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Această postare este tradusă, textul original fiind în limba engleză. Mulțumim voluntarilor care au editat și tradus acest blog!!

În sfîrșit am revenit. A trecut ceva timp și, sincer vorbind, probabil mi-a lipsit mai mult decît credeam efectul cathartic al acestui blog. De-a lungul ultimelor 4 luni am fost cam în totalitate concentrat pe afacere, fapt care a produs două obstacole destul de semnificative pentru oricine încearcă să mențină o activitate precum acest website. În primul rînd, am fost extrem de ocupat. Să gestionezi un restaurant în primul său an nu înseamnă doar să-ți dedici tot timpul lucrului, dar și să traiești constant cu memoria gîndului că niciodată nu îndeplinești mai mult decît 20 % din lucrul planificat pentru o zi, și că ziua următoare va aduce și mai mult lucru. Există și o doză complementară de vină care te face să renunți progresiv la pasiunile tale (ceea ce, evident, nu-i bine pentru sănătatea mintală). Al doilea obstacol în actualizarea continuă a acestui website este un pic mai cinic. Sincer, am început să fim indiferenți față de anumite lucruri. Circumstanțe care anterior îmi trezeau indignare, au început să-mi trezească doar rîsete și apoi nimic. Am fost într-o vacanță frumoasă și acum am revenit în modul de rîs, pe care vreau să-l păstrez. Indignarea persistă, dar e ascunsă sub un paravan de așteptări abisal de joase, fapt care-i un element de bază al gestionării afacerilor în Moldova.

Așadar, pe această notă sumbră, mă voi lansa într-un subiect care, cred eu, va crea un tablou despre ce înseamnă să faci afaceri aici (și care expune o doză de frustrare), dar este orientat spre cum ar putea fi lucrurile. Mai exact, cît de multe oportunități sunt aici pentru oricine dorește să muncească mult și să încerce. Cînd am început să scriu acest articol cu cîteva luni în urmă, l-am întitulat „Lucrul cu furnizorii (sau: Coca Cola, așteptam mai mult de la tine)”. În mod hilar m-am abținut, pentru că nu voiam să menționez tare și răspicat numele Coca Cola. De atunci am pierdut această inhibare (și veți vedea de ce).

Trecînd direct la subiect, iată cîteva motive pentru care Moldova este plină de oportunități pentru oricine își dorește să le înhațe.

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Nu… Nu găsesc nici o brînză
(asta spune totul)

 

Partea 1: Majoritatea „Afacerilor” refuză să facă „Afaceri”

Ca  alternativă, această parte ar putea fi întitulată

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Taci și ia banii!

Activitate cu care se ocupă cineva în scopul de a obține profit.
- Definiția afacerii din Google

Această formulă simplă nu se aplică prea bine în Moldova. N-o să vă obosesc cu multă analiză, dar  voi prezenta cîteva exemple – concluziile le faceți voi.

Povestea 1: „Cazul meselor de picnic”

Această poveste e veche, dar simplă și ilustrativă. Cu aproximativ 3 săptămîni înainte de primul nostru eveniment de deschidere (mijlocul lui mai 2015), am participat la  Yardsale Moldova (un eveniment fain care se desfășoară aproape în fiecare lună și aduce împreună artizani, cafenele, artiști și altele într-o ambianță de iarmaroc urban). Acolo Smokehouse a avut un fel de debut - am vîndut  pentru prima dată carnea noastră BBQ sub numele nostru.

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Cei care privesc atent vor observa flagul Virginiei expus cu mîndrie ;)

Cu două zile înainte de eveniment, ne-am pornit într-o expediție de cumparături pentru amenajarea cortului alimentar. Aveam nevoie de mese înalte pentru ca clienții să poată cumpăra mîncare și să aibă unde să o savureze împreună cu prietenii lor.  Un magazin din Atrium vindea exact mesele care ne trebuiau, la preț de 500 de lei, și noi am decis să le cumpărăm. Matt și Vlad s-au dus să le cumpere și iată cum a decurs conversația:

Vlad: Salut, am dori să cumpărăm două mese de acestea.
Vînzătorul: Nu, nu le putem vinde astăzi.
Vlad: De ce nu? Noi am fost ieri aici și ne-ați convins să le cumpărăm.
Vînzătorul: Dar acum e stricată.
Vlad: Nu, nu este! Și chiar dacă ar fi, eu vreau să o cumpăr!
Vînzătorul: Îmi pare rău, dar nu pot să vînd asta. Să aveți o zi bună.

(Nota autorului: eu am adăugat “să aveți o zi bună”) 

Așadar, ce s-a întîmplat? Vlad mă sună și-mi spune că deja nu mai avem mese și eu construiesc 2 mese rotunde din resturi de lemn. Costul total 50 de lei ($ 2,50) + 5 ore. Am folosit mesele și am trecut peste acea zi, și cît de comic ar suna, mesele sunt în restaurant chiar și acum.

Rezultatul: noi am vrut să cheltuim 1000 de lei pentru mese, dar am cheltuit zero. Și niciodată nu ne-am mai întors la acel magazin (el s-a și închis de atunci).

 

Povestea 2: „Despre echipamentul de bucătărie”

La momentul de față Matt (care a construit bucătăria) ar putea scrie o carte despre această prostie. Eu mă voi rezuma la o scurtă anecdotă.

 

Dina Cociug și MGM sunt două companii care practic dețin monopol asupra pieței de echipament comercial de bucătărie din Moldova. Principalul motiv este că ei pot negocia terenul minat al reglementărilor vamale și de import (a se citi „corupție”) pentru a aduce produse din Europa. Noi am vrut să cumpărăm un cuptor (una din primele noastre achiziții pentru bucătărie). Iată cum a mers…

 

Matt: "bună ziua, puteți să-mi spuneți vă rog cît costă cuptorul numărul cutare de pe site-ul vostru?” 

DINA: “lăsați-ne să vă trimitem un expert ca să vorbiți despre ce aveți nevoie” 

Matt: “de ce? Eu am nevoie doar de prețul unui cuptor” 

DINA: “putem veni în această după-amiază să vorbim? ” 

Matt: "uuuuh, cred că? Adică eu vreau doar cuptorul"

DINA: "Suntem în drum spre voi!"

 

Apoi ei apar ca să discute lucrurile… cu peste 3 săptămîni mai tîrziu, fără anunț (între timp noi am sunat de multe ori, apoi am adus un cuptor de la altcineva). Cînd au ajuns erau 5 persoane- 3 agenți de vînzări, 1 director și un “bucătar șef cu 5 stele Michelin”. Ei au început agitat să facă o listă cu MII de echipamente pe care doreau să ni le vîndă (multe dintre care fuseseră deja comandate din alte surse) la preț de 1 pachet mare. Bucătarul șef era ferm convins că noi nu eram îndreptățiți să întrebăm prețul anumitor articole, pentru că EL era un important bucătar șef și știa mai bine ce ne trebuia.  De fapt, cînd i-am explicat că multe dintre lucrurile despre care vorbea, inclusiv “bucătăria la pachet”, nu erau deloc relevante pentru afacerea noastră, el  s-a indignat și ne-a informat că noi nu aveam nici un drept sa îi spunem *lui*  de ce avem nevoie, pentru că el era “bucătar șef”. În cele din urmă, i-am dat naibii afară din restaurant.

