How did you end up founding Ascent Group?
It wasn’t a very easy process, because I get quite attached to each job, to the people I work with, so I have quite a high level of inertia to these kinds of changes. But I think at the same time I have this entrepreneurial thrill pretty deep inside me.
I took the step into entrepreneurship in 2005, after already working for several years in a multinational company and then in an international consulting company. In a way I think it was a natural transition. I already knew the business environment in the region quite well and was convinced I had identified something that was missing in it.
So Ascent Group came in to fill a gap I felt at the time in the consulting market. This market was divided between two extremes. On the one side were the big consulting companies (those we mainly know as the “Big Four” and their related environment), companies with very good expertise and level of quality, but at the same time with a very high level of standardization, which often leads to a distance from the client and understanding their deep needs and metabolism. On the other hand, there were many very small local consulting companies, usually dealing with only one type of service (e.g. financial, legal or HR services) offering a very good level of quality and customisation, but which were too small to be visible and credible to medium or large companies, i.e. foreign companies investing in Romania.
When I founded Ascent Group, two important ingredients I think were connected: my need to make a professional change, to gain more freedom and autonomy (and these are critical things for me, without which I can hardly function) and a need in the market, that had become very obvious to me.
So I finally made the move. And when I started this project I set out from the very beginning to build Ascent Group as a regional company, not a local one, to be a service integrator (i.e. a kind of “one stop shop” for our clients) big enough to be able to target medium and large companies, but always maintaining the quality and level of customization that small consulting companies offer. And I hope we’ve managed to do and maintain that.
When I founded Ascent Group I didn’t just set out to add another business to the existing ones, I really felt that I had identified a niche, an area of needs, where we could make a difference.
What is your current activity in the company?
If I were to think strictly in terms of my title, my role is to manage the entire Ascent Group of companies globally. This primarily involves strategy, development, identifying new opportunities for portfolio expansion and diversification, strategic partnerships. In practice, however, I am also involved quite a lot in day-to-day operational activities, especially those coming from the area of training or strategic consulting, on one hand because these are areas I am passionate about, but also because there are clients with whom I have been working for many years and I believe I have become part of their daily life.
Obviously, finding the right balance between these two sides of my activity is quite difficult and one of my main challenges. Sometimes I think I’m doing well, other times I feel like I’m slipping too much into one and neglecting the other… It’s another path I’m learning every day.
What do you find motivating in your work every day?
There are many things that motivate me in what I do.
First of all the diversity, the fact that we do quite different activities, even if they are complementary, and that doesn’t give you any chance to get bored.
Second are the learning opportunities. We operate in a mix of areas where to perform and keep up with the dynamics of our clients’ business you have to actually learn something new every day. And that for me is a key motivator.
Then there’s the fact that the job I do really has a positive impact on the people I work with, whether we’re talking about the companies or the people we help to develop. And having a meaningful job, where you feel you can contribute to the development of others and generate added value, is something that can keep you energised every day.
And to that I must add the freedom, the fact that my job allows me to experiment, to try new things, to be always able to explore new territories.
Last but not least, a very important motivator for me are the people I work with. We have a great team of colleagues and partners that I work with every day and I always have something to learn from them. They are my second family. So, putting it all together, I really think it would be impossible to imagine a more motivating job than my job at Ascent.
What are your guiding principles in life?
I think of myself as a fair person, who has little tolerance for unfairness or injustice. That’s why I always prefer to take the hard way if the alternative is a shortcut involving a trick, or cheating. So one of the things I care about a lot, whether we’re talking about our teammates, partners or clients, is that they share the same value.
That ties in with another key thing for me, which is trust. I give it to those around me and expect it equally. All the partnerships I’ve built, all the relationships I’m part of, are based on trust. At Ascent we have built an environment where we trust each other very much, and this creates a lot of freedom and autonomy. Obviously, it comes with a high degree of responsibility. Sometimes, over the years, we have also lost by giving unconditional trust to people who have later shown that they did not deserve it. But I still think I’ve gained more from it than I’ve lost, and this is one of the things that will continue to guide me in life. And it will also remain an important part of the company culture at Ascent.
And last but not least, another principle I’ve always been guided by in life has been to surround myself with intelligent people, who know more than I do, from whom I can learn. I believe that the relationships we are a part of define much of who we are, whether we are talking about those in our professional or personal circles. If I want to understand something, I usually try to find out who the best people in the field are and to learn directly from them. I have a lot of faith in science, I trust people who make a real effort to learn and deepen things in their professions, and I try to always stay connected to anything new. And I don’t just mean in my field of expertise. For example, even if it’s not directly related to what we do at Ascent and my profession, I’m passionate about artificial intelligence and read quite a lot about it, I’m fascinated by space, and I try to always stay connected with research that’s being done in that field, and I’m very passionate (since childhood) about data analytics, so I’m constantly trying to learn new things about big data.
How do you see the future of the company you run?
Ascent Group has gone through many transformations in the 16 years we’ve been in business and I think that’s already a good predictor of our future behaviour.
We will remain curious and alert to all changes in the market and continue to reinvent ourselves, bringing new concepts and methods to the region that will help our clients more easily face the inherent challenges in a highly volatile and ever-changing business environment.
We have in our group one of the first accounting companies to implement artificial intelligence in Romania, one of the leading companies in training programs in the area of innovation, and we continue to explore some new areas, which I consider cutting edge.
So I see Ascent Group in the future as a leading company in the field of integrated consulting services, which will continue its regional expansion. I see it as a very brave company (we even aim to make several acquisitions in the coming years and continue to develop strategic partnerships), but especially as a company that I hope will always set a standard in terms of two important elements: quality of service and internal working environment.
I think we have a lot of opportunities ahead of us and I believe we are ready for them. We have a very good team and we’ve learned a lot from our years of operation so far and from the two crises we’ve successfully weathered. Actually, I’m very optimistic about the future!