Natalia Folbrycht was born in Sweden with Polish parents and now living in the Czech Republic for over 3 years. She is a former Sparta Prague football player and was Managing Director of ‘Daymaker’ and ‘Heatex’. She was also a board advisor for the Nordic Chamber of Commerce in the Czech Republic, and is currently COO of WorldClass Czech Republic.
What are your characteristics that have made you successful?
I was raised to believe in myself and that it takes a couple of mistakes to succeed. I’ve also seen, met and worked with driven people that worked hard themselves to achieve their goals and dreams. There are no shortcuts in life! I also believe that my energy and my drive to develop myself every day makes me going and also that I have the courage to put myself out of the comfort zone a bit, without being afraid. I love when people challenge me!
When you were managing director of Daymaker, what was your biggest challenge?
The biggest challenge was to convince the Czech Market that Mystery Shopping was needed in all retail branches to improve the customer service in Czech Republic.
As a strong leader, how do you motivate your employees?
I think by communication and sharing the visions and missions. Also by treating everybody fair and also by rewarding those who work hard and makes an extra effort for the company. I love to give people the opportunity to advance and to grow and develop with the company.
What key advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
Believe in your company and idea
Endurance and Hard Work is key, nothing will happen over night
Be Honest to people around you. It will pay off in the long run
Have the Courage to change and challenge existing ideas and structures. Even though it might get you into a few arguments. No one ever succeeded by being afraid of challenges.
You played football at the same time as running your own business, how did you manage your time?
I know that you are able to manage everything if you are good in organization and by being proactive. Of course you also need a team that you can trust to handle things responsible even if you are not around.
In your business career so far, what has been your biggest success?
Well, I don’t see one thing as a success, I believe in success stories… I think to be able to combine a career as a air host, playing football on top level and running my own bar was a good story. I never got tired of anything, since it was all very varying. I also see the experience with Heatex (production company of heat exchangers) as a success. To first shut down a part of the Swedish factory and then transfer it to Czech Republic and run it with good results in a country which was totally new for me at that time. I also love my challenge in World Class, Czech Republic To be a part of creating a new company culture, new procedures and getting a team together to reach the set goals. The biggest success for me in my career is still to come…
Do you have a motto in business?
“You never know where you meet a person again, so play honest and make decisions based on facts and your hard work will pay off”
Nina Moldovan is a CEO and entrepreneur of several companies in Romania, and has been very successful in the tourism industry and also encouraging entrepreneurs in the Cluj region. She is CEO of the Liberty Technology park, which houses many prominent companies. Her work at Spherik Accelerator aims to cultivate new entrepreneurs. Her work is a great inspiration, and has been a huge accomplishment! It was very interesting to read her thoughts!
You are the President, CEO and General Director of several companies. How do you manage your time?
I think that each of us splits his time between urgent matters, important ones, obligations and the matters that are dear to his heart. Their order and importance might differ .
In my case, the time allotted for each business or project that I am involved in is strictly related to the strategic plan that I have drawn up. I try to not have many deliveries at the same time, but it inevitably happens, so that my secret lies in relying on my team. I invest a lot in people so that I am confident that my business could be run temporarily without me being present. Although I choose to led by example.
My main current projects are:
• Liberty Technology Park Cluj – it is the first authentic technology park in Romania and it is just what tech companies need in order to develop and Transylvania has exceptional resources in these areas.
• Spherik Accelerator Association – is a non-profit, non-governmental organization with the main aim to sustain and promote Romanian entrepreneurs by providing them a complex structure of resources, which will help put Cluj on the entrepreneurial map of Europe.
• City Travels – is a travel agency in which I am a managing partner since 2007 together with my friend Ramona. The agency offers a wide range of tourism services for corporations and individuals and it has an excellent expertise on exotic destinations..
• The Association of Businesswomen Cluj (AFA) – I am one of the new members of this association that initiates and sustains a lot of projects especially in the social and educational fields and has an experience of more than 10 years during which it has made lots of people happy and has contributed to the consolidation of the local business community.
Spherik Accelerator is a new project. Has it been a success so far?