 

Rezultatul: noi am construit cu propriile forțe o bucătărie, apelînd la alți furnizori mici, și nu am adus aproape nimic de la Dina Cociug – ceea ce era mai mult decît ne doream.

 

Povestea 3: “Problema chipsurilor nacho”


Noi cumpărăm 30+ kg de chipsuri nacho în fiecare săptămînă. Aceasta înseamnă o grămadă de bani pentru cineva care vinde chipsuri nacho. Dacă găsești așa persoană, sună-mă.

 

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serios, eu voi cumpăra chipsurile

Aparent, să ne vinzi chipsuri nouă e „greu” și nimeni nu pare dornic să o facă. Inițial curățeam Metro la fiecare cîteva zile, pînă au încetat să mai vîndă chipsuri. Un angajat chiar mi-a spus (cu exasperare) că ei au încetat să le mai pună pe raft pentru că eu le cumpăr pe toate. După aceasta am trecut la supermarketul nr. 1 (care este mai scump), iar după ce am curățit fiecare din cele 5 magazine ale lor la fiecare 2 zile timp de 3 săptămîni, și ei au început să-mi dea același răspuns. Răspunsul meu? „Atunci spune-mi cu cine pot să vorbesc  pentru ca să cumpăr direct de acolo sau să le rezervez”. Metro a consimțit și armonia în livrarea de chipsuri s-a menținut timp de 3 luni… pînă cînd au încetat de tot să le mai vîndă. Iar Nr. 1 continuă să joace cu noi probabil cel mai elaborat  joc de-a prinselea la telefon, în istoria de refuz a banilor.

Rezultatul: Clienții mei sunt frecvent frustrați pentru că nu am chipsuri. Eu ramîn cu bani necheltuiți. Vînzătorii sunt extrem de fericiți pentru că nu mă văd aducîndu-le acești bani lor.

 

Concluzia acestor istorioare? Majoritatea companiilor cu care avem de-a face ratează ÎN FIECARE ZI oportunitatea de a face bani.

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Uneori pur și simplu nu avem suficiente mîini


Partea 2: Nu există cultură de servire a clienților

Consumatorii pot fi dificili. Ei au multe idei proprii despre produsul tău și foarte, foarte des au nemulțumiri. Eu le-am auzit pe toate – de la idei despre muzica de fundal, la neînțelegerea absolută a produsului („Am venit aici pentru BBQ American și tot ce aveți este „pulled pork”!! Sunt ATÎT DE SUPĂRAT!!”), la cazuri legitime și rușinoase cînd eu sau echipa mea rămînem fără produse. Rolul proprietarului de restaurant în oricare din aceste cazuri, este să-și ceară scuze și să facă mai bine în viitor. Eu înțeleg acest lucru și echipa mea la fel. Însă în mod caraghios, oamenii de la care primim cea mai multă critică și furie nu sunt consumatorii cu așteptări mari, dar furnizorii care caută zîzanie. În orice lună auzim de la furnizorii noștri (adică oamenii care iau banii mei și mă numesc „clientul” lor) mai multe strigăte decît toate problemele legate de clienți pe care le-am avut de la deschidere.  

Cel mai bun exemplu în acest sens este furnizorul nostru de carne. Nu voi da numele, dar oricine din oraș îl poate deduce. Primele noastre 3 luni cu ei au fost un coșmar… și continuă să fie așa. Noi facem comandă de costițe, iar ei le livrează tăiate pe jumătate (adică osul este tăiat la mijloc/ o partidă de costițe cu lățimea de aproximativ 1 inch). Permanent ne livrau spatele de porc tăiat în bucăți mici. A fost un caz cînd nu ne-au livrat comanda (un caz – ha!), iar cînd am sunat ca să aflăm de ce întîrziau, am fost informați că șoferul era plecat în vacanță pentru 2 săptămîni și nu urma  să primim nici o comandă.

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Nu am nici un răspuns

Printre altele, eu ador filmul Joe împotriva Vulcanului… un film minunat

Timp de aproape 2 luni noi am întors 50 % din carnea primită. Însă nu ne-am limitat doar la un comportament pasiv agresiv sau strigăte la telefon. Noi chiar am mers la măcelăria lor și i-am instruit – de două ori – cum să taie carnea. Nici un folos. În cele din urmă am fost informați că managerul de vînzări chiar dorea să ne ajute, dar pentru măcelari cerința noastră părea „dificilă”.

Un alt exemplu este unul dintre furnizorii noștri buni – un producător de tortilla. Ei sunt o afacere mică și ne fac livrări de cîteva ori pe săptămînă. Produsul lor este bun și ei răspund la solicitările noastre. Îmi place de ei. Apoi am vorbit cu bucătarul nostru principal și ea spune că de fiecare dată cînd face o comandă, femeia cu care vorbește este grosolană și strigă. Ea încearcă să ne forțeze să cumpărăm mai mult. La. Fiecare. Comandă.

Nu-i asta o nebunie?

Partea 3: Stimulentele sunt greșite

Am menționat Cola Cola mai devreme? Cred că da…

Să fac o precizare înainte de a începe istorioara. Eu iubesc Coca Cola. Nu doar produsul, dar brandul și compania. Am făcut studii in Atlanta (Georgia) și am fotografii cu priveliștea de la fereastra dormitorului meu, dominată de sediile centrale ale Coca Cola. Noi aveam unicul local Pizza Hut din America care servea Coca Cola în loc de Pepsi. În Atlanta Coca Cola este atît de respectată, încît te-ai putea întreba dacă Biblia ar putea conține un capitol special dedicat acestei invenții americane dulci și siropoase. În caz că nu e clar, vreau să subliniez că nu aveam nici o prejudecată față de Coca Cola înainte de a cumpăra produsul lor.

Deci ce înseamnă să cumperi Coca Cola în calitate de restaurant în Chișinău? Primul apel nu a fost promițător…

Vlad (sunînd la numărul furnizorului): „bună ziua, sunt Vlad și am un restaurant nou și fain care se numește Smokehouse și se deschide în curînd. Vreau să cumpăr Coca Cola și să o servesc acolo pentru ca oamenii să fie fericiți!”

Reprezentantul 1: „unde vă aflați?”

