Viktorija Čeplikė’s story

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Viktorija  Čeplikė is the owner of the Lithuanian luxury fashion company “VIKE”. Her family heritage is renowned in the fashion world, and from this heritage, Viktorija created a new company. However the company was founded during  economic difficulties, which made this a big challenge. Despite this adversity, VIKE became a very successful and well known brand. VIKE JSC operates in Kaunas.

Viktorija had to work harder than ever to make VIKE a success, and now it is paying off. VIKE’s dressmaking skills are becoming famous, as she has many international clients. The use of great quality materials are very attractive to her customers. The company has many functions; it designs, tailors and even finds fabrics. Viktorija says the hardest business decision she had to make was how much time to spend away from family.

The company has 30 employees, and when asked what makes a good leader and how she motivates her employees, she said “The main reason why employees are happy to be a part of VIKE team is respect for people from the owner’s side.

vike2The VIKE factory is based in Kaunas

Fashion is something that Viktorija has always had a passion for, and that combined with good business sense is the perfect recipe for success. She now has a large factory in Kaunas, and would like to expand even more.
VIKE is Viktorija’s first business venture, and she must have had a big talent and work ethic to have performed so well in its early years. The fashion industry is notoriously difficult to have success in, and therefore it is a huge achievement to have made the VIKE brand so strong.

This story shows that it is absolutely necessary to have a passion for the business you are in, but also have the key skills that make a good businessperson. The personal characteristics that have made Viktorija a perfect business woman are optimism, persistence, curiosity, sociability.
It truly is an inspirational story, and will hopefully encourage others in the future.

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Interview with Mojca Perić

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Mojca Perić, from Slovenia, is the Head of Corporate Communications at a big international company based in Slovenia. She has proven to be very successful in Strategic management, and has been awarded with the prestigious Fenix award.


What has made you successful in strategic management?

Great mentors and some of a very experienced people that unselfishly shared their knowledge with me, and of course my desire to learn, the ambition and proactivity.

In your opinion, which are they key aspects to good communication?

First you need to understand the person or a group you are addressing, secondly you need to have a clear picture about the goals and key messages you want people to understand and thirdly, you have to pay great attention to details, one word or a synonym can make a huge difference in a meaning of the message and in it’s understanding.

So far in your career, what has been your proudest moment?

I cannot expose the specific situation but my proudest moments are when I see that people can be “moved”, no matter how challenging the communication is. I have been working for companies where the motivation of people was on a very low level or they were almost apathetic. I am very proud when I recognize a change in that kind of environments, knowing I am a part of that positive improvement.

How did your project achieve the Feniks award?

Association for management consulting grants the award for a great contribution to the development of a client, to the development of consultancy activities and consulting methodologies as also for the contribution to the development of the environment. We received Feniks award as a team, project leaders on the customer’s side and two consultants, for a strategic transformation of a company.
I would say the most important thing is that as a consultant, you understand the company, its business, culture and its team of leaders and decision makers. Therefore you can choose the appropriate combination of consulting approaches, models and methodologies to achieve goals. To do that, you need to have a lot of knowledge but also a feeling for people, a sort of an instinct and a capability to adjust fast. Creativity and new, fresh ideas also play an important role in such a successful project.

Which characteristics do you have that make you a strong leader?

When you say a “strong leader” I think of a person with a lot of knowledge, who is confident and proud but not arrogant, responsible, trustworthy, intelligent, stable and with great manners. I am striving to become that person one day.

In the past you assessed businesses, what were the key things you were looking for?

Business assessors look for a “balanced excellence” through a great number of indicators. In short, we look for elements such as acuity – the ability to detect business opportunities and risks better than competitors, agility – the ability to react fast and effectively to adapt to changes in unpredictable business environment and alignment – the ability to provide the resources needed to achieve strategic goals. We also look at how key factors: leadership, people, strategy, products & services, partnerships & resources are aligned and balanced in the company and how this brings sustainable results. Results must always be evaluated based on three views: realization vs. plans, trends of at least 3 years and benchmark.

How do you like to motivate the people around you?

By being ambitious and hardworking, positive but realistic, and also – with a kind word and a simple smile.

Balkan feature

Dear Eurobizweekly readers,

We are currently writing a Balkan special feature, so if you are from the Balkans and would like to be interviewed, please email us using the contact form on the contact page.

Thank you!

Regards,

The Eurobizweekly team.

Interview with Kamila Zárychtová

Kamila Zárychtová is the owner of the Business For Breakfast Czech Republic Master franchise, and she has successfully managed to lead the BforB franchise in Central Europe. BforB is a referral marketing and networking franchise, that has proven to be very popular! It already has more than 40 groups operating in the CR.