Spherik Accelerator is an initiative that I have been involved in from the very beginning. In order to have a better understanding of what a business accelerator does and how it is built, we have visited together with the team several accelerators in the US and in Europe. Thus we have managed to adapt the programs of Spherik to the current needs in Romania:
– Programs of entrepreneurial education
– Facilitating links to investors and possible partners
– Aggregation of an arrangement of resources needed by entrepreneurs in order to develop their idea, their business.
Cluj-Napoca is on track to become a center of innovation where the creative, tech, and business industries thrive. Besides strong industry, Cluj is ranked as the European city with the cleanest air, considered to have one of the best environments for foreigners and it is the European Cultural Capital of Youth in 2015. Cluj-Napoca is a great place to be a young entrepreneur.
• The first programs were directed towards students – Spherik Student- is a program launched in autumn 2013 to support students who take on the challenge of participating in international IT competitions. The first edition supported 6 teams from Cluj-Napoca preparing to take part in Imagine Cup, one of the most prestigious competitions of its kind. Organized by Microsoft in a new location around the globe every year, Imagine Cup brings together talented students from the entire world. As a result of this effort, half of the national finalists were teams from Cluj and the only team to represent Romania at the finals was one of the 6. The SMT team, consisting of Bogdan Andrei Pop, Bogdan Mursa, Rareș Urdea and mentored by Dan Suciu, was selected to attend the final competition in Seattle. The team presented its product that helps stroke survivors to rehabilitate in a fun way and without pressure to an international audience. Spherik will continue Spherik Student and will support our young talents to compete on the global stage.
• In spring 2014 we continued with Innovation Labs, which is a 10-week pre-acceleration program for students and young graduates who are passionate about technology and eager to launch their own product. This year the program expanded outside Bucharest and Spherik Accelerator was the host of the first edition in Cluj. More than 60 participants entered a 24-hour hackathon competition, 20 of which were selected to join the program.
• In October 2014 we launched the Spherik Main Acceleration Program – the call has already been closed and now the interviews are being carried out with the selected teams. Luckily we have valuable participants and on November 15th, 2014 we will start the program with an EMPRETEC training and then we will go on with 4 months of well-structured programs around the needs of future entrepreneurs.
The core of our program consists of workshops on a wide range of topics critical to success in a start-up. In addition to workshops, we will have weekly social and networking events relating to the current topic.
Luckily I am working at Spherik with an extremely dedicated, voluntary and engaged operational team that has the expertise to excellently coordinate the entire activity of Spherik.
The Liberty Technology Park is a beautiful and modern facility. Do you plan on expanding the park or creating more?
Liberty Technology Park Cluj is the first technological park in Romania, a park for creative ideas built in a revolutionary place designed to offer exceptional growth and quality environment for companies in the IT&C and R&D domains. Everything is located in one unique area, both conceptually and architecturally.
Liberty Technology Park Cluj seeks the ingenious reconversion of the former premises of “Libertatea “furniture factory in „a park for creative ideas” that is unique at national level and adopts the best practices of countries with tradition in this domain.
More than an ecosystem for companies in the IT&C and R&D, Liberty Technology Park Cluj offers a wide range of services and premium facilities.
The event area, the conference rooms, the wide green gardenlike areas, the leisure area including a restaurant and a coffee shop, the multifunctional sport grounds and also an area for retail and medical services complete the ideal tech habitat.
Today we are developing the 2nd phase of the project, which shall be finished in the first quarter of 2015 and the 3rd phase will be started most probably in 2016.
As far as our subsequent expansion plans are concerned, we are still looking at different areas in Romania, but we have met the greatest interest from our neighboring countries (Georgia, Macedonia, the Republic of Moldova) that are working on their development strategies in this direction and asked us about how to develop this kind of platforms.
Has the project attracted a lot of new business to Cluj?
Many companies are interested in Cluj-Napoca and in opening branches here due to the city’s unlimited human resources potential. These two elements are essential in shaping the ecosystem needed by both national and international companies.
• Over 100 000 students enter the universities here each year, one of four people is a student. Cluj has been ranked as the 2nd most important university center in Romania in 2012 according to European standards. It has a highly skilled workforce in several domains, particularly in the IT&C, R&D and in the medical field. And Cluj is the European Youth Capital of 2015.
• Cluj-Napoca has an attractive real estate market.
