"Teamwork makes the Dream works – How Systain Group can be the ideal partner"
CEO – BL Consulting LTD
Founder, Co-Partner Systain Group
Systain Group is the collaboration of companies led by three partners Boyan Yordanov & Emilian Kroumov & Damien Dockery
They empower mid- and large-size organizations to do more effective business by utilizing business management solutions.
In this interview with Boyan Yordanоv, CEO at BL Consulting and Founder of Systain Group, we learn about the Influence of innovation and his father during communism and how partnerships are essential to progress.
Expodia: Hello Boyan, thank you for taking the time to do this interview. Before we start, can you tell us about yourself? Where are you from, and what is your background?
Boyan: Hi Armin, thank you for inviting me. I'm Bulgarian and now living and based in Bulgaria. Let me start with my educational background.
I was always the best student in school, in high school, and in university. I had a golden badge for excellence in elementary and then in high school. Not only that, but I got an award as the best student in the faculty at Technical University. I used to study the High School of Mathematics. The time was challenging due to the switch from socialism to capitalism. The SMG(its abbreviation) was a prosperous and innovative school at that time. The Technical University of Sofia was one of the top technical universities in the world. In my second year, I enrolled in a management and economics program. This doubled my achievement – Industrial Automation plus Management and Economics. Very practical for my path forward.
Expodia: How did you discover the challenges in the communist time?
Boyan: It was challenging because my father lost his job. It was at the beginning of capitalism, and this made me and my brother start finding jobs. My brother jumped into the business. It took longer for me since first I started in the corporate world. Still, the entrepreneurial mindset is always with me, so it was part of let's say the education I got from home.
From my childhood, I remember that we had moments when we were counting on coins to buy bread, it was tough.
Expodia: So you have a strong mindset. Would you say these challenging moments have sharpened your character of who you are now?
Boyan: Yes, because such moments and situations teach you. These are lessons of life that help further to cope with what the future offered to me at later periods in my life.
Expodia: How did you prepare for your own business?
Boyan: It happened while I was at a university in Bulgaria. It was such a boiling economic environment. Everyone was talking business, so I was trying this and that. We started some business activities around studies. At the university, it was possible to prepare courses for my colleagues. These times made me wonder if a business or science career is better. Some remarkable business initiatives were with a couple of friends. We were selling books with very low margins, quick sales, and getting a good turnover. There was high inflation at that time, and I was looking for any opportunity to rise any kind of business. At that time, I heard for the first time about innovation and the transfer of knowledge. In engineering studies, we covered knowledge that is fundamental to my business today.
Expodia: How important is innovation for you?
Boyan: Innovation is influential and inspiring. My father was inventive, and he has patents on his name. He was talking and encouraging us by saying: “One day we invent something small that will revolutionize the world!”.
Expodia: I can see the perfect cycle. You were sharpened through the difficult condition of communism. You learned from your father, who made patents, to be innovative. Was he also inspiring you, to start your own business?
Boyan: I would say yes. When I started my first business? I will surprise you. I was eight years old during communist times and what happened is interesting. My father created a handmade kaleidoscope as a toy for us (his sons). Then I took it with me to school and all my classmates wanted the new cool fancy toy. This was an opportunity to grab. We started supplying materials i.e. broken mirrors to daddy. He was cutting them and we were assembling kaleidoscopes. Sales were easy with a great product. It was inexpensive and not available elsewhere. We sold around 50 kaleidoscopes. One day, my dad stopped cutting the mirrors for us. He put this project on hold because it was not allowed and was dangerous to do any private business. All businesses were state-owned, so people did not have the right to do capitalist stuff. This was one of my first ventures. Times were strange. Socialism was giving the feeling of safety and equality. But was also pressing any initiative, which today we have.
Expodia: You became an expert in consulting. How did you make a switch over from this 8-year-old boy selling a kaleidoscope in school to your first professional company in Bulgaria?
Boyan: In fact, this 2023 year, is a great year for BL consulting. My own company will become 20 years old. I was also an employee for long period. As an employee, I was trying to be the best one. There is something philosophical. When you give or share a lot, you will get more in return. Sometimes it doesn't happen, but this is OK and is part of the learning curve and the business. We provide consulting and business solutions for more effective business. We do a wide range of services. From website creation, maintenance, and marketing, to solid projects in ERP and CRM. Digital transformation is fancy and we are on it. To do our best, we need to understand our client's business in detail. Else, it is impossible to do the right job and recommend the best solution. Now is the time to explain, we are not selling software for the sake of the software itself. We are binding it with specific goals, needs, and pains the business has. This is our goal! Very often we need to turn down customers when the tools we have are not suitable to help them. When we find a good match, the magic happens! We run valuable projects for our customers.
Expodia: It is a gentlemanly move in this business, by turning down customers if you feel like you can’t help or improve them. Transparency and honesty should always be the main focus.
