If you want to grow as a company, you have to think outside the box

Co-founders Hein and Martin’s innovative approach led KIBO to unprecedented growth, leveraging Becky’s support to bridge the gap between administration in Belgrade and relationship management in the Netherlands. Discover how embracing diversity and fostering collaboration transformed challenges into opportunities, propelling KIBO to new heights in the world of entrepreneurship.

Post by Emanuela Jovic

Hein and Martin started KIBO in 2011 and the company has been growing ever since. The reason for this continuous growth is twofold: the administration is performed in Belgrade, while the focus on relationship management is in the Netherlands. Co-founder Martin Boogaard explains how KIBO was able to grow thanks to Becky.

‘We primarily opt for the growth of our organization and therefore, as an entrepreneur, you have to think outside the box. This is something that is still rare in our industry. Everything must be measurable and tangible. At the moment, we employ 30 people, 3 of whom are in Belgrade. Everyone is very happy and satisfied with the way it works. I am also very pleased with the Serbian acquisition. I like pioneering and it clearly works! We simply wouldn’t have been able to do all the work without our colleagues in Belgrade.’

No threat

‘After my visit to Belgrade, I was immediately enthusiastic about the idea, but I had to deal with some resistance within the company. “Oh dear, they speak English. And are you sure they are up to the task?” People feared for their own job. So I had to convince them: “This expansion is important, it is not a threat. On the contrary, it’ll be a great opportunity for you. It means you’ll have to do less administration and you’ll be able to spend more time with the customer.” I am truly convinced that, as a company, you can make a real difference with customer relationships. To do this, the back office has to run smooth and efficiently. Plus, it ensures that we no longer have peak workloads.’

“Staff is the most important asset for every accountancy firm”

Imaginary barrier

‘Some entrepreneurs reacted: “Oh, that’s nice and cheap, isn’t it?” No, the main reason is that I have work that needs to be done. And if you give the staff the necessary time and attention, you won’t save that much. The difference is, if I call Sjoerd tomorrow and say I need 5 people in 4 weeks, I’ll have them. If I post a vacancy here, I don’t get anyone. What I find very strange is that everyone thinks it is very normal to have an employee from Groningen - which is 3 hours away by car - but if you cross the border - 3 hours by plane - then people start doubting about reliability and competence. That makes no sense whatsoever, it’s a barrier that needs to be taken down.’

Winners always have a plan

‘You have to start with a plan. Our philosophy is: winners always have a plan. Our plan is to provide our customers with the best service by giving them full attention. That is possible thanks to Becky. First, you have to explain to the people in Serbia who we are, what we do and how we do it. It is best to outsource the supervision to an employee who enjoys it, somebody who puts time and energy into it and, above all, is social. Somebody who will also ask how the dog is, for example.’

Personal contact

‘We initially considered the people in Belgrade too much as data processors instead of colleagues. Now there is more exchange and understanding and above all: more personal contact. You can’t just send them a bunch of tasks; you have to explain them, just as you would do in the Netherlands. Back home you would brief the administrators about a new client, so you should do the same with colleagues in Belgrade, via Teams. You have to put in just as much time and energy as you would for a new employee in the office back home.’

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Main asset

‘Staff is the most important asset for any accountancy firm. If you want to grow, you have to find the right people, and that doesn’t necessarily mean they have to be from the Netherlands. You have to treat the Serbian employees as colleagues and include them in your daily business, negotiations and processes. Visit them and let them visit you. And above all: make them part of your team. Don’t talk about “here” and “there”. And remember: your Dutch employees are allowed to make mistakes, so the ones in Belgrade are allowed to do that too.’

Cold feet

‘KIBO is growing at 25 percent per year; which in 2022 means 3 to 4 extra employees. At least 2 of them will start working for us in Belgrade. When I hear a colleague say: “I can’t handle the growth”, it’s because they don’t think like an entrepreneur. Very often they have cold feet; I haven’t had that at all. What is the risk? Having somebody work for you during 2 months and it doesn’t turn out well? You just have to give it a chance! I am really glad we did.’

About KIBO

  • What: accountancy firm and tax consultancy company
  • Where: Middelharnis, The Netherlands
  • Size: 27 employees in Middelharnis and 3 in Belgrade
  • Since: 2011
  • Website: https://www.kibo-accountants.nl

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Amsterdam office

Vijzelstraat 68

1017 HL Amsterdam

The Netherlands

Belgrade office 1

Makenzijeva 57

11000 Belgrade

Serbia

Belgrade office 2

Bulevar Kralja Aleksandra 28

11000 Belgrade

Serbia

Sarajevo office

Marsala Tita 28

71000 Sarajevo

Bosnia and Herzegovina