The United Macedonian Diaspora (UMD)’s Generation M Global Co-Chair Kristina Dimitrievski was delighted to have the opportunity to speak with Fleming Stojanovski, an Australian-Macedonian, operating one of Australia’s Top 100 Accounting firms called Commercial Associates (CAAA) for UMD Voice magazine. Fleming’s family emigrated to Denmark from Macedonia in 1968, and then to Australia in 1973. His family has visited Macedonia several times, and like many Macedonians, he has widespread opinions on the country today, its place in the world and the status of Macedonians abroad.
Tell me about yourself: you grew up in Australia? When did your family leave Macedonia/go to Australia?
My family migrated to Australia from Denmark in 1973. I was born in Copenhagen in 1972 where my parents had migrated in 1968. Like many migrant families we tried to return to Macedonia several times, but the realities of communist Yugoslavia saw us come back to the sandy shores of Australia on both occasions.
Do you still have family connections living in Macedonia that you keep in touch with?
Most of my family is in Australia and Scandinavia, but in recent times some our retired elders have decided to go back to Macedonia, and yes, I love staying in touch by social media mostly.
What role/impact did your Macedonian heritage have on you while growing up? What do Macedonia and your Macedonian heritage mean to you?
We really have had a blessed life in Australia, but that does not mean it was perfect. Growing up as a migrant in 1970s Australia was not without its challenges, but we took solace in our culture, faith and community. We are all defined by what we do, but it’s our heritage and upbringing that gives us our boundaries and sense of right or wrong. Our heritage is my compass.
What has been your biggest inspiration or motivation as you have pursued your career and built such a successful accounting firm in such a short time?
CAAA was founded in the egalitarian principle that no one should be precluded from getting outstanding advice on the basis of price. So I went about building an accounting and advisory firm to rival many of our national and international competitors, but one which is accessible to ordinary people. I have a lot of respect for Erin Brockovich and people like her, who along with my family were my major motivators.
What does it mean for you that your company was listed by The Australian Financial Review as one of the top 100 Australian accounting firms? What is your 5-year, 10-year, long-term plan for the company?
Whilst such accolades are not why we do what we do, I am happy that my team has been recognised for its achievements. Over the next 5-10 years we will continue to develop the firm as a credible alternative to our international competitors and expand with a national footprint ourselves. Having said that, I could see myself “working” from a cozy office in Bitola someday…
What advice would you give to a young Macedonian pursuing the same career path as you?
Put your phone down, put your tablet away, take the headphones out of your ears and connect with the people around you. What I do is personal and it’s about people, their goals and problems, and what we can do to help. A good education is important but the mentorship of good professionals is mandatory if you want to be the best you can be. So when that first work opportunity presents itself think more about mentorship and opportunity rather than money…..because financial rewards will follow.
Why did you choose to become a supporter of UMD? How important do you feel the work of UMD is? Do you see the diaspora as playing a key role in Macedonia’s future success?
UMD has always presented itself as an organised and thoughtful organisation. A consistent and coherent voice often surrounded by the rhetoric and noise of ill-informed or ignorant others… UMD definitely has a role not only for what it can achieve but also for the example it sets to other Macedonian advocacy groups.
What are impactful ways you think members of the Macedonian diaspora can give back to their homeland? And how do you feel about the proposed name change?
On both points, I can only answer for myself. But a program that places young Macedonians in work placements abroad would be a good way to give back by valuable mentorship – perhaps you are already doing this?*
On the name issue, I feel that as a Macedonian I have a right to an opinion on the matter, but am mindful that live on the other side of the world in a successful and stable western democracy, far removed from the day to day struggles of the average Macedonian in Macedonia.
In short, I am personally opposed to the name change, and the rationale for the change in every way.
However, the question remains who should decide? The wider diaspora or the Macedonians of Macedonia?
*Editor’s Note: Check out our internship program with Birthright Macedonia.
The views of the author may not necessarily reflect the views of the United Macedonian Diaspora and Generation M.