Vlad: „în centru, pe Ștefan cel Mare”

Reprezentantul 1: „nu este sectorul meu, sunați reprezentantul 2 la nr. (și întrerupe apelul)”

Vlad (apelînd reprezentantul 2): „bună ziua, sunt Vlad și am un restaurant nou și fain care se numește Smokehouse și se deschide în curînd. Vreau să cumpăr Coca Cola și să o servesc acolo pentru ca oamenii să fie fericiți!”

Reprezentantul 2: „eu nu lucrez pentru Coca Cola de 2 ani (întrerupe apelul)”

Vlad (sunînd la reprezentantul 1): „salut din nou - numărul pe care mi l-ai dat e greșit.”

Reprezentantul 1: „nu-mi pasă (întrerupe apelul – și niciodată nu a mai răspuns la apelurile noastre)”

N-o să vă spun cît de dificil a fost să găsim pe cineva care să răspundă la telefon, dar e suficient să menționez că această izbîndă a implicat contactarea Camerei Americane de Comerț și obținerea unui număr pentru biroul lor din Moldova. Cînd am reușit să primim un răspuns și în sfirșit am găsit o persoană de contact, am umblat după Coca Cola o săptămînă, cerînd să ne trimită un contract pentru ca să-i putem plăti. Cînd l-au trimis, iată ce am primit:  

 

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Da… aceasta este fotografia necalitativă a unei hîrtii… ei voiau să o tipărim și să le-o trimitem ștampilată prin curier. 

Fără comentarii. Următoarea durere de cap a fost primirea frigiderului/ paharelor/ articolelor promoționale (semnelor luminoase etc - țineți minte că eu cred în această companie și e vorba de statut American). Aceste apeluri sunt inutile în mare parte, dar ni se promite un frigider. Săptăminile vin și trec și, într-un final, frigiderul ajunge. Noi am solicitat un frigider mic care să încapă în bar. Ei ne-au adus…

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scuze… abilitățile mele de fotograf lasă de dorit cînd rîd prea tare

Este evident că acest frigider e potrivit pentru un magazin. Ei au fost foarte nemulțumiți pentru că le-am spus să-l scoată dracului din restaurant, dar noi cu siguranță nu aveam nevoie de o mașină care să mănînce toată energia electrică.

 

Ce legătură au toate acestea cu stimulentele, vei întreba? Faptul că sunt cam prostești? (cert). Iată și cireașa de pe tortul acestei istorioare.

 

Cu vreo 2 luni în urmă am aflat că directorul general Coca Cola Moldova va veni la Smokehouse pentru o ședință. Primul meu impuls a fost să port cu el o discuție despre felul abominabil în care își tratează clienții. Apoi mi-am zis să nu fac acest pas, pînă cînd s-a întîmplat ceva amuzant. În ziua din ajunul vizitei planificate, 3 directori de la Coca Cola Moldova au venit la restaurant. Eu nu eram acolo, iar ei au făcut abstracție de partenerul meu Vlad și au început să indice și să decidă unde să amplaseze lucruri. Unde va sta frigiderul Coca Cola? Dar semnele luminoase? Două în interior, unul pe fațada clădirii. Dar paharele? Vlad i-a întrebat dacă poate să-i ajute cu ceva. Ei l-au ignorat și l-au tratat cu o imensă lipsă de respect. Ei erau de la Coca Cola. Titanii titanilor. Cine era el? Ei l-au informat prompt că președintele lor va veni a doua zi și se așteptau ca Vlad să respecte schema lor de decor. El i-a alungat din restaurant.

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Tu vii în casa mea și mă tratezi în acest hal
Asta schimbă un pic jocul

Așadar, cînd președintele/ managerul general Coca Cola Moldova a venit la restaurant, eu am vorbit cu el. Nu sunt sigur dacă bănuia ce structură de nimic gestionează, dar i-am explicat eu. Detaliat. Mai mult decît îmi permite timpul pe care-l am aici.

Nu-s sigur dacă Karma există, însă Coca Cola s-a retras din Moldova cu o săptămînă mai tîrziu, iar sub management ucrainesc lucrurile stau mai bine.

Concluzii:

Ok, David, ce încerci să spui? (altceva decît că ai o supărare personală constantă cu Coca Cola). Ce încerc eu să subliniez, este modul în care acest episod scoate la iveală o structură incorectă de stimulente în business-ul moldovenesc. Angajații Coca Cola cu care ne-am ciocnit nu erau orientați spre servirea clienților. Nu erau orientați spre vînzarea produsului. Nu erau orientați spre a reprezenta brandul. Ei erau ghidați doar de frica față de șeful lor. Această frică se manifestă prin nevoia de a crea fațade care să impresioneze. Imagini false. Imagini care să spună „aici totul e bine”. Imagini care să spună „noi cu toții muncim atît de mult pentru cauza noastră și oriunde mergi, vezi asta”. Imagini care sunt proiecția unei realități menite să-l facă pe șef să se simtă bine.

Printre altele, oricine din comunitatea donatorilor internaționali sau din domeniul dezvoltării internaționale probabil înțelege exact la ce mă refer.  

Și orice cititor perspicace va observa asta în povestea chipsurilor nacho de mai sus. 

...și orice iubitor de istorie va recunoaște un Sat Potemkinian. Mă abat…

Bine, vreau să fie clar. Eu nu atac etica sau cultura muncii din Moldova. Defel. Eu am 25 de angajați și ei toți muncesc cu multă sîrguință și istețime. Eu atac managementul moldovenesc. Managementul absent. Managerii care răspund la măguleală și cred că dacă dețin un titlu, ei pot munci mai puțin decît oricine altcineva. Aici aceasta este o normalitate în multe feluri (vezi You Have Two Cows...). Aici managementul este, în general, detașat de scopul primar al procesului decizional în afaceri - Profitul.

Partea 4: Toate industriile sunt slabe- rezultă Oportunitățile

Există cîțiva furnizori pe care îi consider minunați. Oameni buni, dar și mai important, afaceri bune. Ei mă prețuiesc ca și client, iar eu prețuiesc relația pe care o am cu ei. Ei sunt respectuoși, niciodată nu întîrzie și niciodată nu promit lucruri pe care nu le pot livra. Unii dintre acești furnizori cer mai mult decît concurenții lor. Eu cumpăr de la ei pentru că știu că concurenții livrează produse atunci cînd vor, cu ambivalență. Acești băieți livrează ce promit, cu modestie. Ca să dau cîteva exemple...

Litra Brewery (Chișinău) – bere artizanală bună livrată cu zîmbet. Să colaborezi cu un business mic înseamnă să afli despre produsele noi chiar din gura berarilor, cu tot entuziasmul care trebuie să însoțească o bere nouă.

Beermaster Brewery (Bălți) - Beermaster este mai curînd un producător industrial decît artizanal, dar are niște beri foarte bune. Ei sfidează hegemonia brandului Chișinău și o fac avînd un produs bun, fiind mîndri de el și avînd multă grijă de consumatorii lor. 