Yes, our project has attracted Evosoft, a Siemens subsidiary that occupies the B building of the Park – Siemens has opened an R&D center under the brand of its Evosoft subsidiary in the Liberty Technology Park Cluj. The premises have been occupied at the beginning of August. The company has leased an area of 3,000 square meters, i.e. the entire surface of building B of the complex.
The company is planning on hiring some 250 IT specialists until 2017. The new employees will be working on global software and product development programs for all Siemens divisions.
By hosting medium and large IT & R&D companies our project helped generate so far a number of approx. 400 new jobs. Keep in mind that we’re just one year away from the delivery of our 1st phase. We expect this number to be multiplied by 3 by the time our 2nd phase, buildings D&E, will be fully occupied. In terms of business development we are very proud to see our residents growing alongside us. We also invited local businesses in the food, sport and retail industry to open on site locations.
You also work in the tourism industry. Have you noticed a growth of the tourism industry in Transylvania?
Transylvania is a strong brand that is still not exploited sufficiently. The main limitations are the access possibilities to certain areas in Transylvania and maybe the insufficient promotion of this destination.
During the last 10 years the business tourism has seen a great boom due to the corporations that opened subsidiaries in the area, but the leisure tourism has still not reached its maximum capacity.
You are a very successful entrepreneur. What were your keys to this success?
I have faith in people and I consider people being the main value in each and every project. Usually faith is rewarded and if it is backed up with lots of work, continuous education and permanent interest in everything that is happening around us, the expected results may be well achieved.
What is the proudest moment in your career so far?
I am proud every time when I manage to create something new, authentic and efficient in each project that I am involved in. Luckily my entire career consists of start-ups, which allows me to have a great contribution to the concept, strategy and development. I always try to get involved in projects where I can make a difference, in new initiatives that share the same set of values that I do.
What is your motto in business?
Strength lies in unity. (Gh. Asachi)
Lead by example, To lead people, walk beside them …
This are a personal mottos of mine that does not only apply to business.
Jeļena Šļihta is the project manager of “Good Deeds”, a Latvian charity that supports community projects. She has been very successful, and her work is very inspirational.
– What was the biggest project that you hosted?
In these four years of working at the charity initiative – project contest LabieDarbi.lv (“Good Deeds”), together with the participants we have achieved, in my opinion, quite impressive results.
We have managed to implement more than 220 various projects – supported dancers, singers and athletes, set up sports fields and playgrounds, supported bird ringing and done so many other good deeds. All of these projects have in one way or the other helped Latvian communities in making their surroundings and environment better and safer; motivated purposeful people in excelling at the things where they are strong at; given an opportunity to make people’s dreams come true; as well as simply inspired others into believing that together we can achieve great things and make our country and society better.
Working with these projects and the people that are behind them from day to day so closely makes it really hard to differentiate between big and small projects because we put our heart and soul into all of them the same way, no matter the scope and size of the project. And because of the fact that all projects have their purpose and positive implications on our people and society, I am absolutely proud of each and every one of them.
– What personal qualities do you have, that made you so successful?
Speaking about personal characteristics, to me being open and honest are the two most important traits. Open to people, as well as new ideas and opportunities.
But I also truly believe that no matter what you do, you have to love your work and have a true passion and heart put into it in order to be successful. We ourselves hold the responsibility and power to choose and control our path. I am lucky enough to have understood which path I am supposed to be taking, and that’s exactly where I am right now.
I think that no one should be unhappy if they cannot say “I am a successful person” at this very moment. Even if you have been in your field for many years now and your career or income are still not where you want them to be, it’s not a reason to call yourself “unlucky” or a “loser”. I truly believe that anyone can be a successful implementer of his plans starting from this very moment, if you really want to become successful and you understand your true calling in life.
– You are very inspirational. What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
Our world is pretty loud and crowded. Make sure that your product stands out and gets to people at the right moment when they are ready for it. It’s not enough just to be doing something; you have to be perfect at what you are doing. You can launch your product for the first time only once, so it has to something for people to remember.
What is the LabieDarbi.lv success factor? We are unique – the only charity organization in Latvia that is willing to support active and talented Latvian people. It is important for us to hear out our society and channel the financial means to the projects that our society thinks are important. During four years more than one million euro has been dedicated to the project implementation, and I am sure that it is only the beginning.
