One of the things I have been most looking forward to about doing business in Montenegro - and I can imagine that I am the first person to say this - is the bureaucracy.
I have read so many horror stories that I can completely understand the frustrations of foreigners moving to Montenegro from their home countries and finding the simplest of tasks taking up most of their week.
The reason I am looking forward to it is that I am keen to compare it to the place I am coming from, to see if it is better, or worse. That things are more difficult to achieve in Montenegro than the UK and USA, that is not much of a story, but how does the Montenegrin experience compare with its neighbours? Croatia for example?
After 15 years of living and doing business in Croatia, I have more than enough material for my next book, Running a Balkan Media Empire in Absurdistan. I live in a country, for example, where your kids might not be able to graduate from the school year if the father has too many names.
So rather than being fresh off the plane and hoping things would function like they do at home, I have become a Balkan realist after 15 years in the front line. Forming a company in Montenegro? Even though my language skills are up to the task these days, the thought of putting it all together filled me with dread. I have learned over the years that paying for a service in this region is usually cheaper than trying to do it yourself in the long run, and a lot less stressful.
The EXTREMELY friendly and helpful Expats in Montenegro page seemed to be the ideal place to look for help and I posted a request for a company to help with company formation, along with a list of questions I had about company formation. I was somewhat surprised to receive no less than 12 responses and quotes, which ranged from the very cheap to the totally ridiculous.
In the end, I decided upon one young Russian lady who was not the cheapest quotation (although close to being so), but as a very active member of the Expats group, I could see she knew what she was talking about, and I always like to support proactive people in this region, as they can be rare to find at times. The fact that she was Russian (a direction I plan to take TMN if we are initially successful) also helped in the decision, as did her immediate and comprehensive response to all my questions.
Company name and office address were chosen, a passport scanned. A few messages were exchanged followed by a first meeting at the Opstina building in Budva, where the frightfully efficient Julie was waiting with a smile and several neatly arranged files. A colleague drove us first to the notary, then to the bank, where she was greeted like an old friend in both institutions.
Out came all the already-prepared documents, first for explanation, then for signing. My right hand was already beginning to tire with the number of signatures required (the whole process had about 40, including the bank visits), but we were in an out in just 20 minutes, then driven to the bank.
Another seamless transaction which included more signatures and 10 euro start-up capital deposited in the bank, and we were done for the day. Just under an hour from first meeting, the first stage of the company formation was complete.
I now needed to wait for the documents to be processed, and just a few days later, confirmation that the company was registered came from Julie. It was time for my second visit to complete the formalities at the bank and to receive my beloved stamp. An appointment was made and we were straight into the back of the bank and sitting with the lady responsible. No waiting time. A few more signatures, bank account confirmed and electronic banking set up, and we were done. Total time in the bank -15 minutes.
Time enough to celebrate with a late morning beer in the early April Budva sunshine.
Next task - residence permit, although, as Julie kindly pointed out, I need to renew my passport before I can undertake this task, as it has to be valid for more than a year. I know whose services I will be using to help with that.
Perhaps the gentlest introduction to the wonderful world of Montenegrin bureaucracy possible, and I am not so naive as to realise that there will be much choppier waters ahead, but the initial impression after a month of Total Montenegro News is that, while Montenegro may be a more problematic country to operate in than the country of my birth, it is a breath of fresh air after the country I call home.