Elvis Brewery (Puhoi) – Nu, nu acel Elvis. Denumirea este, de fapt, un acronim care vine de la numele copiilor primului berar, și chiar dacă e puțin derutantă, reflectă perfect spiritul de familie al acestei afaceri. Stas, actualul manager și berar, aduce niște băuturi îndrăznețe și experimentale în mica sa berărie rurală și mereu le livrează cu un zîmbet contagios și gesturi prietenoase. 

Leonard Caffe (furnizor de cafea) - Vlad Talambuță este cel mai muncitor bărbat din domeniu. El vinde cafea, arendează mașini de cafea la oficii și restaurante și este extrem de pasionat de afacerea sa. Înainte de deschidere, Vlad și Matt au petrecut o după-amiază încercînd diferite amestecuri personalizate de boabe, pînă au izbutit să creeze amestecul Smokehouse cu gust tradițional de cafea americană. Într-o zi Vlad a fost lovit de o mașină, dar chiar și așa a ajuns la Smokehouse pentru a rezolva o întrebare de business și a lua un espresso (serios).

Fruitbox – fructe și legume proaspete livrate la ușa ta cu personalitate. Serghei întruchipează eficiența serviciului de livrare a fructelor și legumelor proaspete. El are o mustață perfect aranjată și conduce un microbuz VW (care s-a defectat lîngă restaurant cel puțin o dată). În fiecare zi el ne aduce o selecție de fructe și legume proaspete și niciodată nu ne dezamăgește. Am dat peste el și în cele mai arbitrare locuri din oraș, întrucît este mereu în căutare de clienți diverși – vrei fructul dragonului? Serghei e omul tău. Ce zici de o rădăcinoasă rară din Amazonia? Dacă poate fi găsită sau adusă în Moldova, el o va face.

Dulce Plai – miere pentru o cauză bună. Dulce plai este o întreprindere socială din Ungheni care produce miere de cea mai bună calitate. Ei își prețuiesc clienții și orice conversație cu echipa lor te face să te simți un consumator apreciat și important. Acum ei au și un website pentru comenzi online, dar chiar poți conta pe orice membru al echipei pentru o livrare în orice punct al Chișinăului.

 

De ce vorbesc despre acești furnizori? Pentru a accentua puterea micului business. Toate aceste afaceri sunt mici. Ele sunt orientate spre consumator și știu că a avea un produs bun nu este suficient. O cafea, o bere sau o ceapă bună nu mă fac să vorbesc despre aceste companii cu zîmbetul pe față. Dar relația pe care o am cu ei și tratamentul, serviciul pe care îl primesc. Aceasta este o comunitate de business. Acesta este un ecosistem antreprenorial.

În Moldova nu prea există așa ceva. Oportunitatea elogiată în titlul acestui articol ar trebui să fie clară. Ar putea exista cu mult, mult mai multe afaceri de genul acesta. Toți jucătorii mari pot fi înlocuiți, iar consumatorii ca mine ar fi ÎNCÎNTAȚI să-i înlocuiască. Eu aș fi ÎNCÎNTAT să găsesc un nou furnizor de carne, produse uscate etc etc.

Nu sunt sigur că vei vedea ceva optimist în cele expuse, dar sper sincer că da. Eu cred în oportunitățile din Moldova și cred că dacă avem un ecosistem puternic de business mic, putem prospera cu toții. Așadar, de ce să nu te alături?

 

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Of LLCs and SRLs Part #2 - Banking and Conclusions

This is Part 2 of the process of introduing a US based LLC as a parent company of a Moldovan SRL. Find Part 1 here.

 

Note: this post is mostly a wordy, if humorous, take on banking and wire transfers in Moldova. If you would like to jump to the recommendations section for Parts 1 & 2 of this post do so here

 

**Update Nov 15: we just finalized all of the papers so this process is over. Once we got through the lower level people to the department director things got much easier. This is in spite of the fact that they royally messed up our paperwork. The director fixed it all himself and was not only professional but extremely pleasant to work with. It's always a wonder when you find someone in the government who really wants to help and make your day easier. Today, at the end of this mess, I have a lot of respect for the State Registration Chamber. Also we discovered that we can in fact have multiple "Administrators" of the company. Post coming soon...

 

Section 4: Wire Transfers and a Note on Banking in Moldova

 

This section is about the process of the wire transfer from the American bank (we use Wells Fargo) to the Moldovan bank (Mobias Bank). I know this seems like a pretty trivial discussion and perhaps even a waste of time, after all wire transfers pretty standard procedures. This is true, however there are enough nuances that it's worth mentioning here. Additionally I'll mention a few notable differences in dealing with banks here vs. in the states. 

Ok, so off we go. 

The first step we did was to go to the bank and ask what we should do. The basic procedure that was presented to us is this:

  1. Initiate the wire transfer from the states. It was mentioned in passing that the money should be indicated for statutory capital in the wire transfer (more info below). 
  2. On reception of the funds in Moldova come to the bank and present it with documents proving the purpose of the money. In this case that purpose is "to increase the statutory capital of the Moldovan SRL" and these documents are decisions by the companies to invest in/be invested in.
  3. Receive from the bank a confirmation of the money transfers reception with a value for the money in MDL (in our case we have a USD account at Mobias Bank so this reflects the amount the money was worth on arrival and will determine any profits/losses the company will incur as a result of currency fluctuations).
  4. Request from the bank a document confirming that the money was received for the purpose of statuatory capital. This is basically a form letter and the silly process of getting it I will mention below. 
  5. Bring these documents to State Registration Chamber so they can enter it into the statutory capital. 

 

So this is what we did with one notable exception. #1 says that we need to indicate that the money is for statutory capital. What they mean by this is writing something in the comments box of the wire transfer form. I forgot to do this and assumed that this is fine because they have ample proof in the form of contracts / us being physically present telling them things. It seemed a little silly that the comments box, used for things like "happy birthday sweetie!" on your Western Union transfers could be such a big thing. You know where this is going...

In fact, this is a very big deal in Moldova. After the received the money and we came in to stamp lots of documents and such they called us back in later in the day to resolve the comments issue. They told us that we need to amend the comments within 36 hours or they would send the money back. We were obviously startled by how serious this seemed to be and asked if something else was possible, maybe more papers from us (after all it IS OUR MONEY) or a call from the bank in the US or literally anything. Nope. It needed to be changed. We explained that wire transfers aren't like facebook wall posts that can be edited after you sober up. They remained adamant that it needed to be done. 

 

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admirable in so many circumstances... of which this is not one

 

So we called up Wells Fargo and (predictably) they said, "ummm the comments box? really?" to which we replied "yes. This is Moldova. If there is literally any tiny spec of a process that does not have bureaucracy in it they will find a way." We asked them if there was anything at all they could do. They responded "I don't know sir. Let me find someone who does and get back to you." Hearing those lines over the phone in Moldova is more refreshing that you can possibly imagine. Our bank here (Mobias), despite charging us an arm and a leg above Wells Fargo on constant fees responds to those questions with "I have no idea." full-stop. Wells Fargo called back and said that transfers can't be changed past 30 min after their departure. We explained to them that this was critical to us. Not only did our money hang in the balance but possibly our visas (the upcoming post on Visa Part II will explain this). They said, "ok sir let me call our wire department and see if we can't figure it out." After the process in Moldova this was literally music to my ears. 