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There are many BforB franchises in the CR, how did you create such a popular success?
At the moment, me and my team look after more than 40 BforB business clubs with more than 450 members. How did I create this? More than 6 years ago, there was a very important decision. I used to live in England and was about to get back to the Czech Republic. And I wanted to be part of the business environment, where people help each other to be successful, inspire each other and refer each other and all together are getting stronger on the market. And BforB was answer to that. I did not waste time, got back to the Czech Republic and on the 14th of September 2009 launched the very first business club with very new principles to the Czech business environment – KNOW-LIKE-TRUST.
And then, I never gave up and even when almost no one believed I could succeed, I never gave up. I woke up every day and worked towards my target. BforB is for my new life, new journey that is the destination.
I have to work hard on myself and prove my knowledge and abilities and change. This is good about doing business. It is very common in business what worked before, does not work now anymore, so you have to level with change and “upgrade” yourself very quickly too. And that is a challenge you need to face and manage.
I succeed because I believe in BforB so much and I know it helps business people to get new business through referrals. And now after more than 5 years on the market, I not only believe, now I know.

How do you ensure that your franchises are successful?
Our franchise is a great business opportunity in the Czech market. In this business sector is no better opportunity than BforB at the moment. So every franchisee has got unique opportunity to be special and do very special support for local business people, for local economy and is part of the team, who is changing the business environment in Czech Republic for better. So the topic is so strong, so inspirational and motivation of my franchise team is really huge.

Would you like to spread the franchise further into Central Europe?
Yes, I already helped with getting a new Master franchisee on board in Slovakia. It was fantastic work and I found not only a new business colleague, but friend. For the future I would like to help with finding, getting ready and supporting new colleagues especially in Poland, Germany, Austria, Ukraine and Hungary. Lets get BforB bigger and available for as many as possible entrepreneurs so they help each other to get more business through referrals and get more successful and stronger.

In your opinion, what makes the perfect employee?

Well, I am wrong person to ask I guess. I do not have employees. I work with entrepreneurs. But if I had an employee, I would want him to understand what we do, why we do it and wanted him to be part of it. I believe if employee is part of the project and understands that his work has very big impact on success of the company, that employee knows why he works and wants to be good worker.

You are very inspirational, how do you motivate your business team?
Inspiration and Motivation sound very similar but really, there is huge difference between Inspiration and Motivation. Motivating people is not very difficult. You can motivate people in positive way and negative ways and both work and bring results. But if you want to inspire people, that is different and you have to give them something that makes sense for them, agree with it and want to be part of it. Then, you do not need any outside motivation. People are motivated from inside. And that is real power. So really I believe that my vision of business environment where people help each other to get business through referrals, be more successful and stronger in the local market is so strong and good for business that people want to believe in it and want to be part of it and want to support it. Because then when more business people will do business this was, we will be part of the environment where is great thing to do business.

What are your personal characteristics, that have made you successful?
Well, I am Aries and maybe just that gives me good assumption to be successful Because Aries is so stubborn and doesn’t give up. I am also very focused, disciplined and I want to succeed no matter of what. If something doesn’t work, I seek for other ways. I work on myself very much and maybe that is the hardest job I ever done. I am very positive and always believe everything happens for good reason. The most important thing – I believe so much in what I do. It just is right and makes sense and I love it.

What has been your biggest achievement at BforB?
When I think about this question, I cannot figure out what achievement from all those was the biggest one. I experience success every day in BforB. There is always a good thing that shows me that it’s worth to do BforB. I plan things and I achieve them every day, step by step, month by month, year by year. I have going plans and goals, but I cut them into small pieces and then I achieve them, so I experience the achievement. If I would not do it, my goals are so big that maybe I would never achieve anything.

Follow up interview with Kamila Dolna

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Kamila Dolna operates the tourist company “Global Contract”, she provides many educational and training programs within the tourist industry and has done a wonderful job.

Global Contract provides many services, how do you manage them all?

The management is a kind of process  where, once  you  get  experience  it does  not matter how many activities  you  can  put  in the basket,  because  its  just way how to organize  it, how to delegate  the  competences and  how to lead  people as well as   how to prepare  normatives and   read  and prepare the  contracts ,law and legislation!
 
What has been your proudest moment of running Global Contract?
Global has  been  continuously  contributing  to  development  of  tourism in Slovakia by organizing  education and practical  placement  of the students  abroad, which  means, that those  students and   experienced labour  brought   their  knowledge  back to Slovakia  and helped   our  tourism  a lot, there is lack  of   quality  in  service.
 
What has been your proudest moment of running Global Contract?
When  our  costumers and  partners  would  not   address on any other  company  as us.
 
