THE ACCIDENTAL HOTELIER

Blog: Running a business in Slovakia is not for the faint of heart

If you are a foreigner with limited Slovak proficiency, limited knowledge of Slovak law, and want to run a business, you should consider following my lead.

Running a business in Slovakia is complicated and frustrating. Running a business in Slovakia is complicated and frustrating. (Source: Courtesy of Thom Kolton)

Running a business in Slovakia is complicated and frustrating. A competent support team is a critical to success.

Let me get straight to the point: running a business in Slovakia has proven to be much more challenging than I had ever imagined. From legal requirements to labor laws to financial reporting requirements, it has been a dizzying and occasionally overwhelming experience, one that continues on a seemingly daily basis.

Admittedly, in spite of my obvious compulsion for detail (ask the staff!), I am much more of a “big picture” guy when it comes to business. I want to make sure work is flowing smoothly, the staff has what it needs, problems are addressed and, above all, my guests are happy. Still, it is my job to make sure business-related tasks are completed in a timely manner.

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After seven years in Slovakia, my language skills are acceptable, but nowhere near to what I need to successfully run a business. So how do I do it? I hire good outside support services.

My virtual assistant

When you telephone Penzión Európa, you are actually connected with my assistant outside Zvolen. A native Slovak fluent in English, she handles reservations and special requests, as well as fielding calls from annoying salespeople. She also performs any other tasks that I throw at her, which is often. We communicate via Skype, mobile phone, and email. I would be lost without Zuzana.

My lawyer

My first lawyer spoke English and was very kind, but seemed to lack a certain enthusiasm for detail. I am now on lawyer #2 and I’m sticking to him like glue. Although 1.5 hours away by car in Prešov, he does the due diligence necessary to keep me out of trouble. Although he sometimes tells me “No”, I know he is working in my best interest. An added benefit is that, when I must travel to Prešov, I get to eat at that great little Chinese restaurant off the main square.

My accountant

My first accountant spoke no English and had little time for me. Her e-mails would have been equally helpful had they been written in hieroglyphics. I was happy to find my second accounting firm in Prešov. But alas, they provided a level of customer service that I simply could not accept. I am now on Accounting Firm #3. While they have disappointed me on occasion, they do manage to do the monthly chores without problem, so I’m staying with them for the time being.

The difficult lesson I learned is this: If you are a foreigner with limited Slovak proficiency, limited knowledge of Slovak law, and want to run a business, you should seriously consider following my lead. Like my own dedicated staff at the penzión, these supporting companies are equally important to the function of the business. Without them, the business would surely collapse.

Thom Kolton is an American entrepreneur operating Penzión Európa (www.penzioneuropa.eu) in the village of Osturňa.

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