1. What are the benefits of doing business in Moldova?
I believe Moldova is becoming part of a developing infrastructure and an ecosystem that is rapidly forming. My observation is that there is an increase in demand for new goods and services. If your business can introduce the goods and services into the virgin market with a well-planned customer outreach strategy, you can take advantage of those who have never had the chance to purchase them before. Also, consider the fact that if your goods and services are expensive then you might not be able to last longer in the market because the majority of the customer’s needs comes from the masses. Your business should favor them and try to package products at smaller quantities, sizes, and price points. One specific industry that is on the rise and will find player benefitting is ICT and consulting firms. I have noticed that many Moldovan companies require team-building trainings. Skills-development is needed now more than ever for business professionals and one NGO that has done it right has been UNICEF. They have hosted three month training modules and have found many participating organizations. For services, designing and advertising have been hot due to the increase in technological products and IT ventures emerging in the capital, Chisinau. Banks have been spending on advertisements, infographics, and campaign materials. The creative sector has been buzzing.
2. What are the largest obstacles of doing business in Moldova?
About obstacles, I cannot really touch on this too deeply because I have not managed a for-profit business that generates revenue. My current operation in Moldova is narrowed to non-profit on inclusive settings, but what I can say is that if you are not connected or if you are not networking to sell your goods and services, then your chances to scale are limited because your potential customers would like to associate better with the business owner rather than associating with goods and services. This means that in order to avoid obstacles and problems, you as the owner of the business need to establish strong customer relations. Be patient when creating a business strategy. Processes, relationships, and sales take a lot longer than expected here. For example, registration of TEKEDU took six months to complete. Normally, one month is deemed appropriate. Organizations can be very bureaucratic and individuals can be aloof after stating explicit interest in conducting business with you. Co-founders can be equally as slow given that they need to earn sufficient income while building a startup. This lack of capital up front can prolong the business from growing and can distract integral members of the team.
3. How can a foreigner establish sound business relationships in Moldova?
A foreigner that would like to establish a business in Moldova should carry out extensive and thorough field research on businesses and targeted clients. Founders have to visit Moldova in-person to understand how the ecosystem works, which includes the social, economical and political environment. New entrants need to respect the players in the market, find product-market fit, and execute deals in order to create a well established and acknowledged business in Moldova. In order to improve your relationships in Moldova I recommend that you meet the gate keeper at each company and establish good bonds with this person. Google search individual(s) before meeting, identify their hobbies, and invite them to informal meetings. By keeping the conversation light, your goal is develop a friendship more than a business relationship. Have coffee and keep discussions 40% about business, 60% on personal interests. In my estimation, friendships are greater than business partnerships so I try to be a friend first. In any meeting make sure your priorities are based on satisfying your counterpart’s needs. This will create a fruitful relationship for you both.
4. What are some of the best kept secrets about Moldova and its workforce?
Well, I am still a foreigner here and I cannot say what the true secrets are. I am discovering more about Moldova and its people day-to-day, which is very fascinating for me and provides for continuous learning. What I can say, however, is that the people I have come to work with are especially motivated and active. They are good critical thinkers and understand their market. Moldovans are very light-hearted and personable. To me hard skills do not matter as much as attitudes around here, and those that I work with have great ones.
5. What advice would you give a new entrant into Moldova?
Do not rush into doing things too quickly because you cannot always have it your way. Move around, be social, and meet people. That might help you get started. I remember one young lady that was extremely active at the outset of a project idea. She was very high-wired and stressed about reaching her goals. After a couple of quick setbacks, she was visibly rattled, and never quite regained her composure. Business does not happen overnight here so maintain good energy, be patient, and remain hopeful. In time things normally work out the way they are intended to.