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On Thursday, November 30, in collaboration with CIPE (Center for International Private Enterprise), AmCham Slovenia hosted a virtual event Success Stories of Family-Owned Businesses in the CEE Region. Joining us at the event were Ethem Numić, Vice President for Strategic Marketing, AS Holding Group, Bosnia and Herzegovina; Andrii Kryvokorytov, CEO, Brain Source International, Ukraine; Jure Remškar, CEO, Smart Com, Slovenia and Maja Strnad Cestar, CEO, Medis, Slovenia. More information about these inspiring four companies – and a few others from the region – will be available in the virtual brochure promoting family businesses, which will be posted on AmCham Slovenia’s and CIPE’s websites on December 11.

The event started off with a short introduction from each of the companies. Medis is an international company that commercializes innovative therapies in Central and Eastern Europe, Smart Com focuses on information and communications technologies (ICT) solutions, Brain Source International is an executive search group of companies that provides a wide range of HR and support services for established multinational companies and startups, and AS Holding Group developed from a small retail shop into a group with 18 companies, mainly producing food items.

When thinking about how family-owned businesses differ from other enterprises, Andrii Kryvokorytov said that “family businesses do not operate with years, but decades in mind.” He added that employing a long-term perspective is crucial. As the only panelist not part of the family that founded the company, Ethem Numić believes that he and the family behind AS Holding share the same values. “During the employment process, it is easy to recognize people on the same page.”

“In family businesses, innovation is something that has to be adopted all the time,” stated Jure Remškar, and Maja Strnad Cestar agreed that the essence of family enterprises is to be innovative and to respond to the region’s needs. Innovative in his ideas is also the founder and CEO of Brain Source International. The company has developed a mobile application that flourished during COVID-19, as it was a space where employers posted job advertisements for part-time employment. People who could use an additional source of income applied for jobs in their respective districts. Valuing outstanding ideas, AS Holding has developed a platform where anyone can submit business ideas pertaining not only to innovation within the group but also proposals for their own business ventures. The company then supports the most promising startups.

The core of any business is people and the same stands for family-owned enterprises. Jure Remškar believes in fostering effective communication and collaboration among family members as well as communicating regularly with the employees. Maja Strnad Cestar added that at Medis, there are no business hierarchies. The company’s employees can inquire about anything at any time.

Retaining talents is one of the key challenges many employers face. To prevent brain drain from Bosnia and Herzegovina, AS Holding collaborates with academic institutions to educate the young about prospective employment. Smart Com, on the other hand, established Slovenia’s first in-house business incubator, whose objective was to cultivate in-house entrepreneurship. Maja Strnad Cestar recounted the idea behind the International Medis Award for Medical Research (IMA), aiming to recognize exceptional medical research conducted by doctors and pharmacists. The annual contest is entering its tenth year in 2024. The CEO of Brain Source International reminded us that business is nothing without trustworthy relationships. Therefore, he emphasized the importance of building personal rapports, especially in times of geopolitical and other unrests.

The event has inspired us all to strengthen business opportunities in our region together and undoubtedly motivated aspiring entrepreneurs to embark on their own business journey.