– How did you get this idea to create this NGO?
LabieDarbi.lv is an initiative of international but locally (in Latvia) based company AS 4finance – the non-bank lenders’ market leader in Latvia. This organization is all about people – it puts society and developing people’s talents in its focus for things to support, and LabieDarbi.lv initiative is something that truly and precisely defines their approach.
Together we believe that for all companies, no matter the field they are working in, their business success is tightly connected with the local society’s wellbeing and sustainable development. Because of that SMScredit.lv (4finance brand) is the benefactor of the initiative, providing financial help to Latvian people in implementing their ideas and developing their talents.
– Do you think you have inspired others to create more community projects?
LabieDarbi.lv is not just a charity project. It is a lifestyle and way of thinking – not only for me but also for all the good-natured, positive and giving people that are behind the projects and involved in their implementation. I feel like we inspire each other to go on with what we are doing because we know the amazing emotions that doing good deeds can give you. I know that many of the projects’ contest participants don’t stop with what they have achieved with the help from LabieDarbi.lv but continue onto new projects and new challenges.
– Do you want to start any new business projects?
We live in dynamic times when everything continuously keeps growing and developing. Right now I feel like this is a right place for me, so I am not thinking about working in some other field. Instead I want to explore how far I can get this project going.
Although I feel like we have done a lot of good things, we still have so much more to achieve. Because of the fact that 4finance has its subsidiary companies internationally, similar charity initiatives with the same idea were recently started in other countries as well, for example, in Lithuania, Georgia and Finland, with more to come in a near future.
– In your opinion, what makes a good project leader?
A good project leader must have the ability to always find motivation not only for himself but his whole team as well. He or she must be able to create positive working relations and give guidance to others. Your team must want to reach the business goals as badly as you do, and it is completely up to the project leader to set everyone’s sights in the same direction.
I believe that it is possible to become the person that is strong at motivating, encouraging and inspiring others if you are doing YOUR thing. And if you manage to share the passion you have with your team, then you can make anything happen. So I would like to encourage everyone to be brave and not to give up when facing the first hardship – believe in yourselves and good things will happen to you!
Diana Andreescu is Business Development Manager at Pro Solutions Agency, and has a wealth of knowledge in Human Resources. She shared some of her thoughts of the industry in this interview. Her motto is “work hard, but smart”.
As a career coach, what is your way of inspiring and motivating people?
We often think of the coach as the person with all of the answers. What I do, as a career coach, is helping the person I work with to clarify objectives and provide a map for how to achieve them. My goal that should match my client’s goal is to help them discover where they want to be within a timeframe, looking at the competencies that they have today and looking at the competencies that they need to get there.
All of us have different situations that we are struggle with and also we have dreams and plans for our development. Have we wondered how many times we have tried to get to a result? We also wonder about past successes that made us glow with pride. What moments, big and small, make us smile even now after so many years? It isn’t the specific activity or skill that is important here. It is how we felt after having achieved whatever we were striving for. The confidence we felt then can be recreated, leveraged to apply to new areas where we want to succeed now.
– How can a potential job candidate impress you?
First of all, I love candidates that apply to jobs that they are qualified for. From my perspective, unless you can make the stretch and fit between your qualifications and background and the described opening, you are wasting your time.
I also appreciate candidates that lead with their strengths. This might make the difference between candidates with similar experiences and skills.
Candidates that know how to sell their experience in relation to how it can benefit the potential employer have also a big plus from my side.
I enjoy talking and discover candidates that: do research before interview, take notes during the interview, are enthusiastic and confident.
– What are your personal characteristics that made you so successful in HR?
After 12 years in human resources, I truly consider that my personal characteristics made me a successful HR. However, learning about self-control is a very important aspect as well. First of all, I consider that my intellectual curiosity is an important aspect that helped me develop my career. Most of my colleagues and former leaders considered me as a “little sponge” because I have always asked questions and gathered as much information as possible.
Even if it will sound a little unusual, I run to things that scared me at first side. This was my way of overcome fear of failure but also forced me to use my skills.
I also learned to listen and not to interrupt. This was for me an important lesson to learn, my natural characteristics being the opposite.