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you get me kid

 

 

It turned out they could somehow. Basically they sent a followup message somehow. Wonderful customer service Wells Fargo.

 

...back to Mobias. A few days after the transfer went through, they called us and asked if we wanted a confirmation from them that the money was in the statutory capital (#5 above). We went into the bank thinking they needed more paperwork from us but she just asked if we want this document. We were like "why do we need it?" She replied "I don't know." Didn't see that coming did you?

 

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eventually rightious anger fades to mild indignation and then just 
bitterness with a faint notion that somewhere things aren't like this...

 

We asked why she called us in then. She said "lots of people get it." We asked "how much does it cost?" She said 200 lei (~$13). We were like "you want us to spend 200 lei on something we may not need for a reason you don't know." She said "well... it could be 60 lei." Not the answer I was looking for (at least it got less expensive I suppose...). 

We called our lawyer and he recommended we get it because more documents is always superior to fewer documents in Moldova (also not the answer I wanted but sadly very true here). As icing on the cake with this exchange the following happened. While she prepared the document she asked us "where did the money come from." We said "our American company." She said (while pointing irritatedly at the wire transfer confirmation form) "where does it say that here? I don't see your company's name at all!!" (a mix of irritation and triumph on her face for finding our "mistake"). I numbly pointed at the form where it has Wells Fargo and the relevant account numbers and such. She was looking unsatisfied so I decided to show her my best "I have no idea how to process this. I did not invent the wire transfer system. Furthermore, you have already exlained that you do this process many many times. What the #*$% are you #*$%ing talking about!!!" face. It looked like this...

 

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oh how you undertand me internet...

 

In a brief summary of other differences between Mobias Bank and Wells Fargo...

 Mobias Bank Wells Fargo 
Hard questions confuse them and get no answer.  Hard questions get the response "let me find someone who can help you with that" 
Mistakes they make are your fault*  Mistakes you make are going to get their full attention and never an accusation (see above wire transfer story 
Their "bank client" for managing your account online a.) does not work b.) can only be installed on Windows XP or earlier c.) looks like it was made in 1993 and d.) doesn't have an installer, opting instead for 2 convenient videos (read huge filesize, available on cd only and without explanation, captioning or sound) explaining hot to manually install the program dlls in the system32 folder. This was literally the first time in my life I was unhappy not to find the README file.  Has wonderful online banking 
Their policies are 100% uncompromising (even if they differ as you talk to different people) You are a customer and your needs are treated with respect. If they can help you, they will. 

 

*At one point this mislabeled a deposit we made to statutory capital - aka they forgot to mark what it was for. They then told us that we made a mistake and that they clearly "thought it was a loan." We said "we have done a loan and you needed a ton of contracts for that too so there's no way that's true." They said, fix it - not my problem.

Final note: In defense of Mobias Bank I can say that the following 2 things are true. 1.) The Moldovan Government has saddled them with a whole lot of silliness to deal with in terms of regulations so this isn't all their fault and 2.) all the other banks here are likely just as bad. That said, I am a customer. I have put a lot of money in your care. At least give me enough respect to realize that I did not either invent the banking system or study it in school. I'm not stupid for not knowing things, especially things that you don't know. So find me the person who does please. 

 

Section 5: Conclusions and Recommendations

 

1.) Just an SRL or SRL / LLC combo?

What do you need? If you need to manage anything more complicated than a company that you form in Moldova with your personal money (aka - no investors, no sale of shares nothing) then you should not deal with the SRL system. Found your company somewhere sane and manage it there with an SRL here to conduct the business. Let me stress here (because I think I forgot to earlier) this is not a tax strategy. You will likely pay more taxes this way because you pay US taxes on top of Moldovan taxes and even if you can fully write off the Moldova taxes (posts about this later when we manage our taxes) US tax rates may be higher than Moldovan taxes if you are talking about an LLC because profits are passed through to the indvidual who are subject to their personal tax rate. This is solely about your sanity. 

2.) Thinking about changing anything about the Moldovan SRL's statutory capital?

Hire a decent lawyer unless it's as easy as selling some shares to your cousin Ivan. Even then, hire a lawyer. 

3.) Apostiles and Documents

In Moldova there is a paradox. More documents is always better than fewer documents. However, whoever is reading your documents believes everything contained therein is their business. Our strategy was therefore find out what happy middle ground would pass muster. That said, because of the time delay involved and in spite of the cost we got Apostiles for MANY MANY more documents than we ultimately needed. $10 more up front is better than $10 + lost time + another $100+ DHL packet later.

4.) Time time time

Allot so much more time than you ever thought would be necessary for literally everything

5.) Wire transfer - check well in advance with both banks to see what is needed

Ideally have the Moldova bank write it down. They probably won't because it gives them deniability later (or they will but without a stamp they can deny it anyways). 

6.) Moldovan Banks - watch everything

Mistakes are your fault and it's your money so don't make them. 

7.) Next time you think about being short-tempered or rude to an American customer service representative don't.

Seriously. You have no idea what a wonderful job they are doing in spite of dealing with people like me (ask any one of my college roommates). Possible exceptions here for the robot (yell away) and anyone who works for Comcast or Verizon who, while possibly being nice people, are in the employ of satanically evil companies and thus forfeit some of their protections under this recommendation. 

8.) Keep your head up. 

Everything in Moldova is far harder than it should be but ultimately solvable. We're doing this because we believe the rewards outweigh the challenges and have some hope for change. You aren't alone being frustrated but just think of how funny this will all be in retrospect? right...?

Tagged in: Banking Bureaucracy LLC SRL
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Of LLCs and SRLs Part #1

Note 1: This post is an update to our first post about organizing a company in Moldova. While that post was pretty general and explained our initial reasoning this one will attempt to explain the results of that reasoning over the last few months and a few preliminary recommendations for other entrepreneurs (ok, this got long. Conclusions Recommendations will be in Part 2 [COMING SOON]). We will be writing a further update on this topic later on with more solid recommendations. (small update below)

Note 2: This post is covering quite a lot of experience had over a long period of time. The topic is dense and often technical. Please comment if things are unclear and I will add more information. Also, as usual, please feel free to tell us how stupid we are. Everyone can learn from that. 

 

Jump to... (note to use these section links open up the full version of the post by clicking the title or on "Continue Reading" below)

Section 1
Basic Organization 

Section 2
Selling Shares vs Adding a Founder: 
Section 3
The Necessary Documents for Adding a Founder
Section 4
Notarizations, Apostilles, Translations and DHL 

 

 

So Begins a Tale of SRLs and LLCs...

