Success in business, the option for pragmatic people – Article published in Transilvania Business Magazine

From idea to business success is a long and arduous road. Broadly speaking, internationally, 20% of businesses fail in their first year of operation, 30% in their second, half go bankrupt in their first 5 years.

In Romania, entrepreneurship is a courageous endeavour, which lacks the maturity offered by previous generations of entrepreneurs, as in countries with a capitalist tradition, stimulated on the one hand by successful, inspirational models, such as Elon Musk, Steve Jobs, or others, local, and a series of government programmes (such as Start-up Nation, for example), on the other. A recent study by Ernst & Young Romania shows that 68% of entrepreneurs surveyed have a negative perception of business failure (“career failure”, “barrier to future initiatives”, “indicates lack of necessary skills”).

This being the case, offers that promise spectacular business results “overnight” and with minimum effort are very attractive. So what is the magic formula for business success? We turned to the experience of a man who has seen more than 3,000 businesses up close and personal in 11 years, Claudiu Aiftimiei, CEO of Systema.

The mirage of effortless gain is extremely powerful, Claudiu confirms, and at the same time harmful. I’ll give you a few examples of myths that are appealing but harmful:

  • There’s a recipe for success in 3, 5 …x … steps
  • I’ve got a brilliant idea and that’s enough to make me an overnight millionaire
  • I’m better at every job in my company than my employees.
  • With the right advertising, you can sell anything.

In addition, we must also take into account the fact that there is a social pressure towards a certain type of success, quantified in money, cars, relationships, social impact, intensely promoted by tabloids and that Romanian society taxes failure quite harshly.

REP: Good, but there are examples of entrepreneurs who hit the jackpot with a brilliant, revolutionary idea…

C.A.: “There are cases like that. Percentage-wise, very few of all successful businesses. That’s why I stress that, in addition to the brilliant idea, it’s vital for an entrepreneur to know how to build and manage his business.”

REP: And how will entrepreneurs know these things? Statistics show a low confidence in the relevance of various management courses, either from university offerings or from the consultancy area.

C.A.: Basically, the information is pretty much the same because there are established management methods and various solutions, applications and business offerings have been built around them. The difference is the persistence in applying the methods.

REP: And how can entrepreneurs be persistent?

C.A.: Have you heard of ISO 9001?

REP.: A coloured paper, stamped, looks good on the wall… It costs a few hundred euros.

C.A.: It can be like that, a coloured paper that you don’t do anything with, or it can be Ariadne’s thread through the maze of business success.

REP.: A bit poetic for a guy who does ISO certification…

C.A.: It’s normal, I say, because Systema is not like the others. We have a partnership vision of our relationship with our customers, we can only grow if we do well together. We certify performance, we like to say. Coming back, ISO 9001, the standard for quality management, requires an organised way of working, based on sound management principles, valid regardless of the company’s field of activity. The fact that the relationship is a long-term one, punctuated by meetings (audits) in which we monitor the way the company operates, resulting in recommendations, alarm signals, validations, where appropriate, which our clients take into account, brings with it that perseverance in applying professional management to all the company’s functions and, consequently, results.

REP: In your opinion, who are the most vulnerable entrepreneurs, if we are to think about the success of a business?

C.A.: I think the entrepreneurs who benefit most from implementing ISO 9001, or even an integrated quality and environmental management system, are those who have or want to set up start-ups.

REP: Half of all businesses fail in the first 5 years of life…

C.A.: It makes sense. Because about half of startup entrepreneurs say that defining and optimizing their business model is at the bottom of their financial investment list, a fact confirmed by a 2016 Ernst & Young survey. So, without a clear and good (dare I say it) business model, the chances of success are halved. That’s the beauty and genius of ISO 9001 – it gives you a workable, correct framework. That can be tailored to the specifics of each client, in line with their vision.

REP: And it’s not stuffy, rigid?

C.A.: It’s quite technical. It’s been simplified a lot by the 2015 edition, it’s more digestible. But we’re trying to do more than a mechanical audit, on requirements. We’re looking, together with our colleagues, to debate working scenarios, listen to as many opinions as possible, organise our own business events – under the Fortress brand. The next one will take place on 12 April in Târgu Mureș.

REP: What other serious problem do businesses face, in your experience?

C.A.: Not listening to their customers. Or the money… that’s where it has to come from.

REP: What does it mean to listen to your customers?

C.A.: Knowing who buys your product or service and why, what their habits are, what they like and don’t like in general and what they think about your company, what they expect from your product… To be able to satisfy a customer, to meet their needs, it’s important to understand how that person works.

REP: And how do you find out? With questionnaires?

C.A.: Simpler, and more up to date with technology. But, yes, at the core, the idea is to ask people. We propose a system consisting of a device (Express Pod), equipped with 5 intuitive buttons – like emoticons where customers or employees answer questions that interest entrepreneurs and a software that aggregates data and analyses trends, allows comparisons over time and between locations etc. We call it Systema Insights and it is produced by Ombea, Sweden.

REP: It’s a relatively new solution for Romania. How is it received?

C.A.: The feedback is very encouraging and we are confident that more and more business people will embrace effective solutions to inform their decisions, such as Systema Insights.

REP: What advice can you give to entrepreneurs, especially those at the beginning of their journey, beyond working with your company?

C.A.: Advice for entrepreneurs? The same ones I live by: try not to become a success but, better yet, a man of value – Albert Einstein and, as Chris Grosser says: “opportunities don’t just happen. YOU create them.”

Systema

Systema SRL has been representing the United Registrar of Systems Ltd. group in Romania for 11 years, with headquarters in the UK and offices in 36 countries, one of the largest certification bodies in the world. The main products and services are: ISO certification, accredited qualification courses, customer satisfaction monitoring systems.

Article published in Transilvania Business Magazine.