Respect and enjoy others is something that I had as a natural characteristic but I had to fight with my strong desire of being demanding with people.
Sense of urgency is a state of mind for an HR person.
And, never the less, my motto “work hard but smart”.
– In terms of training, what do you provide?
I consider that trainings and development programs are essential for both companies and individuals. As a trainer, I provide various type of trainings that covers a large area of aspects like recruitment technics, workplace/ soft skills trainings like: performance management, time and priority management, communications skills, presentation skills, personal branding, problem solving skills, professional etiquette, conflict management, motivating employees, compensations and benefit plan design, HR metrics and also other related type of trainings and seminars.
Also, as a career advisor, I provide various workshops and seminars that help my clients to achieve career goals, overcome difficult situations and create a strong personal brand.
– In performance management, what is the most effective way of assessment?
Performance management is very important both for individuals and organizations. There are various models for performance management assessments. Regardless the specific need for an assessment, there are a few steps that should be followed for an effective result.
First step is the planning stage. In this stage, together with the organization decision makers, we establish the strategy and goal. It is very important that the both company and employee goals to be aligned. Then, we are able to determine performance level criteria. The actual assessment is based on an on-going feedback from sides, talent management and company/ employee needs of development in order to achieve both qualitative and quantitative targets.
Creating an individual development plan is another important step that should be done by any company.
– You are very successful, what advice do you have for people aspiring to be in HR?
The key to success in HR is authenticity. Do not fake, be exactly who you are and just improve your knowledge and your skills. Learn that the only thing that counts are the solutions you bring to the table. Be able to control your emotional intelligence skills, anticipate the impact that you have on others. Be empathic and yet be tough when it’s needed, be a good listener, do not be afraid to use your sense of humor, use your curiosity and creativity and an “out-of-the-box thinker”, and, very important, surround yourself with great people, people that you can learn from, people with strong values and motivations.
Work, learn and enjoy and do this on daily bases!
What are your aspirations for the future?
I compare my career and my aspirations with a top restaurant – people will always come back for what you’re serving to them but also for the way they feel when they are there.
Of course, I see myself in the HR consultancy field for many years from now on. I see myself developing various programs both for individuals and organization development, being a leader and helping other young HR professionals to grow, always searching for talents.
Audronė Nakrošienė, project manager at LDHA, answered some questions about her work and her opinions on management styles.
What is your role at the Lithuanian District Heating Association (LDHA)? I am working as a Training Program Manager at the LDHA and as a technical expert. My main responsibility areas are technical data analysis of the Lithuanian District Heating Companies, technical data collection, analysis of the Lithuanian legal acts, etc. I am responsible for consulting District Heating companies on the EU Energy policy, Human Resource Management and Project Management. Other responsibility areas – identification of training needs of the District Heating companies, preparation of training programs. I do training courses on Project Management, EU energy policy and Human Resource Management areas.
To be a successful Project manager, what characteristics are needed? Leadership, team building, time planning skills, empathy, decision making skill, communication skills, delegating work. What was the aim of the EU funded Training Of District Heating project? We had several EU training projects that were implemented by the LDHA. The main goal of these training projects were to increase the competence of the employees of the DH companies in the area of engineering, management and finance. In that project, what was the biggest difficulty, and the biggest success? The biggest challenge was the change of the project managers in the implementing agency that was controlling our project. The biggest success was team building and the results that were obtained after the implementation of the project. What is your preferable style of leadership? Transformational. I prefer to challenge and inspire my team members. When working and training with people, how do you get the best out of them? When working as a manager – I take a lot of effort on getting to know the strong and the weak sides of a person and select a work that a person is the strongest at. When training people – identifying the needs and inspiring people. When working as a team member – listen to people and getting to understand what they wanted to say. Are you involved in other projects?
Yes, in several EU projects, related with the energy efficiency, etc. aspects. In the future, what are your ambitions? I started the PhD studies a year ago. So my ambition is to be a recognized researcher and a trainer and to have a work-life balance at the same time.
Minela is a successful fashion blogger and key account manager. Her hard work and positive approach to work and life is very inspiring. She generously shared some information about her story.
