Giuseppe De Francesco, managing partner, on how investors benefit from choosing the right consultant
Global Business Group, a consultancy company, helps foreign investors in a wide spectrum of industries to open a successful business in Bulgaria. The company stands out with its trademark market-specific knowledge combined with general business expertise. It offers services such as temporary management, company registration, consultancy and e-business, and is able to find the best EU funding for ambitious businesses. We talk to one of the company's founders, Giuseppe de Francesco, to learn more.
What makes Bulgaria a good place for investment in 2021?
Bulgaria has been a good investment destination for some years with its low taxes, relatively low production costs, stable macroeconomic frame and currency pegged to the euro. It is close to the Middle East, Eastern Europe, the Mediterranean region and Western Europe. These are key to foreign investors who decide to internationalise their activities in Bulgaria.
In 2021, Bulgaria has two additional advantages. It is a great nearshore alternative for small and mid-size foreign companies that cannot invest in the Far East. The Covid-19 pandemic demonstrated the benefits of such a solution. The other is the EU's 2021-2027 Recovery Package with its extensive spending on economy recovery and modernisation with a focus on digitalisation, green energy and reduction of emissions. However, Bulgaria can benefit from these only if it has political stability. This is crucial for potential investors.
What businesses can benefit from these conditions?
Both traditional for Bulgaria sectors such as agriculture, food processing, organic agriculture and food production, farming, mechanics and chemical industry, and relatively new ones such as IT. In the past 3-4 years Bulgaria has become an IT hub. Many international companies moved their business to Sofia, Plovdiv and Varna for the qualified staff and the relatively low expenses.
However, you need skilled workforce to attract investors and for some time now entrepreneurs in Bulgaria have complained of a lack of trained employees. The country should invest in modern education and retraining to prepare its people for the more technological jobs of tomorrow.
Public administration also needs improvement. A year and half ago one of our clients applied for a certain permit at a certain state agency. We are still waiting for a reply.
How can Global Business Group help its clients?
With our reliability, competency and on-the-ground experience. My partners and I created Global Business Group 9 years ago, but our experience is much richer. One of us, Pietro Ghia, is among the first Italians who settled in Bulgaria, 30 years ago, and started doing business here. I have lived in Bulgaria for 15 years and our third partner, Stefan Todorov, is a Bulgarian. We all have rich experience in industry. We do not live in the office and we have personal experience in working with the Bulgarian administration. We have lived here for so long that we are now fluent in Bulgarian language, culture and the local system. We know how to achieve things here.
This makes us reliable consultants to anyone who decides to invest in Bulgaria. We even offer temporary management to companies that lack staff or management. We manage a lot of client firms in several sectors.
What is the most important thing a company should know before opening a business in Bulgaria?
It should plan its investment very well. And it should not forget that it operates in a different country. Overcoming the barrier of a different language, mindset and operating model is the hardest task. You should be aware that rules in Bulgaria are different – I do not say better or worse, only different – than ones in your home country. You should play by them, but you should also introduce good practices from other places. The entrepreneur has some responsibility to combine the best of established different models.
This is why the best solution is to use the help of professional consultants. When starting work with us, many companies make a big mistake. Their first question is: "How much will it cost?". The right first question should be: "I want to grow this business in Bulgaria. Is this possible?". Only after we find the answer to this question, we can decide what to do and how much it will cost.
Remember: in the end of the day working with nonprofessionals costs you more that working with professionals.
Why did you decide to offer an e-business service?
The pandemic demonstrated that modern technologies allow companies to work as effectively as before. In the EU, online sales boomed and all stakeholders benefited. Sadly, Bulgaria lags in this respect. We can help companies to make the most of the rising online sales. Our e-business service is more than a sales portal. It also offers price analysis, marketing strategies, advice on making effective promotional campaigns. Our goal is to connect clients and companies. All businesses can benefit from this.
What EU projects do you focus on when searching funding for your clients?
We focus mainly on Innovation and Competitiveness and Human Resources Development operative programmes as they are designed for small and mid-size companies, which make the majority of our clients. We sometimes work with rural development programmes and are also interested in the so-called direct programmes. which are managed by Brussels directly.
As I mentioned, the EU's Recovery Package will pour a lot of funding in the next 7 years. Until now, the main aim of the national governments, including the Bulgarian one, was to mitigate the economic effect of the anti-Covid-19 measures. It is understandable, but I believe that the time has come to return to previous policies designed for companies that are ready to invest, grow and produce more. That is why it is very important to launch in the next weeks at least one of the two planned programmes focused on digitalisation and green innovations in small and mid-size companies. These mesaures will improve companies performances and efficiency, boosting their profits and ultimately translating into more jobs, higher salaries and more comsumption, which will benefit the economy as a whole. This is how the open market works. It self-regulates with the right help from the state. And this is the right moment for this.
Plovdiv, 42 Prince Alexander I Battenberg St
phone: +359 32 590 321