 

 

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The path to success is almost self evident!

 

 

Section 1: Basic Organization


 

I'll begin where the last post ended which was with a discussion of the process that we decided to embark upon. That was to organize the companies basically as follows:

 

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I'll let you all guess which silhouette represents which manager...

  

So to describe what you're seeing there we founded a Moldovan SRL called "Smoke House SLR" (they refused to believe it was one word and we didn't fight it). Additionally we founded an American LLC called "The Moldova Company LLC" in Virginia. The purpose of the LLC, as described briefly in the previous post, is to escape from some of the more challenging bureaucratic differences between a Moldovan SRL and an American LLC. These all...

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Applying for a Visa to be an Entrepreneur in Moldova

Update 29/9/14: it seems that Americans (and possibly other countries but I have no idea which) are allowed to apply for 5 year visas instead of just 1. This was conveyed to us by one of the branches of government tasked with approving our visas. We are trying to alter the documents post-submission but are unsure if it will succeed. Stay tuned. 

So if you're not a Moldovan and you're going to try and start a business in Moldova you will need a visa. This is an interesting process and by "interesting" I mean basically horrible. Firstly, here are the top-level requirements:

 

If you are from a country that has visa-free entry to the Republic of Moldova (like America and Most of Europe - a list is provided here but I have no idea if it's up to date)

  1. You can enter Moldova for 90 days without a visa
  2. While in Moldova you cannot work but CAN found a company (but don't forget the rules of foreign ownership)
  3. You must apply for your visa while you still have 30 days left on your visa-free stay
  4. They will evaluate your visa for 30 days. After that you go back to the office and they tell you yes / no

If you require a visa to enter the Republic of Moldova - good luck. I encountered a lot of the paperwork for this process and while it seemed straightforward it's a fair bet that it's anything but. Anyhow, I have no experience with it (if you do please comment below)

 

Ok, so you need a visa. How hard can that be? You're an entrepreneur after all! you have money you want to invest in the economy! you are an engine of change that will help Moldova by employing people and paying taxes! surely they want you to be here.

 

Well actually their attitude is more like...

 

 

 

IEpxyFr

...and you are nothing.  

 

 

Sooo.. our adventure first begins with figuring out the requirements for applying for such a visa. This brings us to the always exciting topic of government IT. Now I know that probably caused anyone in the US with a familiarity with the government to chuckle because we all know things are bad in that sector. Here in Moldova someone once had the intention to build a lot of great websites. They built them in Russian, Romanian and English. Wonderful! So we start at the homepage for the Bureau of Migration. You first notice that whatever language you have selected recent postings to the site are in Romanian. Understood, it's the state language but there are literally no other updates in the past few years. Troubling. So we go to the top to site items - the search bar and the "Questions and Answers" (FAQ) section. The FAQ doesn't exist (in any language) and we don't have privileges on the site to search. Not a good start. 

So you stumble through the menu items for a while to try and find the visa requirements and eventually find the application for the "Temporary residence right for immigrants workers" which helpfully says that it applies to migrant workers, border workers (?) and heads of economic units (me!). I quickly review the list and see that most of it is pretty easy. Some things like proving higher education don't apply to "heads of economic units" and much of the other work is just filing the company's papers. That said, I've been in Moldova a while so I decided to go to the office, helpfully (or comically?) referred to as "One-Stop Shop," to see get a consultation. There a very helpful woman goes through your documents, tells you if they are correct and eventually refers you to the appropriate counter. My documents were not correct. It turns out that that English version of the list online is old. She gave me a new Romanian version which I immediately noticed only had 11 items instead of the previous 14. I explained that I don't speak Romanian and she handed me a Russian copy with has 14 items on it - but they are different from the English copy. Hmmmm. I retreat to my house to look over my documents and figure this out. 

I decided that the best option is to get back on the website and use google translate to translate each language and see where the discrepancies are. This is a problem because the site creator maintainer utterly failed at cross-linking pages. That means that when you are on the page you want in one language and change the site language it redirects you to the homepage. I was able to blunder about in Russian to find the same information (in a totally different spot of course) but without the benefit of search the Romanian page eluded me. Since then I've become convinced that it doesn't actually exist on the site at all. 

So then. I've already made the mistake of giving my landlady my only copy of the Romanian documents so she can use it to go get a proof of residency for me. I decided to follow the Russian list and hope it just had some extra stuff. It took almost a month to get all of this figured out for reasons I'll explain below. When I finally applied, proudly holding all of my documents in hand the immediate reaction was - this is totally wrong. It turns out, the Romanian list is ALSO WRONG. There is no correct listing in any language. Furthermore the nice woman who consults you and sits day in and day out 20 ft from the application window is more or less fluent in the requirements as listed by law but as those are evidently designed to give you a sample of what is eventually required this is not enough. 

 squirrel-facepalm-473

facepalm or crying? I'll let you decide

 

I won't go through the rest of this process here play by play as it was too tedious. On my second trip to the actual application window (my 6th trip to the office) there was a wonderful woman there who helped to explain exactly what we needed. She even spoke some English and really did her level best to help us understand what she needed. Like so many other things in Moldova an accurate brochure would have been a lot easier than stumbling about blindly hoping to find the correct person to ask. That said, it's wonderful to find such a person. 

Ok, I'm going to list the English Language version of things below and correct it. Before I can do that though I need to explain a critical caveat to this whole mess. As I said above you can found a company before you get your visa. For people who read previous posts here that is what we did. That makes me a founder / investor in the company. It does NOT make me an "Administrator" of the company. This title cannot be held by someone without a work visa. Therefore when Matt and my visas are awarded we will join Vlad as "Administrators" in the company by altering our registration. It therefore stands to reason that as an Investor / Founder I am by default a "head of an economic unit." If not, why in the world would there be exemptions in visa law for them? they literally could not exist?! Can you guess where this is going? Yup. It turns out I am NOT a "head of economic unit" until AFTER I receive the visa. 