“My name is Minela, I’m 28 old young women from Bosnia! I’m Fashion blogger, Journalist, Social Media and Events Manager, hedonist, shopaholic and typical “Taurus” – patient and reliable, warmhearted and loving, persisting and determined, placid and security loving! My style is very versatile. It is hard to describe as it changes day to day, and is very much based on how I feel. I would say that I am fond of well-tailored and eclectic pieces with elegant, sometimes minimalistic, clean pieces, mixed in creative way, big necklaces, heavy scarves…If I’m describing my style in few words, I may say it’s experimental but elegant and sophisticated.”
Social media is very important in modern business, popularity and image. Success stories like Minela’s remind us of that.
Dr. Jolita Greblikaitė is an associate professor at Kaunas University of Technology, in the Institute of Europe department. It is part of the Faculty of Social Sciences, Arts and Humanities . She has a vast knowledge of entrepreneurship, cross cultural management, especially within the EU. Dr. Greblikaitė answered some questions regarding entrepreneurship in Lithuania.
Has the EU helped to grow entrepreneurship in Lithuania?
EU promotes entrepreneurship by various measures and instruments. A lot of programmes are directed to developing entrepreneurial skills and abilities, especially orientating young people for starting-up their own business. It is very important for EU countries, as well as for Lithuania, because youth unemployment in EU countries reached enormous rates (in some countries even over 50 percent). Support for entrepreneurs from different EU funds, of course, helped to start-up high technologies companies as well as to run some businesses based on expensive infrastructure, for example, countryside tourism or some palaces renovation and adjustment for different activities involving society in Lithuania. A lot of support was used in agriculture sector. But it should be mentioned that a lot of people still are afraid to use EU support for their business as they think that it is rather difficult, requires to be high skilled to administrate the project and etc.
Does business etiquette in Lithuania differ much to other EU countries?
As made research show business etiquette in Lithuania not much differs from East European countries, for example, Latvia or Poland. A lot of influence was made by Scandinavian investors in Lithuania as well as from investors from Germany. I would like to mention that overall business culture of Lithuania tries to become more oriented to Scandinavian business culture, but we have some mix of adapting best practices from different management models, for example, American.
How important is it to understand the culture of the country in which your business operates?
Culture becomes more and more important element analysing business environment. If we talk about cultural environment in European Union, we talk a lot about cultural integration, and, we should admit that we have often an opposite phenomena as cultural „disintegration“. And that situation makes as researchers and scientists to foster politicians apply some different instruments and measures for solving these problems and to propose more effective public administration of non EU citizens integration not only in labor market, but in society overall. Multicultural dialogue becomes the necessity, which cannot avoid.
What advice would you give to a foreign business-person adapting to the business culture of Lithuania?
It is very important to know the culture of your business in any country. Maybe the most important my advice would be of looking serious to Lithuanian employees and to keep them fairly. Sometimes international companies try to behave with Lithuanian employees in some strict way or the managers have prejudices that people might be lazy or not well educated. Business must avoid stereotypes in such changing global world and adapt to the situation as quickly as possible. So, the main advices to foreign investors would be not to have some bad assumptions in advance.
Are there lots of opportunities for women in business, in Lithuania?
Lithuania is not an exception in the case of women in business. We have rather small numbers women in business, growing not as fast as we would like. There some special awards for women entrepreneurs and in the annual awards of best CEOs women participate equally, but still we have more masculine culture for business than feminine.
You have great knowledge, how do you like to inspire your students in lectures?
The best inspiration is good examples. It is very useful to invite some people from business, especially young entrepreneurs to tell students about their work, experience, ideas and so on. One of inspirational methods can be thinking of some entrepreneurial idea and its implementation process (in the lecture as a game or a business plan) by students which helps to strengthen teaching and learning process. They are asked to find out some entrepreneurial idea and to analyse business environment, to make marketing plan, main financial analysis about profitability of the idea. It quite well inspires to think about real possibilities to start their own business.
What are your plans for the future?
My scientific plans for the future are related with research activity in developing entrepreneurial abilities by encountering cross-cultural management skills, especially concentrating on non EU citizens integration in Lithuanian enterprises as well as my teaching will be focusing on developing and strengthening of entrepreneurial skills of students by learning tools. The first step will be researching the students before course, and later measuring their attitude and viewpoints after teaching and learning process.
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.