How important was receiving the Alpine Center franchise?
Very important,  I have been  working  on this issue   for   2 years and   I believe  in this project the most  of  all. It will be  great  opportunity for many  students in Slovakia and   from abroad
 
In your business, what has been the most successful area?
All of them
 
Do you have a favourite educational/training project?  
ALPINE CENTER  and where you can see the results!
 
In business or life, do you have a motto?
Positive  approach and  trust  in yourself and  what  do you believe in  will always bring  you to your  goal!

Interview with Katina Stefanova

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Katina Stefanova is the founder and board member of Accordance Technology

She has enjoyed huge success in the asset management industry and was most recently a Management Committee Advisor and Senior Executive at Bridgewater Associates, the largest hedge fund. She started her career at IBM, Mergers and Acquisitions in London.

Accordance Technology was founded this year, has it been successful so far?

Accordance Technology is an expression of my partners and my desire to make the asset management space more transparent and better managed which is good for investors.  I have written a lot about the issues in the asset management industry including lack of adequate transparency for investors, misalignment of incentives between the investment firm and the ultimate investors, outdated technology. (See How to Disrupt the Investing Business? and Why Taxes and Trading Costs Kill Investment Returns?).  As a result of helping address these issues,  Accordance has been incredibly successful.  We have attracted top-notch talent with both deep asset management experience and technology knowledge.  We have also caught the attention of the asset managers themselves who are trying to solve the problem of how to manage client money more responsibly and transparently.  Accordance provides insight into the Chief Investment Office, the CEO/COO or Board in some cases on whether each portfolio manager invests responsibly and consistently with internal investment strategy requirements, client guidelines and ultimately regulatory requirements. To build Accordance, our team has applied the same lessons that I have learned from my experience at Bridgewater Associates (Top Three Entrepreneurship Lessons from Ray Dalio), such as how to think about the problem I am trying to solve systematically, build an exceptional team and remain flexible.  Thinking about the problem systematically in the case Accordance meant finding a business problem that clients need solved.  Being flexible is a must as the Accordance management team had to evolve the strategy a few times until we struck a business model that clients were excited about.  Above all, the key to success is creating a team of leading experts including the CEO, Chuck Dooley, a repeat entrepreneur; Steve Yatko, one of the most advanced technology advisors in investment services; Ken Tremain and Michael Rose, risk and asset management veterans and Michael Krimm, a top performing Bridgewater alumnus.
I am a believer that an A team can transform a B idea into an winning strategy but a B team will miss the opportunity of an A idea.

How much has investment technology changed since you first started out in M&A?

Investment technology is on the verge of tremendous disruption.  Most technology innovation happened in the consumer space due to the growth of such behemoths as Google, Amazon, Facebook.  These companies found technology solutions on how to learn and manage huge amounts of data in an intelligent way.  Financial Services, burdened by legacy technologies and systems that were difficult to replace, was slow to follow.  However, there are now multiple factors that are creating an impetus to change in asset management – tightening regulatory requirements, a more educated investor base, greater competition among asset management firms and concentration of assets in the larger players, and the availability of data management technology, machine learning, flexible user interface solutions.  Accordance which spun out of Oktay Technology started as a strategic technology advisor to the financial services firms, large banks and asset managers and then started to productize the solutions we were advising on.

What has been your biggest challenge so far with Accordance Technology?

All challenges in a start up are large and equally critical.  Once one challenge is resolved, another one pops up.  Start ups are incredibly sensitive to making mistakes because all resources, money, time and talent are scarce and limited. The challenge that I spent most time on and constantly think about is whether we have the right team in place to execute what needs to be done.  My lesson learned at Accordance and historically as a manager is never to compromise on the people I bring in.

When you first started out in Mergers and Acquisitions, what was the first important thing you learned?

When I started as a young manager at IBM, Mergers & Acquisitions in London, my first challenge was rather unexpected.  I expected to be challenged by learning the market or how to deal to international execution, or new technology.  Instead my most notable challenge was learning how to manage people, specifically men and older than me.  In particular I remember having to manage a male colleague who was a few years older then me and who had been in the company longer.  I had a hard time getting him to cooperate and was quite frustrated.  I shared my experience with my direct manager at the time, who was a wise Cambridge educated gentlemen who had spent 20 + years at IBM after serving as a monk in the Catholic Church.  I was fortunate to have a manager and a mentor like him.  He basically told me that this is a challenge I will encounter  my entire career.  In fact, the better I do the more pronounced that challenge will be.  So I have to get over it and not wish it to go away but learn how to deal with it.  He also shared some suggestions on how to build my confidence, align incentives and at times just ignore some of the more petty issues. I share this lesson because I think it would be useful to other young women starting their career.

