The last word: Five tips from five emerging Europe entrepreneurs

Learning from someone else’s mistakes and proven success saves time.

It’s been a year since I first launched the Success and Failure podcast series, and in that time I have spoken with several successful founders, chief executives and business leaders.

Speaking with them has been a huge lesson for me, and today I want to share five examples and key takeaways from those chats. 

Think business is an art 

Michał Blak, one of the founders and the CEO of edrone, is an artist. He graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Kraków, Poland. He told me his background has helped him with a few things.

First of all, experimenting with things as he really enjoyed performance art. When he realised he’d like to do something else and create things in a different way, he says, art helped him learn to pivot. It also helped him learn to be curious. 

“What helps me is being really curious about how people behave, how people act. When you are painting, you [are observing] things,” he told me during the chat

What this episode made me think about was how important it is to make use of experiences, of success, and the blueprints from other industries, no matter how absurd or improbable the connection between those two might be. The same solutions might work perfectly.  

Say yes to opportunities 

Genoveva Christova, one of the founders and owners and managing director of Ligna Group, an interior design studio, procurement and project management company, met her business partner, Anelia Kassabova, at the gym. They clicked immediately and knew they would work together. That first place happened to be a furniture association. They went to a fair in Cologne, got their first order, and met the managing director of B&B Hotels in Germany.  

“Are you interested in furnishing the new hotels we have in the pipeline because of the World Cup in Germany in 2006?,” Genoveva recalled on the podcast. 

Since then, her company has been B&B Hotels’ preferred partner. That made me think that opportunities can be completely unexpected. A person with an entrepreneurial mindset will grab them instantly even though they might not be fully ready to deliver. Saying ‘no’ to such a chance would be a failure. 

Start early and learn 

That entrepreneurial mindset usually manifests itself quite early in life. In the case of Mihai Filip, a serial entrepreneur and the founder and CEO of Oves Enterprise, it was when he was only 14 years old and set up his small printing shop. 

And since then, he has set up several other businesses and one message that I could read between the lines when he referred to them was constantly increasing knowledge and skills.  

“We have the courage we needed, we wanted to learn and to study and to advance,” Mihai told me.  

And about starting early, well, if you set up your first small venture when you’re a teenager, by the time you want to create a serious one, you have probably made a few mistakes and learned from them too. 

Disrupt the everyday 

Changing the status quo and democratising access to legal counsel was the goal Sona Salimli Alasgarova, the founder and managing director at LegalAid, had when she was setting up her business when she was 22.  

“I decided to create a group on Facebook [called] Legal Advisor. Now, the group has more than 16,000 users and we help them daily for free. [Currently, with the app] it is like having a lawyer in your pocket,” Sona said on the podcast.   

By challenging existing practices and embracing change, entrepreneurs can disrupt traditional industry norms, create new market opportunities, and contribute to the overall evolution of established industries and innovation, so look at how you can challenge the current situation with your solution. 

Think global 

I remember getting ready for my chat with Oleg Krot, the managing partner at TECHIIA Holding, and I thought about the company description on its website: “We believe that possibilities are limitless if backed up by best practices. […] Business is just part of what we do. TECHIIA is a lifestyle.” 

It was really interesting to hear from him that initially the company was focused on the domestic market. 

“We had a pretty good team and we understood clearly how to organise all these people and all these companies that we built during the first years of the business to be the most efficient company in this sector in Ukraine. […] After a few crises, we changed our mindset to be much more international but then Ukrainian,” Oleg told me. 

My takeaway from that would be to open your mind and dare to step out of your comfort zone to discover what the world out there has in store for you. There is nothing more exciting (and interesting) than the unknown. And it’s easier to create that lifestyle out of your business. 

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