Ok, on to the list:

Legend

original text 
general clarifications
regarding number of documents / copies

 

1.Application form; --- the version on the website is only for workers. If you are an investor you need to get another copy (only available at the office) that is a little more tailored --- 2 original versions - no xerox

2.Approach of the company / organization / institution; --- 2 original versions - no xerox. Company stamp required

3.Passport in original and a copy of it, with corresponding entries applied by the control body of the state border (which confirms the date and place of the border crossing), and a copy of the long stay visa (for foreigners entering based on visa); --- 2 original versions - no xerox

4.Favorable note regarding the invitation of applicant to work from the State Register of enterprises and organizations (except heads of economic units); we did not need this

5.Copies of constituent documents of the company (registration certificate, statement from the State Register of enterprises and organizations, license on the type of activity);

6.Individual labour contract for workers (except heads of economic units); we did need this despite being the company's owners. Basically we hired ourselves as "Administrators." This turned out to be unacceptable as we are not yet Administrators under Moldovan Law. We were told to use literally any other word. We chose "Director." When we returned with new contracts a different woman was working there and was very concerned about this. She wanted to know what we were directors of. I replied "the company" but she was unsatisfied. She eventually let it go but only after trouble. It seemed a bit like she was unconcerned about it from an application standpoint but was trying to keep us from shortchanging ourselves by not having a good enough title.  --- 2 xerox copies. The original has to stay with the company

7.Documents confirming the activity of the company (certificate issued by the State Tax Inspectorate on lack of debts to the government budget, a copy of financial report for the last reporting period); - 

8.Copy of studies or other evidence that confirms the qualification of the specialist invited to work, tranlated in the state language and legalized/apostil according to the legislation in force (except heads of economic units); we did not need this

9.Evidence of living space (the owner’s place agreement drawn up by the notary/tenacy/contract of sale (donation) of the home); this is a notarized declaration by your landlord, or whoever you are staying with that you stay there --- 2 xerox copies. For some reason they won't take the original

10.Criminal record from the country of origin, legalized / apostilled (as established), translated into language and legalized by the notary or consular; This was hilarious. The US Embassy doesn't help you get FBI Background checks. I called the FBI and they reluctantly insinuated that I *could* fingerprint myself and mail it to them. They would then do the check and I would have to figure some way to then get it from them to the Department of State for an Apostille. Whole process? ~$50 and over 1 month. Before doing this I decided to ask some friends here. Turns out there is another way. If you go to the US Embassy and swear an affidavit that you are not a wanted criminal they will certify the statement. The Moldovan government accepts this.--- original + 1 xerox

11.Medical certificate showing that the applicant does not suffer from diseases that may endanger public health (m. Chişinău, av. Grigore Vieru, 22/2); This is stipulated as an HIV/AIDS test online. The Romanian and Russian versions do not have it however and only require a blood typing be done. It turns out this is the real version. The address they give is rather hard to find though and after wandering haplessly through a large complex for a while where absolutely no one had any idea what the hell I was talking about I found a small room with a bored woman in it who did blood tests. Total time: 3 min. Total cost: 35 lei ($2.40) or 54 lei (3.50) if you are Matt for who knows what reason.

12.Copy of health insurance valid for at least three months; At the desk the woman made it quite clear that my international insurance was no good here after those three months they mention (it is) and that I need to go by Moldovan insurance (which is good nowhere, especially here). Anyhow, I will clarify when I pick it up but I believe that this is legally required. 

13.Evidence of maintenance funds in the amount corresponding to the category right of residence requested; we did not need this
14.Two coloured photos, size 3x4;

 

So what didn't they mention here? That you need to also go to the bank and deposit a ~140 lei in one account and ~1400 lei in another. That seemed kinda suspect but the bank knew exactly what was going on and gave us the appropriate receipts to return to the office. Around $110 bucks is a bit steep for all the "getting screwed" that it seemed to buy me but at least the papers are in. 

Oh yeah - and here's a major disclaimer. Probably none of that is really true. It was true for the woman I applied with. Funny how these things seem to change based on which deity is behind the desk. Anyhow, please take this as a statement of what they finally accepted from us. Not as "the real requirements." As to those...

 

Aufkleber ChallengeAccepted

I am quite confident that the information you request does not exist. 

 

 

I'll update this on October 9th when we hear our results. 

 

 

 

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"How much does it cost?" - The Process of Hiring Moldovan Services

If you're the type of person who scans to the end I'll save you the trouble. The answer to the title question is "No One Knows"
...or perhaps "I won't ever tell!" (which is also the name of a rather unfortunate song from Fat Joe). 

Ok, what are we actually talking about here? Let's start at the beginning. Ever business needs services. Some of these are easier to farm out than to do internally - often legal and accounting fall into this category. This post is about our experience trying to hire an accountant. This process has turned out to be rather difficult in Moldova. Partly this is because most accountants are uninterested in working with a restaurant due to the high numbers of transactions but it is also because of meetings like the following. 

So, we go to meet the senior accountant at a small firm. She came highly recommended to us by a friend who's parent's company contracts with her and she speaks English Russian and Romanian well. Seems perfect. When we arrive we are ushered into a room with her and her firm's Director. It is possible I have mentioned the status of directors in Moldova in the past. In short their importance in an enterprise is only surpassed by their self importance. 

 

RUSSIA 2569148b

"Why yes I am the director of the village kindergarden"

 

This woman did not speak English and promptly suggested we all learn "Moldovan" so that we may communicate together. Leading any business meeting with a highly political joke never failed right?

 Diversity-Day-michael-scott-492791 796 498

...right?

 

Ok, I'm being overly critical. The reality was that over the next hour and a half we got a lot of great information about how accounting in Moldova works and what their services are. Yes, it is true that since they had no information about this in writing we had to haphazardly circle around in the hopes of finding the right question. Yes a brochure would have been nicer. Yes we spent an absurd about of time bickering about silly things totally unrelated to accounting (e.g. Vlad explains that we will all be company directors when our documents finish. The "director" explains this is impossible because there is only one "director." We explain that it is very possible under Moldovan Law. Bickering ensues... and this is totally unrelated to accounting). Nonetheless it was pretty good information. Until this happened, (paraphrased - it took MUCH longer than this with a lot of repetition from all sides)Me: wonderful. Thank you for the information. What are your prices?

The Director: Well, you see that is very complicated... [much information here about all the papers the will (presumably) need to stamp 4+ times]

Me: Ok, I understand. That sounds like quite a lot. What are your prices?

The Director: It's complicated, you see we need to go to this and that office for approvals... etc etc etc

Me: What are your prices?

The Director: [more about complications] well it will cost you 2000 lei (about $140) for a 3 month startup period

Me: Great. Thank you for that. How much will it cost monthly after that

The Director: Well that is terribly complicated. Every business is different after all!! [more about complicated documents]

Me: so you can't tell us what it will cost to hire you?

The Director: well it won't just be one cost but based on a number of factors!

Me: ok, what are they?

The Director: it's often based on number of transations [more verbal vomiting about complications]

Me: I understand. What would a sample cost be per transaction and how many such transactions can we expect per month?

The Director: [more verbal vomiting about complications]

Matt: Please, can you just tell us what a normal price is for a small cafe similar to us? (during this time Matt and Vlad have also spoken a lot - Vlad translating everything - but this is all the gist)

The Director: [more verbal vomiting about complications]

Me: I'm confused. Are you telling us that you are unable to give us any information about how much it costs to hire you?

The Director: [more verbal vomiting about complications]

Me: Is it a mystery? (this elicited a chuckle from the accountant but had no effect on the director)

The Director: [more verbal vomiting about complications]

Me: I'm confused...

