It would be almost impossible to write this editorial without mentioning the hottest economic topic in Slovakia at the moment: Land Rover’s intention to open a production plant in Slovakia, which some are calling the investment of the decade in the country.
Let me step back. Some 15 years ago, I relocated to Dublin, Ireland. Along with the constant rain, I remember how little anyone knew about Slovakia. “Where is it you are from? Slov…. Slovenia? Czechoslovakia?” people would ask. “It’s Slovakia, actually. In the heart of Europe. No, we don’t live by the sea, no, we don’t speak Russian,” I would answer. When asked for some interesting facts about Slovakia, I would mention our communist history, name some geographical points of interests, talk about Andy Warhol (yes, he was born here), and describe as best I could bryndzove halusky (our national dish).
Fast forward to 2015, and Slovakia is the No. 1 car producer per capita in the world thanks to Volkswagen, Kia Motors, and PSA Peugeot Citroen, producing in total up to a million cars a year. Not bad – finally something to brag about, and people love statistics (although no one seems to ask me that question anymore).
Now a fourth major automotive car manufacturer, British Land Rover, is eyeing Slovakia, and it’s not bryndzove halusky they’re after. With an investment of 1.5 billion euros, Land Rover plans to build a plant near Nitra that will employ 4,000 people to produce fancy Jaguars and Land Rovers.
The automotive business in Slovakia is undeniably booming, as it has been for the past few years, and we’ve felt it in many areas of everyday life – including in the legal practice.
There are many good law firms in Slovakia, but it’s not just about being good anymore. It’s not even about providing that prompt, user-friendly, straight to the point legal advice. It’s about everything else. Providing all that extra to clients, making lives easier for their managers, supporting them along their way to success. Knowing the client’s business and the sector they operate in and using that industry knowledge to identify opportunities and anticipate problems. Knowing how a client operates and reflecting that in the way you provide advice is the key to building a strong relationship.
So we have an automotive team at Glatzova & Co., as you might have guessed, that focuses solely on the automotive sector and is striving to do just that: build strong relationships. And the practice is focused not only on car producers, but also their suppliers, distributors, and sellers.
But is it just sector specialization that makes you a law superstar? Of course not. And forget that you are anyhow special with that newsletter you send to the clients and invitations to yet another business breakfast. It is appreciated, yes, but it doesn’t set you apart. Rather, you must be a true and sincere fan of your client’s business and their product. You have to be their cheerleader and their advocate, support their nominations in different awards, their charity if they have one, run and cheer for their team. And nothing tastes better than their own beverage during a meeting in your office. This is what shines through.
Eleven years ago The New York Times compared Slovakia to Detroit in an article by Mark Landler titled: “A ‘Detroit’ for Europe takes shape in Slovakia.” Since that article was published the world has gone through a global financial crisis, and Detroit itself filed for bankruptcy … but no major lasting effect on the automotive industry in Slovakia occurred. So were we just lucky?
We see our clients invest in their employees, strive for continuous improvement, and invest into research and development. And we see that Slovakia is responding too, creating partnerships between schools and practice, so that the advantages of the Slovak labor force are not limited only to “low cost.” Attracting large car producers such as Land Rover is a signal that Slovakia is not resting on its laurels.
Going back to my studies in Ireland, I remember more often than not being referred to as “the Eastern girl” rather than the Slovak girl. Will Ireland’s neighbor’s large investment in Slovakia help put us firmly on the map and correct this idiom? Most likely not. But next time you’re looking to buy a new car, look under the bonnet/hood and check the sticker, if there is one. Chances are it will say, “Made in Slovakia.”
The opinions in this article are personal and do not necessarily reflect the views of Glatzova & Co.!
By Veronika Pazmanyova, Head of Slovakian Branch, Glatzova & Co.
This Article was originally published in Issue 2.4. of the CEE Legal Matters Magazine. If you would like to receive a hard copy of the magazine, you can subscribe here.