homepage_name! > Editions > Number 139-140 > Interview - Marko Markovic

Interviewee: Marko Marković, partner in the Egzakta Advisory consulting company

A Step Ahead of the Others

We support companies in realizing their most ambitious projects and creating new opportunities.

Our international experience and methodology is spiced up with local expertise. The central part of the team are experienced consultants, who unselfishly share their knowledge and carefully selected young colleagues, which makes me believe that Egzakta Advisory has the most complete team on the market today. We develop the company patiently and in a carefully thought-out manner, even though we are the fastest growing consulting company in Southeastern Europe. Thanks to our unique approach we can proudly present projects and revenues from management consulting, which stand side by side with the world´s biggest companies.

1. Mr. Marković, how was your career developing until the Egzakta Advisory consulting company was founded?

My first encounter with consulting was completely by chance, as I became the development director already at the age of 28, three years after graduating from university and working in a company dealing with construction and investments in the Construction Industry. Striving to enhance my knowledge, I visited the book launch of one of the most influential consultants at the time. At the end of the event, I asked the author a few questions and this is when the turning point in my career occurred. After the launch, the author approached me, asked me about my profession and, out of the blue, offered me a job in one of the top 10 consulting companies in the world – A.T. Kearney. This is when my career as a consultant started off. Within a few years, I took part in dozens of projects in various industries, from banking and finance, to telecommunications to FMCG companies and production, in different functional fields like strategy, business operations, sales, purchase, IT, logistics, planning, etc.

I worked on projects in different countries of the region and Europe, which, naturally, included a lot of travelling and left little time for the family, so in 2010, I accepted the offer of one of the biggest banks in Serbia for a position in the Executive Board, where I was responsible for operations (COO). Thanks to this I made a completely new experience, as I switched from the role of giving advice and “drawing” the manner of how something needs to be done to the role of actually implementing it. This was a splendid experience, where I learned a lot about management in its core meaning. After 5 years, I received the call of one of the biggest telecommunication operators in the region and became a member of their team, again in the position of COO. Within three years, I managed to establish an organization for 1,000 people and organize business operations, which resulted in significant growth of the company. However, the love towards consulting prevailed, as well as my long-term desire to found a real management consulting company in Serbia. And that´s how we started. Two years ago it was the three of us, while today our team consists of 20 management consultants – something, only the biggest consulting companies working in our region can take pride in.

2. How would you present your consulting company to our readers and your potential clients?

Our international experience and methodology is spiced up with local expertise. The central part of the team are experienced consultants, who unselfishly share their knowledge and carefully selected young colleagues, which makes me believe that Egzakta Advisory has the most complete team on the market today. We develop the company patiently and in a carefully thought-out manner, even though we are the fastest growing consulting company in Southeastern Europe. Thanks to our unique approach we can proudly present projects and revenues from management consulting, which stand side by side with the world´s biggest companies. The reason is that clients realize that in cooperation with us they receive a service that does not differ from “big fishes” when it comes to quality, and additionally provides the advantage of our profound knowledge of the local market, culture, relationships, ecosystem etc. We regard every client as a partner and equally pay attention to “big” and small clients. We do not have predefined projects, we do not have models, every client is special and everything is done from scratch for him. The fact that more than half of our projects during the year originate from clients who have already worked with us before and need help in another area now is indicative for the appreciation clients have for such an approach. As the satisfaction ofour clients is very important to us, we often include a “satisfaction fee in our contracts, meaning that the client pays part of the price only if he is satisfied. I can proudly say that until today we had not even one client refusing to pay the satisfaction fee.

3. How do you support companies in realizing their most ambitious projects and create new opportunities?

In short: with knowledge, devotion, and mathematics. Even if it might not seem that way, consulting is a very exact category. Projects are dealt with according to a relatively simple structure: hypothesis – research – data analysis – results – conclusion – recommendation. In practice, this means that every client receives our recommendations on what needs to be done in order to reach a goal defined in a hypothesis. Even when we work on strategy projects, our recommendations always include an implementation plan with exactly defined activities to be performed. We support some clients in the implementation, but some clients decide to implement the measures themselves. In any case, we are there to escort our clients to the final result.

4. Now we would like you to give us your predictions. Is this the end of the world as we know it? Has this crisis caused a new “ice age” in economy or will we recover and quickly pick up where we left off in the beginning of 2020?

During the first pandemic wave, we analyzed the impact of the coronavirus on the economy in March and presented our evaluation of the situation. Back then, we developed 4 scenarios: basic, positive, dark, and the potential new basic scenario, as we called it back then, which depended on whether the virus would return during the fall or not. Unfortunately, it returned. According to this scenario, even if the majority of countries needed to implement restrictive measures, crisis management would be easier because of the experience we gained in spring. Another assumption is that the virus will be under control until next April, after which the whole society and economy will recover. In this case, the economic recovery would actually be “in form of the letter W”, and the majority of the economy would return to the pre-crisis level until the third quarter of 2021. Naturally, it remains to be seen whether the pandemic and the deepening of the crisis will stop until summer.

