever they need to work using our servers. Of course all of this stands or falls by the reliability of the Internet connection, as one of our hard-and-fast conditions right from the start. During my first-ever visit to the Belgrade office last year I lost no time in putting the connection through its paces!”

Team set-up

Bas’s fact-finding mission in Belgrade in October last year included meetings with the various people at Becky’s principal place of business. “The question I was particularly eager to secure an answer to was whether we would be doing the right thing if we decided that this was the best possible direction for us to move in. The answer was a resounding yes.” It was at this point that Bas together with Becky’s Benelux manager embarked on the composition of a team. “We held Skype-based job interviews with prospective team members. My priority at the time was finding the right person to head the tea, and fortunately Andrija ticked all the boxes. He spent a week at the Amsterdam office to familiarise himself with our processes, systems and customers. This set him up to write the requisite manuals, in which he included examples taken from everyday practice.”

Team expansion

Sandra took up her duties in February 2019 and was joined one month later by Suzana. “Andrija’s manuals gave them the wherewithal to ‘plunge in’, so to speak. Our Belgrade team take care of audits, reporting and value-added tax returns and pave the way for the preparation of corporation tax returns, as well as assisting clients in optimising the latter’s accounting systems using Exact Online. Because of their excellent command of the English language, they primarily perform this service in aid of our English-speaking clients.”

Bas was delighted to establish that the Belgrade team was more than capable over time of taking on additional responsibilities. “The team soon proved to be the safe pair of hands we had hoped they would be where the service provision to our clients was concerned. It is our intention once the team is completely up and running to start adding to their numbers, with the existing team members assuming responsibility for training the new recruits.”

Regular one-on-ones

Bas has taken to visiting the Belgrade office once every three to four weeks. “It’s good to meet up every now and again to bring each other up to speed on what has been happening. I set great store by personal contact, not just with our clients, but also with our Belgrade colleagues, who clearly appreciate the regular visits I pay to them. ‘Team Belgrade’ is invited to Amsterdam at more or less six-monthly intervals for team-building purposes, as they are as much part of the Koppel tribe as the rest of us. Of course they come here in a professional capacity, but that doesn’t mean we will be foregoing the pleasures in life. They are scheduled to arrive the week before Christmas, and we are already looking forward to welcoming them to this year’s Christmas dinner.”

Gratifying and fruitful collaboration

Bas couldn’t be happier with the closeness of the collaboration with Team Belgrade, whom he describes as “well educated and highly motivated colleagues, who love working for an international business such as ours and are always eager to learn new things, I’ve been thrilled to establish. More importantly still, they are lovely people, whose sincerity makes them an absolute joy to work with and a perfect match for the rest of the Koppel tribe. The main benefit of this innovation has to be the capacity expansion, as this has enabled us to take the personal attention we insist on devoting to our clients to an even higher level.”

Read the dutch version: Gedreven team in Belgrado

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