Xenia Kovačovská and Gabriela Čičmancová have recently opened a new branch of Foreigners in Bratislava – Slovakia. We wanted to know how it feels to be part of the team, so we asked them a few questions to which they answered enthusiastically!
Hello Xenia and Gabriela! It’s a pleasure to have you on board! Could you please tell us more about you and the relationship you lately established with Foreigners?
Xenia: I am a finance manager, I’ve worked in corporate finance for more than 20 years primarily focusing on finance operations, financial planning/analysis, and business controlling. 2 years ago I turned my attention to freelance consulting, operating in diverse finance management areas in Slovakia and abroad. I know what it means to be an expat due to my working experiences in Ireland and Austria. I was lucky to meet people who were helping me during my stays and I realized how difficult it can be to find yourself in an unknown environment.
When I saw the Foreigners Facebook advertisement regarding the research of a new partner in Bratislava, I recalled all those feelings and realized that I had to grab the opportunity. I felt I could strongly contribute to the company’s development. Therefore, I called Gabriela – a top HR Manager, a friend of mine and ex-colleague – as she was the only one I could imagine to partner with. I found out that she was already contacted by Andrea from Foreigners.cz via LinkedIn! I believe things happen for a reason: after a short discussion with Gabriela, we jumped into the car and travelled to Brno in order to meet Andrea.This happened the past July. Today, after 3 months, we are opening a Foreigners office in Bratislava. I’ll be responsible for Operations, Finance, Legal, IT, while Gabriela for Sales, Marketing, and HR. We’ll develop the business strategy together, step by step.
Gabriela: I’m an HR Professional with a long experience in international companies. I worked with expats during my HR career and I can assure you that with a company such as Foreigners in the local market, my life as an HR manager would have been much easier. I love new challenges and I don’t give up easily. My mindset is result oriented and I believe I’m a good asset for the company. I’m looking forward to investing my time and energies at Foreigners and meeting new potential employees joining us in the future.
You represent the first Foreigners branch opening abroad, how does it feel like?
Xenia: It’s a mixture of commitment, excitement, and expectations.
Gabriela: It’s definitely a big responsibility and it feels like we can get great results from this new adventure.
You received the material that the company provides in order to share expertise and kickstart your activity from 0. Has this been helpful enough? If so, in what sense?
Xenia: The initial material gave us a flavor of this business model’s capacity to expand. Obviously, we still have loads of documents to go through. Processes at Foreigners are well established, we’ll get the support we’ll need anytime a new obstacle will come up.
Gabriela: For me the material and the first meeting with Andrea in Brno were surprising, I didn’t expect that a medium-sized company could be as professional as big corporations.
You’re leading an entire branch by yourselves, hence you’re probably dealing with all the tasks that are normally shared within bigger teams such as those based in Prague or Brno. What does this bring about?
Xenia: It simply means that you have a high-level conversation with your lawyer in the morning, you calculate your financial plan in the evening and walk around the empty office and take measures for the new carpet the other day =)
Gabriela: For me it means: thinking of a long-term strategy, reading all the legislative issues related to the materials we received, trying to find the best people to cooperate with. Being multitasking is one of my skills, thus I think I’ll manage.
Talking about critical issues, which is the biggest odd that you’ve struggled with so far? I bet bureaucracy and paperwork.
Xenia: I am enjoying every day, no odds in my opinion, just ticking the boxes on my to-do list patiently =)
Gabriela: Right now it’s more about keeping up a good pace, in the future we might have more problems to solve.
…And what’s been the most satisfying experience related to your new job that you’d like to share with us?
Xenia: Every single thing which we manage to arrange is satisfying as it is a sign of progress. We’ve just started, hence we believe that the biggest gratifications are yet to come.
Gabriela: I like the good feeling coming from each small step forward and each task accomplished.
How’s the response from the local customers that you’ve already had the pleasure to get in touch with? Do you believe that the market was missing a brand such as Foreigners in Bratislava?
Xenia: There is no provider of complex services for expats in Slovakia, thus we see a big opportunity here. We want to become a reliable point of contact with foreigners in our country for any issues they might face. We officially opened on the 1st of November 2017, hence there’s no big traffic with customers yet. We’re currently furnishing the office, therefore most of the work is now taking place in the “backstage”.
Gabriela: The real feedback is yet to come, I believe that as soon as the customers will get to know us, there will be a positive response.
It might be difficult to assess now, but you can probably guess: do you believe that there is a good growth-margin for our brand in your country? Could it potentially expand to further cities beyond Bratislava?
Xenia: Well, we believe there is. In terms of expansion, we can see some potential around Nitra/ Jaguar, Zilina/Martin, Banska Bystrica/Zvolen and Kosice.
Gabriela: Definitely yes, and we’ll try to expand to other locations as soon as possible.
As you expand, you’ll probably feel the curiosity to meet the whole Foreigners team. Is there a chance you’ll join one of our future events such as the Brno GALA Night taking place the next March?
Xenia: Yes, we are looking forward to becoming a valid member of the Foreigners family and hope that we’ll share best practices all the time. And yes, we do love parties =)
Gabriela: Sure, already in my calendar =)
Open question: which are your current goals for the imminent future and the long-run? Are you dreaming big, wishing to reach other branches’ successful achievements?
Xenia: I have always been dreaming big: once the decision has been taken, I simply go for it. We’ll soon start providing high-level core services and maintain a decent cash flow. The mid-term goal is to become a reliable partner for expats living in our country, providing a full scope of services and create some financial buffer for expansion. The long-term goal is to become the only brand which would pop up to a foreigner’s mind when considering to relocate to Slovakia.
Gabriela: In the short term: to learn on the fly and be able to do everything for customer´s satisfaction. In the long-term: build a local company that would be soon considered the top one in the market.
Excellent! Thank you for your availability and good luck with the future challenges!