It will never be the same again. Unfortunately, the new reality, as it is called today, includes a change of the mode of operation, especially in the field of production and supply chain, a new geopolitic situation and the throwback of some industries 30 years behind. Prognoses are not optimistic, but it is a reason for joy that we have a stable banking sector and an increased activity of private equity funds. This means that there is a basis for the “return” of economy, but the capital will, of course, be distributed differently. Just like everything in life, there will be winners and losers of the situation.

5. In your opinion, when and how will we completely recover? To what extent are Serbian companies aware that they will be deeply affected by the crisis and are they ready to react?

According to a study by AmCham conducted in the middle of the year, domestic companies are highly aware of the situation they are in and they are expecting obstacles in business conduct. The greatest challenge right now is the work organization and human resources management. Naturally, the reduction of travel options affects a great number of companies, especially in tourism, but also in other industries that are connected with foreign partners and buyers like logistics and distribution, ICT, healthcare and pharmacy, while on-site sales is especially affected by the limited travel options. We should not expect a recovery too soon, especially when it comes to the most affected industries, but with good preparation, reorganization, and cost-cutting measures companies will be able to overcome this crisis. I would like to mention that it will be very hard to survive for some.

6. How should companies prepare for the upcoming challenges? To what extent can the Egzakta Advisory consulting company as an experienced and pragmatic partner with an understanding of the local market support them in solving the problem?

As I already mentioned, Egzakta Advisory bases its work on methodologies and mathematics. In this case, we recommend companies to predict scenarios and be prepared to react, provide financial liquidity stabilization, switch to digital channels, and prepare for a new beginning based on detailed analysis and the preparation of activities.. Additionally, it is highly important to provide for efficient communication and exploit the possibilities created by the crisis.

7. One of the many expert advices is to switch to digital channels. To what extent can Egzakta support companies in a full digitalization implementation from a strategic and operative perspective?

Digitalization is the basis of all our projects. When talking about digitalization, we are usually thinking about the internet, social networks, mobile phones... however, if you ask me, digitalization is maybe even more important regarding internal processes of a company and modes of operation. Today, the efficiency of business processes directly depends on the digitalization of these processes. Our approach to digitalization always starts from the so-called digital diagnostics, in the framework of which we observe what the company´s level of development is in terms of digitalization, internal as well as external. Then we use our knowledge combined with the insight in global trends and case studies and, in cooperation with our clients, define their digital strategy resulting in an action plan in a form of a group of projects that needs to be implemented in order to start the digital transformation. In Egzakta, we believe that the digital world is not a possibility anymore, it is rather an obligation of every company, as outdated “analogue” business models are not sufficient for successful business anymore.

8. This crisis will end at some point. How to prepare for a new beginning?

It will certainly end and the day after tomorrow will come. It is important to be prepared and exploit the growth possibilities in the best possible way. And I really mean growth, because after every fall there is a rise. If the predictions of the World Bank will come true, the world economy will achieve a head-spinning growth after the great fall, in order to return to the previous state. Regardless of when this will take place, we should be prepared. We recommend our clients to include a detailed return plan in their response strategy covering a number of imperatives, including marketing and the renewed engagement of buyers, the renewed commissioning of the plant, the capacity adjustment, the communication of the employees, and the renewed initialization of the complete system. According to my opinion, a crisis should always be regarded as a chance. Even if the business results will probably suffer during the next few quarters, numerous opportunities will arise.

9. What is Egzakta´s distinctive feature in comparison to other consulting companies and are you the ideal partner for any company, be it small or big?

Peter Drucker, the renowned consultant, professor, and management guru says: “Culture eats strategy for breakfast”. This, of course, refers to corporate culture. This is the reason why Egzakta invested a lot into culture from the beginning, naturally, accompanied by the clearly defined strategy to be one of the best three management consulting companies in the region (and we are not far away from it). We greatly value spirit, mutual support, learning, mentorship, we respect diversity, privacy, and free time. We believe that people are our only resource and this is how we established our corporate culture. Everything we advise our clients, we implement in our company ourselves.

The other feature we already mentioned earlier is that we approach every client with the “made to measure” approach. Every person is special, unique, has their specific characteristics and every solution is adapted to the respective client.

10. Egzakta Advisory is a unique and modern consulting company focused on strategy, technology, and transformation of business operations. Who does the team of your company consist of?

Egzakta is a team of professionals where everyone has their value and role, but the true value lies in the group sharing common values and a common culture. The company is based on three partners, each one of them is responsible for a certain business segment in three basic responsibility zones: Management Consulting, Financial Consulting, and Business Development. There is not enough room now for mentioning every member of our team, but I would like to mention that each and every one of them is an exceedingly important screw in our machinery. We are very careful in choosing our employees, so besides knowledge, and the willingness to learn, we expect creativity and entrepreneurial spirit, but also collegiality and team spirit from our consultants.

11. Finally, what would be the advice you would give companies for the following year?

I believe that I have provided enough “material” for their consideration in my previous answers. I would finish at this point, with a quote from one of my favorite songs: “Go out and fight, in this place there is no room for one of us” – of course, referring to the crisis, not to the competition, although…