As our Architectural Coatings (AC) market coordinator for Europe’s Adriatic and Balkan region, Milan Durkovic wears many hats – problem solver, logistics coordinator, educator, installer, marketer, seller – in a region rich with diverse cultures, languages and histories.
A Territory as Varied as His Responsibilities
After graduating college with a degree in chemistry science, Milan started his career in the mining and food industries before joining Serbia’s largest paint company in 1996. He held various customer service and engineering roles before accepting his current position with us in 2018.
He is our sole AC representative in 13 Adriatic and Balkan countries, driving an average of 4,500 kilometers (2,800 miles) each month from his home in Beograd, Serbia, to meet with customers and partners. His responsibilities are as varied as his territory, ranging from software, installation, claims and logistical support to sales, marketing and education.
“My job is incredibly interesting, as no day is ever the same. However, I cannot be successful without the tremendous support of my colleagues in Hungary, the Netherlands, Greece and beyond.”
Milan supports the five brands that our AC business has been selling in the region since entering it in 2016 – BONDEX™, GORI™, JOHNSTONE’S™, PRIMALEX™ and SIGMA™ paints by PPG.
In addition to AC, our Automotive Refinish business has had a presence in the region for more than 30 years. Our Protective and Marine Coatings business is also firmly entrenched in ship-building Greece.
Milan's territory; Milan with his two colleagues from Budapest, Hungary
Addressing Cultural Differences with Respect
Milan relishes working in so many countries, with their cultural differences and varying languages.
“I’ve learned a few words in each language to show respect toward the people I’m speaking with. I also try to learn something about the country’s culture as well as each city that I travel to. I’ve established not just strong relationships with our customers and partners, but I’ve also made some great friends.”
The Adriatic and Balkan region has seen the strife of war, with some love/hate relationships lingering between countries. While the resulting cultural biases could be challenging, they are not so for Milan.
If you are open minded and show respect, there are no problems.
What can be challenging are the differences in business approaches. In Milan’s experience, customers in European Union countries tend to be more open to establishing relationships quickly, while those in non-EU countries require more time and effort to reach a decision.
Culture or language also can result in some humorous situations. Such was the case with one upset Serbian customer, who called Milan when the seven cans of paint he ordered arrived in the wrong color.
“I hand delivered seven new cans of paint. When the customer opened the first can, it was the same wrong color. He was so, so angry. It was then that I realized he had mistaken a Latin letter in the color’s name for a Cyrillic letter, both of which are used in Serbia. We had prepared the right color based on what he had ordered. When I explained this, he started laughing.”
Beating the Competition with Responsiveness, Honesty and Ability to Listen
Personal touches like hand delivering paint highlight Milan’s dedication to ensuring his customers are happy.
“All of my customers and partners know that I am available to them 24/7. I work hard to find a solution as quickly as possible, and I only speak the truth, even when it’s a difficult situation. That’s how I feel I will be better than the competition.”
His secret weapon? Listening when other people speak.
You can build a good relationship by simply listening, even if that relationship starts with a problem.