Sergey Koynov, CEO and Board Member, on how to succeed in the German market
For almost 10 years now, a Bulgaria-based company has proven that with ambition, vision and the right team of experts it can thrive on competitive international markets, such as the German one. IntelliWay Services was established in 2012 as a company providing property management services in Germany with a focus on accounting, service charge reconciliation, digitalization and other administrative services. The experts of the company add value to the large property managers and property owners on the German market. The operation employs 70 people who assist in the property management of over 700 buildings with a total built up area of 6.9 million square meters. How was this achieved? We talked to Sergey Koynov, CEO and Board Member of IntelliWay Service, to learn more.
Why did you decide to start operating on the German property market?
This decision came through the process of understanding the essence of outsourcing where you need to know the core of the business you intend to operate in. Our eye-opening trips to operational locations in India, the Czech Republic, Poland and the UK helped significantly to formulate a strategy. In our case we wanted to leverage on the substantial real estate experience gathered over the years and use it on a broader international scale. Although English is my preferred language for communication, I thought that it was far too popular globally, making every company using this language for outsourcing easily replaceable by any other company around the world. Therefore, I thought of coming up with a rarer language and German was the logical choice. Besides, Germany is the largest economy in Europe and looked promising for business. This ambition was in the beginning an adventure, like jumping into cold water from a cliff to see if you can survive. Luckily, it worked.
What are the specificities of the German market and how is IntelliWay Services prepared to meet its demands?
There certainly are specifics to the German market and people. For example, it is much more difficult to arrange a meeting with a potential client than in most other places. It takes much longer to convince them to get access but once a meeting is set up, it means that all sent materials and references were checked thoroughly and that there is a very good chance for cooperation. In order to meet the demands of the German market we have worked closely with our clients, received numerous trainings and gradually accumulated the necessary knowledge to serve this foreign market.
How did you manage to convince clients in such conservative market that they would benefit from partnering with an international company staffed by Bulgarians only?
Over time we formed valuable partnerships, one of which with a large development company in Germany and a second one with a top executive in the industry. This helped us additionally to build expertise and know-how of the German property management market and get access to new clients. We were tested on many occasions before being given mandates and we put the effort to strictly meet the deadlines and deliver quality every time. Of course, there were some prejudices as well, but with professionalism and patience we managed to overcome these hurdles, too.
How do you select your employees?
We employ people with higher education, excellent German language and affinity to real estate, people who are eager to learn and develop both as professionals and human beings. Our preference lies with people who are mature and ones who understand our philosophy of having an office where good relationships, mutual respect, support and cooperation prevail. In terms of profile, we look for accountants and people with economics background and excellent digital skills.
How did the Covid-19 pandemic affect IntelliWay Services operations?
We were lucky that our industry was relatively stable during the pandemic. Property management deals with existing buildings and their income was not significantly affected in the short run as the leases of the tenants are usually long-term. It was more difficult to contact new clients and continue to grow but we put an effort in expanding our digital presence and it did not take long for results to follow.
The pandemic catalyzed the decision of many Bulgarians living in Germany to return home and we managed to attract top experts, which would otherwise not have been accessible.
Digitalization was also accelerated on all levels and our business model was gradually not seen as an exotic one. This helped us to gain the trust and have new opportunities with clients who did not consider outsourcing as a possibility for their business before.
To adapt to the pandemic, we had to go in home operating mode. In the meantime, we spent a lot of time finding a great new office which would attract the people who prefer to work in an office environment. Currently we are looking for the right balance between home office and physical presence to ensure stability of operation in the future.
How did IntelliWay Services adapt to the new environment?
Our business is online so it was not difficult to technically reorganize to work from home. We were not sure if this change would work well from management point of view but we were positively surprised by the responsibility and dedication of our employees. We discovered that many people are more productive working from home. One thing that is more difficult is to accommodate and retain the people who are in the beginning of their careers and need more special training and attention so we have put a special focus and attention on them.
Digitalization also means a greater exposure of data to breaches and crashes. How do you guarantee the safety of your clients' data?
There are risks to the online business and that is why we certify with ISO 27001 which deals with information security management. On a regular basis we use secure VPN connections to work directly on our clients' servers, having access only to the parts of the system where we need to operate. This minimizes the potential issues with data loss and protects from information leakage. We have doubled our internet connection to prevent crashes and disconnections. We also have a disaster recovery solution that stores the data we possess and produce in two separate locations.
LinkedIn: IntelliWay Services