The Director: [more verbal vomiting about complications]

Me: WAIT!! let me get this straight. We hire you for 3 months at 2000 lei and after that. After signing the contract. You tell us how much your services will cost us ongoing. Furthermore you are 100% unable to provide the slightest glimpse as to what this price might be until we have signed that contract?!?

The Director: Yes.

The Director: [more verbal vomiting about complications]

The Director: [more verbal vomiting about complications]

The Director: [more verbal vomiting about complications]

triple facepalm

Lacking the Nazi uniforms this is exactly how we looked.

 

Any Peace Corps Volunteer can tell you how difficult it can be to get a real answer from someone in a meeting here. What I realized in this process is how much different it feels when I'm talking about my money. Which is when it clicked. 

This is about grants

This woman made multiple attempts throughout the conversation to figure out what our "budget" was. Now it isn't that we don't have a budget, just that it's most aptly described as "small and shrinking." In Moldova however when you see a foreigner 9 times in 10 they are not here for business but for international development. This is the crux of the problem. Like I said above (in bold) we're talking about my money here. If I were working off a development grant it would be someone else's money. Moldova is very used to people with the later. Furthermore, the economy practically spins around on trying to find out what price a bureaucrat in a grant giving country decided a service might be worth in Moldova. By figuring out the budgeted price they can charge "exactly that' and they get their maximum price while not technically disappointing a grand giving entity. In fact anyone who has ever worked to spend grant money knows that you get mega points for spending it all exactly as promised and exactly zero points and occasional animosity for saving the granting agency's money

So is this a concrete example of the culture (*cough* addiction) to international aid interfering in the Moldovan services market? I won't go that far but it's made me think for sure.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Posted by on in Stories From The Field
Choosing a Bank

Ok team, this post shall be short and sweet. The title pretty much lets you know what it's about and the lead in pic gives away the end. So, Mobias Bank eh? why?

The answer turns out to be more that there wasn't anything significant to chase us away from it. In order to get there let me list off the main banking options in Moldova as well as their affiliations. 

 

Bank  International Affiliation Notes
Moldova Agroindbank   N/A This is the bank used by Peace Corps which speaks rather highly to it. 
BCR Bank   Erste Group (Germany)  
Mobias Bank  Groupe Societe Generale (France)   
Victoria Bank N/A Owned by and closely affiliated with Vladimir Plahotniuc, sometimes called "Moldova's one and only oligarch." Multiple people have referred to Victoria Bank as the safest bank in the country because of its association with Mr. Plahotniuc. 
Banka de Economia N/A Accused of laundering Russian Magnitsky Case money (see this article) amongst other possible scandals
Procredit Bank  Procredit Group (headquarters in Germany) Relatively small footprint in Moldova

 

I'd like to say that we did exhaustive research here but we pretty much just gathered the above information and decided that we wanted our money in an internationally backed bank which leaving Mobias and BCR. Choosing between them pretty much came down to convenience of location. 

Have any thoughts as to which bank we should have picked? do you have better metrics? comment below!

Coming soon - an equally breif post about picking an American bank for International Business. 

Tagged in: Banking Corruption SRL
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The first real question we were faced with after deciding to start our business was "how shall it be organized?" In America this is usually a question between LLC vs. a Limited Partnership. In Moldova there are some other considerations that needed to be settled. In order of how we explored them...

Can foreigners invest in / own Moldovan companies?

Yes. Non-Moldovans can own up to 99% of what is called a "mixed capital" Moldovan firm. Foreign firms can additionally wholly own subsidiaries in Moldova but this is subject to rules that I don't know anything about. Since we have 2 American and 1 Moldovan partner this seemed like a reasonable stipulation and not one likely to get in our way. Once we understood that it was possible to start a company here without too many hoops to jump through we asked...

**Update 8/18/14** I forgot to mention a really key fact here that is really rather important. In the event that any of your investors are NOT located in Moldova / able to fly to Moldova regurally to sign documents you need be ready to have them send Gold Apostilles every time you need to make a company decision requiring their aproval. A Gold Apostille is a type of international notorization authorized by a 1960s Hague Convention and is issued by competent authorities in every country party to the convention. Every US state does this differently and I've seen evidence of cost ranging from $10 to $200 per document. You can imagine that this has the potential to be a real burden. Thank you Clayton for the comments that inspired this edit :)

How to organize in Moldova - should we start an SRL or an SA?

SRL is a Romanian acronym for Societate cu Răspundere Limitată which basically translates to Limited Liability Company or LLC. An S.A. is similarly a Romanian acronym for a Joint Stock Company. Our instinct was to start an SRL because in US terms this is the most sensible company type for an enterprise of our size and composition. It allows the most flexibility and the least burdensome regulatory and tax structure (for an overview of LLC info see nolo). I won't dwell for too long on the question of SRL vs. SA from a legal standpoint. Our preference was for an LLC structure and because of that the primary question we sought to answer was...

Are SRLs just like LLCs?

Nope. We found from a friend who is an American Entrepreneur in Moldova that, despite assurances of Moldovan businessmen, accountants, and the fiscal authorities they are NOT identical in one critical way. You cannot issue new shares in an SRL. This means that if your company initially allocates "100 units" of stock but wants to seek additional capital in exchange for investment it cannot issue new shares (diluting the old ones) in exchange. The owners are forced to sell their personal shares which then forces them to loan / give the profit to the company as it's seen as a personal gain. Given this situation our friend highly recommended that we start an SA instead of an SRL. So...

What are the requirements for an SA?

No one knows. Funny as that sounds there is some truth to it evidently. After consulting with Chisinau based entrepreneurs and accountants we were told very directly that SAs are so uncommon, especially as a structure for Moldovan startups (as opposed to large foreign firms) that the fiscal authorities literally have almost no experience in dealing with them. This means, we were told, that we would be in for a world of uncertainty and ambiguity from the government (aka a world of hurt) if we started an SA. Which led to...

How in the world do people get around these problems?

They don't create their company under Moldovan business law. Apparently it's quite easy to hop a ticked to the UK for a weekend and set up a company there. This company can then benefit from the UK's legal system and easily accessible and time tested structures. This company then invests in a controlling stake in a Moldo

b2ap3_thumbnail_419229_10100439966894870_1508236593_n.jpgvan SRL (99%). Thus the shareholder management, banking, etc is accomplished in a more developed legal system while the day to day workings of the company remain in Moldova. The profits will be subject to more difficult taxation but this will be a price worth paying* for being able to manage the company under more understandable legal structures. So...


What are we gonna do?

Well it seems silly to go to the UK since we have two American partners. We decided to register an American company which would then acquire the Moldovan one - following the above mentioned procedure exactly but with America substituted for the UK. 

Pictured right: attempts at rationalizing all of this process. David (me) is trying to talk it out. Matt is *concerned*

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the next post we will describe this registration process in some more depth and explain how it all went.  

 

Footnotes:

*I think ;) - we have yet to earn profits or pay taxes so stay tuned. 

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