Boyan: We never go to clients and sell more licenses because we get a commission. It's still valuable, but it's a short game. This is a critical point in how you look at your customers. Looking at customers as partners is the basis for a powerful relationship. Of course, people change, et cetera, but this relationship can hold for decades. BL Consulting has had customers i.e. partners for more than 17 years. We will continue working with them even on our 30th or 50th anniversary.
It is more difficult to find partners than customers or suppliers.
Expodia: Why is it difficult?
Boyan: Because any partnership requires commitment from both sides. To create a partnership, you need to give and share. Profitability does not always work due to your partners are in difficult situations. In management, we had classes on the Japanese way of thinking, culture, and doing business. It changed, but for someone to become a CEO, he needs a start from a very low level and progress. A very long, bus sustainable journey. Japanese companies(people) respect their partners. They do not change them for the sake of one or another for a better deal. Respect and play the long game
Expodia: Before our event takes place. We have BL Consulting for 20 years in the business, and it shows you have the expertise. We know now where you're coming from, but you made a decision to join a group like an alliance with other partners because you are participating as Systain Group at the Innovative Digital EXPO. Can you tell us more about the collaboration? What is Systain Group, and who are the partners behind it?
Boyan: We set up Systain Group last year. Yes, it's been one year since we established it. How did it happen? In 2020, I reconnected with a friend from my childhood. His name is Emilian Kroumov. He was studying in different schools when I was selling kaleidoscopes. After we met, we started setting up some projects together. Emilian is an experienced psychologist. He is an expert in human resources and coaching. Quite different from IT stuff (if I can label my business this way). We have projects that connect humanitarian to digital in an innovative way. When we started working together, I also shared with him that I'm looking for partners. Success is not a solo game, and this was the beginning.
Collaboration is a must, for generating more value for each other and for our customers. As I said, It is not easy to find partners. I contacted many companies and I didn't know what it will be. One day, an email arrived from my ex-colleague in Hungary – Damien. I used to live in Hungary for some years. Damien Dockery is an experienced expert in supply chain and management consulting. We had a call and I shared what I'm looking for. One day we decided to jump into a partnership. Our first project was giving a name to our collaboration. We had several dozen of suggestions, but Systain Group won after a brainstorming session.
It's still not a registered legal entity. The idea is to help each other, to be more visible, and to become a stronger team to support our customers. Well, better said our partners.
Expodia: I always say networking is an important factor in the whole process. Can you tell me why you decide to attend the Innovative Digital EXPO as Systain Group?
Boyan: First, we knew each other from before. The B2B world, in the end, is human to human. So it was our initial connection. The Innovative Digital EXPO is a great opportunity for us to find more partnerships. I say again, partnerships. We build partnerships and gain more business together. It will be a live in-person event! When you announced it, there were still a lot of restrictions on travel and uncertainty. Meeting people face to face in person is another level. Humans are social creatures. When you go in person, shake hands, and have a chat and friendly drink – this is real. Systain Group's main market focus is on Southeast Europe and Turkey. We can help our partners to build their businesses here.
Expodia: What kind of value can you bring to other companies and partners of this target market?
Boyan: We help companies reach our market area. We help them be like locals. It's a very challenging area in Southeast Europe. It's a bouquet of cultures. Imagine Bulgarians nod their heads opposite to the rest of the world for Yes and No. Plenty of different languages. It's a bouquet that is so colorful and beautiful. The living standard is quite low from, let's say, the DACH region. It's a market with huge potential. We have Unicorns in southeast Europe. As we say, it’s a field that needs little to boom.
Expodia: So let's summarize in a short, what is the vision and mission of Systain Group?
Boyan: Our mission is to create and grow with more strategic partnerships. Quality and high value delivered to our clients is what we aim for. We grow together and this is a long journey – now they call it a long game. This remains me again of the Japanese way of thinking about their partners. They stay strong together till the end. This is very powerful. Something that the world should learn from. When we shake hands with partners, the commitment is long. I will go through some challenges, but these hands will hold for mutual better. This is my vision, and this is what my partners also share.
Expodia: If we were to meet for coffee a year from now and talk about what Systain Group has already achieved from it. What would you tell me?
Boyan: Our collaboration will bring new partnerships. Amazing projects will arise in areas that I don't even have in mind. We look for a new world of opportunities. We will have more and more satisfied customers and partners around Europe and beyond.
Expodia: Boyan, thank you for the interview, and I'm looking forward to welcoming you to the Innovative Digital EXPO. As we can see, you bring a lot of value to the table, and I'm looking forward to you achieving all your goals.
Boyan: Thank you very much, Armin. It's great to be an exhibitor at Innovative Digital EXPO 2023. This is a huge opportunity that businesses should not miss! The world is in a challenging situation. This covers many aspects – political, economic, and environmental. Innovative Digital Expo 2023 will be helping us grow with new business opportunities.
Expodia: And when we talk about opportunities, please, for the readers, don't miss out to meet Systain Group at the Innovative Digital EXPO at Stand C 33.
Mr. Boyan Yordanov was interviewed by Armin Khani
You can meet Systain Group at the Innovative Digital EXPO 2023 at booth C33