As part of the Businesswomen in Europe Series, I interviewed Elina Ivanova, CEO of Princeps.
Princeps is an advertising agency in Bulgaria, and has won awards. It was established in 1991, and has provided its services to over 200 clients, including some very large brands. The company offers advertising through several different media outlets, such as TV, Radio, Print and much more.
Bio: Elina Ivanova
Elina Ivanova has successfully lead the company since 2008, she went to the New Bulgaria University, and is a graduate of Visual arts and Advertising. She is now the CEO of the Princeps advertising agency, located in the Bulgarian capital of Sofia.
At university, did you always dream of becoming an entrepreneur?
The main business that I am running is actually a family business – Princeps Advertising – a full communication services agency . It is one of the first agencies in Bulgaria, established in 1991 by my mother Elena Marinova – a guru in the marketing sphere. I’ve grown up being in the office of the agency almost everyday and taking over the management was the most natural thing to happen. When 7 years ago I became the CEO, I changed everything – the services, the approach, the type of clients .. and I find that move really successful today.
I’ve also started two businesses in a very different sphere this year, so I may say that the entrepreneurship is something that lives inside me. The university is just a base, a first step on the right way of making business, but without practice it is nothing.
What are your personal characteristics that made you successful?
They call me “too ambitious”, but I find that the most important if you really want to be successful, respected and followed. It sounds like a cliche, but it is important not to give up, to learn from your own mistakes everyday and analyse the mistakes of the others around you.
The most valuable is that I learned during the past 7 years how to “sell myself” to the clients. If I can make them trust me, that means I can make the other people trust their products and services as well. To know how to talk to completely different type of people is something that is “a must know” in our business.
In the future, what are your ambitions for Princeps?
In 1999 Princeps was awarded for the Best Advertising Agency in Bulgaria, because of its big professional team with perfect skills, great clients and unique campaigns. It was the year when my mother died in a car crash. I have promised myself to make the agency even more successful than that.
In advertising, what makes your company unique?
We are more likely to be called consultants than executives, because we know perfectly how advertising works, how people think and how to make them believe that what our client is selling is the best thing they can get. There it a problem that we have saw on the Bulgarian market – people think that if they put some advertising on a billboard or on tv, the next day they will start receiving tons of money from their clients, but actually most of the times they haven’t even positioned their product right or don’t know which is their target or …have no idea why people like or don’t like their product. That is our speciality – we go back to the first step of their marketing, make analyses, find the mistakes, fix them, give best solutions for their advertising strategy and then we proceed with the creation of the ads or the PR. The other agencies go straight to the last one and then wonder why the ads do not work.
Your company recently won the Best Brands in Bulgaria award, how did you achieve this?
We really work hard and we always try to promote our clients, not ourselves. We are always “backstage”, the other agencies are making the mistake to try to promote their own brand, not their client’s. Can you guess which one is the preferred one?
Elina Ivanova recieves the Best Brands In Bulgaria 2013 award
You operate in Bulgaria, would you like your company to spread internationally?
Not for now. To work as we do, one should know the market by heart. To spend hours, days, years learning how people think and why. If we go outside, probably it will take a long time to offer the same service and to be sure that we are giving the best possible. May be it is a good idea to try the countries that are on the Balkans – the target their is similar to ours, but we still have a lot to do in Bulgaria before expanding outside.
When employing somebody, what characteristics do you look for?
During the years, I realised that it is better to hire somebody that is ambitious, curious and able to learn fast, than somebody with a huge CV that has been on a similar position. I have young and old members of the team and for sure the young ones work better, because they are happy to learn new things, to grow as the company grows and to risk and try new and modern thinks, and for example they do simple tasks like finding something in google way faster and give fresh ideas more often.
How do you motivate your employees?
Mostly by showing them what they can achieve if they think & work more than the others. They follow me, because they like my example and of course. Of course there are always bonuses, presents, holidays and etc.
If you advised an aspiring entrepreneur, what advice would you give them?
Don’t hesitate do risk. You can not be better if you do what others do. You may fail once, that’s normal, but if you don’t risk, you will never make a change. Learn from the mistakes of the others and make them your best strengths.