Dear Petar, the reason why we wanted to have an interview with you is the fact that you were the first employee hired in Bulgaria, becoming Country Director later and now you are Sales Director of the whole OKIN FACILITY. Can you tell us more about your OKIN journey?
It all started in May 2008, so almost 13 years ago. At that time, I was working at an advertising agency for three years already and I started looking for new opportunities. I saw a regular job ad that a Czech company was looking for a country manager in Bulgaria, so I decided to apply. The application process was quite complicated, there was an assessment centre which took two days to complete. We were about 20-30 applicants and there were group activities as well as individual tasks. At first, I thought I had no chance because the other applicants were older than me and much more experienced than me. At that time, I was 26 years old.
And why you think OKIN decided for you?
I thought I had no chance, so I was relaxed. And I believe it was the group activities that helped me stand out from the crowd. We had limited time to solve each group task but the other people were too much focused on their performance and were starting like “Based on my experience…, blah blah”. Time was passing by and I decided to take the initiative and started organizing the group. I summarized all their proposals on the white board and at the end we voted and completed the tasks. I started naturally managing those people and it continued throughout the whole day.
What about the start of your OKIN way?
So, as you already know, I am the first employee of the company in Bulgaria and at the beginning it was me and my Czech boss. We really had to start everything from scratch and the Bulgarian branch officially started operating on January 1, 2009. Thanks to this opportunity I started learning Czech a bit.
That is nice to hear. What´s your relationship to the Czech language?
Listening to my Czech colleagues was quite interesting and I decided to attend a Czech class. So, I enrolled into one which was part of the Czech Culture Institute (part of Czech Embassy) but the teaching method was not what I expected and I did not complete it. In the following years I visited Czech Republic plenty of times and I had the chance to learn more. Now, I would like to re-start my classes again.
Back to your OKIN path. How were the first years and how quickly did the branch grow?
The first year was quite challenging as we had to attract clients without having anything basically. We hired some key persons in our team including our technical manager Borislav Nankinski (note: current country manager in Bulgaria).
At the beginning I was knocking on the doors of potential clients, offering our services. Finally, we succeeded in 2009 to win our first clients – one production plant and two office buildings.
It must have been difficult selling the product of a company that was just created and had no history in Bulgarian market.
Yes, this is one thing. Another thing is that the market was not prepared for this kind of services. And the last thing is that even I was not prepared and had to learn about facility management specifics. With Bobi on board we created a strong team. We complemented each other and in this way the company started growing. As soon as we had two-three production plants in our portfolio it was easier to attract others.
And what is the current position of OKIN in the Bulgarian market?
Currently, OKIN FACILITY is the second biggest FM company in Bulgaria. Couple of years ago an investment fund acquired 4 of our competitors and merged them together. In this way the biggest FM company was established. From my point of view, this merge is quite beneficial for us as now we have less competitors on the market.
You were on the position of Country Manager and now you have a regional position. Is there a big difference?
When I was offered the position of Sales Director CEE, I had to think a lot about it. After all I had developed the company in Bulgaria, everything was already set-up and we had a good team. I really enjoyed most of my job responsibilities and the company was developing according to our expectations. Of course, at that time I had to deal with operational issues related to the service delivery.
And how do you feel now in your new role?
After moving to the new position, I feel great. Finally, I can fully concentrate on sales. Of course, at the beginning it took some time to restart my way of thinking. I had to switch my mindset and to become more like a consultant and to offer support to my colleagues.
How is it to inherit sales teams in the countries? You didn´t have the chance to choose your team.
When I accepted the position, the sales team was already developed with experienced professionals. I knew them all from the past and we had and still have good relationship with all of them. There are also new people on board and we continue to grow.
What does sales mean for you?
It´s my nature. It´s just me. I like communicating and meeting new people.
One more question about sales. You sell facility services which is not so attractive as for example selling a Ferrari. 🙂 What is your secret to successful sales?
Open communication. I have always been open, and I usually say “OK, FM is not about rocket science, it’s a simple thing”. I always try to be open and direct.
What are you doing in your free time? What inspires you?
I have two kids, 12 and 10 and I like spending time with them. I also practise various sports as pilates, squash and basketball. And now it’s good time for skiing. My hometown, Sofia, has great location, so you can go skiing in the mountain in 40 minutes which is very convenient.
Petar, I have one last question for you. What does OKIN mean to you?
OKIN is part of me and I am part of OKIN. I feel my true self in the company, simply because I do what I like. I also appreciate the closeness and openness we have around the countries. So, OKIN in general is not only a company, but kind of a mission for me. As I told you, I was the first employee in Bulgaria, so it’s always been like a baby to me. I’ve always wanted to make sure that it grows and that it grows well.
When I started the new regional position in 2019 I began taking care of the big baby and now I am focused on its development. So, for me it’s really ONE OKIN.