Yavor Djonev is the founder and Executive Director of Sirma Group. It was great to not only learn more about the company’s history, current situation, and future but also to learn about a unique perspective in business and in life.
What was your vision when you started this company?
Sirma was founded (Sirma AI) on a vision to bring great value to businesses and people through utilizing knowledge processing technology and artificial intelligence. Our goal was to make business more meaningful for people and for people to lead more fulfilling lives which included creating a better work/life balance for them, allowing them to have 2-3 professions in a lifetime and/or engaging in creative activity while in their current profession. Our first client that we completed this for was the Canadian government.
Sirma started with its first business line, Sirma Cognitive Technologies which is now experiencing a comeback. It is interesting to see how many people start realizing the value of this 25 years later. This is why our 25th-year motto is ‘going back to our roots by helping companies become more intelligent while using much more advanced technologies.My current assignment is to continue to expand Sirma Group to the US through our three business divisions which are EngView Systems, Sirma Enterprise Systems, and Sirma Cultural Heritage.
Sirma at an early stage in its development recognized the importance of the delivery of accurate and relevant information to our clients in line with their program requirements and in particular the importance of hitting key milestone dates. I have seen the company grow quite dramatically over those 20 years, as we developed specialized services, and invested in technology and our people, but the team spirit and camaraderie which I first experienced on initially joining Sirma is still very much a core value of the organization and one which we constantly encourage and develop.
What aspects of your routine do you believe contribute to your success?
Well, I don’t consider myself ‘successful’ in this venture quite yet. However, to answer your question, my routine consists of two elements – collaboration and administration. A lot of my time is spent collaborating with my colleagues to discuss conceptual topics. Once we have a clear picture of the concept, then we bring it to reality and deliver. The other routine that I do on a daily basis would be administration. Personally, it’s not the most exciting aspect for me, but it is necessary for our business.
There are some known entrepreneurs that don’t value higher education based on their statements, what is your perspective on this?
When you look at certain success stories such as some in Silicon Valley, they might be based on luck and strange social behavior. Generally speaking, education is great and highly recommended. However, it’s important to make sure you get educated in a more technical or narrower subject so you can become an expert in a particular field before venturing into business.
As far as business school is considered, I recommend taking executive management courses after you have gained a lot of experience as business strategy is learned on the job. After exposure to real world experience, it’s a great idea to take an executive course once a year to reflect, understand what you’ve been doing, get encouragement and see others that are doing the same thing. Executive management courses allow you to learn as much from your classmates as you do from your professors.
What is one piece of advice you would give to someone looking to start their own business?
Get partners who have business, sales, and marketing experience rather than just focusing on intentions of your product/service’s features, design, etc. Conceptual success is good, but you need business success as well and the best thing to do to achieve this is to get a well-balanced team that includes sales and marketing executives.
What are the top 3 books you would recommend to someone aspiring to lead an organization?
1) Entrepreneurial Marketing: An Effectual Approach by Edwin Jacob Nijssen
2) Blue Ocean Strategy by W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne
3) Any work done by Henry Mintzberg