3CIS – Kosovo’s Would-be “Golden Child”

Founded in 2008 by Kujtim Tali, 3CIS represents a company that any developing nation should be proud of: A homegrown, 100% value-added exporting, mid-size employer of highly skilled workers trained in-house.

Those same countries tend to also have a “golden child” company that governments enjoy flaunting to foreign investors as a quintessential success story depicting what’s possible in their backyard. In our opinion 3CIS is Kosovo’s “golden child” and hopefully the government comes to recognize this idea sooner rather than later. Now, this isn’t meant to be a cliché when stating sooner is better. There were some unfortunate misinterpretations of the tax law by the country’s tax authorities (TAK) that have led to a destabilizing effect on the company in order to remedy the TAKs obscene financial verdict. Rather than reiterating what the 3CIS staff has already articulately laid out in a press release we’ll offer the link below to Discover for Yourself.

There is one remarkable aspect of this company making it especially noteworthy in a developing nation, Kosovo or otherwise; western management pinnacled by its extraordinary in-house technical training program and its employee benefits package. We had the opportunity to tour the company’s 4-floor facility in the capital city of Prishtina. Tucked away behind a non-descript building on a non-descript street, expectations were neutral at best. But like all gems they tend to be hidden and 3CIS is no exception. Greeted by a gregarious staff and their leader Yll Daci, Director of Operations, one immediately recognized they are doing serious work devoid of pretension in an A-Class building suited with the latest technologies. People seemed to have understood the importance of their work and interestingly, appeared to respect the management of the firm that makes it all possible for them. As a result, management has loyal people backing them and you can’t buy loyalty, you earn it. This is precisely where the company’s in-house training comes into play. Where the State’s universities fall short 3CIS picks up by rounding off their educations in the specific field of telecom technologies. So it was of no surprise when one of the first things encountered was a classroom full of bright-eyed youngsters learning the tricks of the trade in an actual business environment. Of course, 3CIS is not a university or a school; they are training the future of the company, in many senses the future of Kosovo. When you couple this kind of laser focused training and follow-on loyalty you inevitably create a culture that cares. They care about themselves, their ability to provide for their families, each other and importantly, the clients they service.

Ultimately with 3CIS it’s about two things: employees and clients. So what this means is “the people”. This notion permeates their every action where they understand that by taking care of the people the people will take care of the numbers and profits.

US Ambassador, Tracey Ann Jacobson (front row, first) and 3CIS Managing Partner, Gezim Pula (front row center)

From a more macro perspective, 3CIS as a company specializing in professional services such as enterprise networks, mobile network security and software development (full list) for global telecommunication companies acts as a barometer in two ways. First, their experience with TAK indicates a broader issue when conducting business in Kosovo. Secondly, they represent leadership and best practices in a sector which should be treated as a niche opportunity exploited vigilantly to foreign investors interested in lowering their cost base through lower wages and centralizing their European footprint. Of course, all of this would take place in arguably the most US friendly nation on earth.

3CIS can catalyze the sector further through leading by example. It is quite empowering to see a local Kosovar firm doing business with big name clients like Vodafone (England), MTS (Russia) and Orange (France) as well as large clients in the United States. Entrepreneurship is a hearty endeavor and inspiration is key to activating a budding entrepreneurs dream; knowing that others have done it before, and they’ve done it big and they’ve done it well, can certainly spark a movement here in Kosovo. So maybe this is the real story about the company; one that existing and future firms should be emulating. Understanding that you do not have to be a Google or an Apple to make a difference in your own life and in the lives of others. More importantly, realizing that bottom-lines are important and must be viewed with a keen eye but not at the expense of sacrificing your core ethics and values. The bottom-line shouldn’t just be the end game, the destination, the journey and path to success comes from the very people that make it possible to begin with.

Notwithstanding the challenges they’ve encountered the company is eager to maintain its current path with its dedicated team in tow. This notion was all the more concreted when positing a question to Mr. Tali during our candid chat at the end of the tour: “Why are you still in Kosovo, and not Macedonia for example, after all the troubles and apparent lack of vision from the government that has nearly bankrupted you. Most American companies would have fled that sort of environment?” Mr. Tali stated quite simply: “You’ve been here today for a few hours now. Have you looked around? Have you spoken with some of the people?” Yes, of course, I replied, feeling somewhat pathetic for asking a question that has such an obvious answer, “well, they are the reason why we stay here, these great people”.

The 3CIS story is one yet to be vindicated. But like most good stories they tend to end well, if not without a good fight. It is most likely the case that they will not be recouped for their loses but many have taken their side, unfortunately not publicly. In fact, we came across 3CIS not from some tech organization or ministerial reference, but rather from the head of an international financial institution. All of this says a lot but ultimately says nothing at all when not voiced publicly. We are happy to advocate on behalf of good governance and great institutions but equally as happy to exploit the weaknesses in a system. Leaving Kosovo for greener pastures is always an option and frankly an action that would, when acknowledged, send a strong undercurrent through foreign investor circles regarding the climate here. One only hopes the government, for their own sake, does not let the company vote with its feet. We are with 3CIS, quite publicly.

 

3CIS_Press Release 8 April 2014

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