You have had a very successful career, but what do you feel is your best achievement?

I am grateful for the opportunities given to me, because I come from nothing and moved to the United States when I was 18 years old with only a few hundred dollars in my pocket.  I have not had a typical career path and have both worked in small start ups, as well as large established organizations. (Katina Stefanova Linkedin)  I still have big dreams and goals that I would like to accomplish and think that my biggest career accomplishments are in front of me. However, by far the most valuable achievement in my life has been creating meaningful and lasting professional relationships and friendships which have carried me over from one business challenge to the next. I would not have been able to accomplish what I have accomplished in life without an extended network of amazing colleagues, friends, mentors and family members. I am blessed to be surrounded by people that are greater than me in many ways. I have shared some of my thoughts on the importance of relationships in the article: Why Every Woman Needs a Mentor. Life is a long journey and it is impossible, as well as a lot less fun, to be travelling alone.

In your opinion, what has made your leadership so effective in strategic management?

There are many things that lead to success, but I believe that virtually everybody can reach their goals in business or personally.  I credit some good personal habits to my success – setting goals and writing them down, designing a team and the business model to achieve these and above all not giving up when I encounter failure.  Almost everything that I have accomplished in life, I first failed at and tried again and again until I succeeded.  The key is to learn from ones mistakes and to adapt ones approach.  The biggest deterrent to success is fear.  Ask yourself what would happen if I fail?  Most of the time, you would see that the downside of failing while trying to accomplish your dreams is less than the downside of not trying at all.

Do you have a motto in business or life?

If by R Kipling exemplifies my philosophy in life.

Interview with Gintarė Antanelytė

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Gintarė is the General Manager of Amber Tours,  a Destination Management Company, based in Vilnius (Lithuania), focusing on  the leisure and business travel  into the Baltic states and beyond.

She started the company 6 years ago and now Amber Tours became one of the TOP 3 incoming tourism operators in Lithuania. Amber Tours delivers high quality services to the customers from more than 16 countries around the world and is growing every year. The company has been awarded 3 times by the Lithuanian tourism department among the best tour operators in the country.

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As director of Amber Tours, what are your main tasks?

Well, the main task is to build- up a strong company, leader in the region, to guarantee top service for the clients and to have motivated and happy team. It’s very important to have long term goals and to implement the necessary strategic steps to reach the goals, only by doing that movement forward and growth can be achieved.
After strategic planning and development I am also involved in sales and search of new markets, development of new products. I travel with my colleagues to the main tourism trade shows around the world, where I present our products and services, meet the clients and learn new trends in the changing tourism industry.

What inspired you to get into the tourism business?

Tourism was always my favorite field, because of its diversity and undiscovered potential. I am from a small and very beautiful country – Lithuania. We are independent state since 1991, so for the rest of the world it is still undiscovered destination with plenty of possibilities in all economic sectors as well as tourism. I found it very challenging yet interesting to present my country and all three Baltic states in different continents, to persuade tour operators, travel agencies and individuals to come and discover our region and to start selling tours to our destination.

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The tourism industry is very competitive, what has made your company so successful?

Big ambitions, good strategy, professional team and hard work!
I started company in the crisis, back in 2008 and it was hard time for any business, but together with the team we were able to create the platform for the future success! We started 6 years ago and now we have tripled our turnover, added many new markets, got 3 awards in 2010, 2011 and 2013 from the Lithuanian tourism department as one of the best and the best incoming tour operator in Lithuania.
Hosting around 15 thousand tourists every year we became one of the TOP 3 incoming tourism operators in Lithuania.

During your career, what has been your biggest achievement so far?
Amber Tours, of course!

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What are your characteristics that have made you very successful?

I am ambitious, goal- oriented, determined and patient, if I know that in the end I will reach my goal. Of course I am devoted to my job and I enjoy it!
I love challenges and I am not afraid to leave my comfort zone. I am ready to travel and search for new markets and new clients, because they don’t come themselves (unless you sell Iphones ). I believe, that hard work makes you successful and if not, it means, that you must try harder!
Volere e potere!

Which method do you find best to motivate your employees?

Firstly people, who work at Amber Tours must love their job and if they do, they are involved in decision making process and communication with clients. People have certain freedom in their daily work and that gives a positive motivation for them. Also it’s important to give to people understanding about their responsibilities and what expectations they can have from the company. Right communication is very important and we have many discussions on relevant issues, exchanging ideas and searching for the best solutions
together. I am very interested to motivate people, who are initiative and add extra time and effort for the better result. I always give the possibility to people to grow together with the company.

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