Romania seen through foreign investor eyes

21.01.2019   |  Business Travel  |  Featured  |  Startup

I am a Romanian businessman, but I consider myself lucky for being born in a time when business became borderless. In other words, I’ve been interacting with non-Romanian partners for almost 10 years. So, since this text is in English, you are surely interested in a short list of my foreign partners’ perceptions of Romania. Warning: most positive things have a downside. 

Work hard, play hard

Yes, we, Romanians, are known for that. We get enthusiastic quickly and react well to uncommon tasks, stimulated by the novelty of what we have to do. Also, overtime is less expensive in Romania than elsewhere for various reasons. Every foreigner I know was happy with the fact that we are connected 24/7 and most of us do react well to business messages sent at unusual hours, especially having in mind time zones.

However: Things can become hectic at this pace. If somebody spent 16 hours at the office the day before, you can hardly expect them to deliver something good the next day. Somehow, in this part of the World, we have to protect ourselves from work excess in order to be able to obtain better long-term results.

Good English language knowledge

You can order a beer in English almost anywhere in a big city. You can even bet on a certain degree of command of English from middle-aged taxi drivers. There are even things that Romanians can hardly name in their native language, such as computer menus or marketing lingo. Romanian itself got invaded by English after the fall of communism, in domains that simply lacked the vocabulary. Most of them are related to business or technology.

However: There are people who have studied English and there are people who learned it by ear. You may face some misunderstandings ranging from funny to problematic. You also may be surprised of how little English legalese a technical person understands and the opposite — what a lawyer can make of a marketing report. My advice: if you’re in search of really strong abilities, look for English certificates rather than self-assessment in resumes.

Bureaucracy

One could hardly say anything good about Romania in this respect. In my view, you can never be cautious enough about it. Have you heard about the rule that you’ve got to get the agreement of your closest neighbors when setting up even the smallest, quietest business in an apartment? An American friend of mine asked a bureaucrat about the meaning of it and the bureaucrat frowned: ‘There have been cases when we’ve had dozens of companies registered in the same apartment, which is totally fishy.’ The American was bemused: ‘This is precisely what I pay for in New York and it’s totally legal. A box located at a physical address, together with hundreds of other businesses, just in case. It’s 50 dollars per year and it’s the only address I need in the US!’

Responsiveness and punctuality

A big part of Romania, at least the one you’ll be interacting with mostly, is somehow prone to progress. I’m not bragging with my conationals –  it’s the observation of an Italian partner. It comes down to the will to overcome ourselves and catch up with what is sometimes still called here ‘The West’ or ‘The Civilized World’. This is causing the enthusiasm and ability to work hard I’ve already mentioned and, obviously, punctuality. You can use it all to your own and your local partners’ advantage.

However: Have you ever heard anybody saying in Romanian ‘Imediat!’? It is an answer to a request and it literally means ‘Immediately’ or ‘Right away, Sir’. Some other cultures have it, but in Romania it’s some kind of automated answer, it hardly means anything. To a Swiss gentleman that I know, it means: ‘Gimme 15 minutes’, or simply: ‘F… off!’ The Swiss gentleman owns an Omega and I suppose he knows a thing or two about time.

Fun

Yes, Bucharest – as well as other big cities in Romania, such as Cluj or Iași — is lots of fun. You might have heard of the Old Centre, which is something similar to Campo de’ Fiori in Rome or the Jewish Quarter in Budapest. It’s right in the center, full of pubs and clubs. The kind of area that travel guides call, in lack of a better word, ‘vibrant’.

However: During weekends, the Old Centre gets stormed by low-cost city break cheap beer addicts and they sometimes don’t even book a hostel room. Music is loud, fine cuisine is scarce and yes, everything is cheaper than in London, but significantly more expensive than in other parts of Bucharest. My advice: look for an Arabian restaurant. You might have nice surprises, because they are run by Palestinian or Lebanese folks that came to Romania in the eighties, in communist student exchanges. Many of them have remained here, got into the food business and they’re really good at it.

Hospitality. Conclusion

All in all, I do love Bucharest a lot, in spite of what I’ve said. But a foreigner’s experience here depends strongly on their local contacts. As most other peoples, Romanians are very appreciative of their own hospitality. In general, it’s true, we are very welcoming, because until 30 years ago we were isolated and we had to report contacts to foreigners to the communist Police. To younger people in big cities, strangers are less appealing. So, in the end, finding compatible partners is a good idea in terms of personal comfort. As it always is for business, isn’t it?

Octavian Pătrașcu  |   21.01.2019   |  Business Travel  |  Featured  |  Startup

Three things to test and maintain in HR: hard skills, soft skills, and motivation

25.04.2019   |  News  |  Startup
The quality and efficiency of an employee mainly depend on their professional qualifications, but the modern human resources theory refers to this only through a partial term, namely "hard skills". In terms of evaluations and professional management, these “hard skills” are supplemented by a range of different qualities defined as "soft skills", such as the motivation that an individual demonstrates or chooses to develop.

Hard Skills: Easy to identify, necessary, but not enough

The term "hard skills" applies especially to fundamental professional knowledge, skills, and abilities, but not only. For example, if a programmer has to write code in Java, he will obviously have to know the programming language. In the field of hard skills, however, complementary skills such as foreign languages ​​or driving licenses also come into play. If the job description is not IT-related, the computer skills - quasi-generalized today - are also in the same complementary category. Upon hiring, hard skills can be easily tested or proven. Basically, all the skills in this category can be certified through a diploma or a certificate of qualification. These skills are the basis for the future work of the employee, but in the vast majority of cases, they are not enough to ensure good performance at the workplace.

Soft Skills: harder to test, especially required for higher positions

These are somewhat social qualities, relating especially to people-interacting abilities. Soft skills include teamwork skills, communication skills, leadership qualities, and the ability to solve problems as they come. From simple politeness to a nonconflictual attitude, a whole range of attributes can be added here, including good time management or the desire to conform to strict professional ethics. If hard skills are easy to identify, in the case of soft skills, the stereotype enumerations present in CVs are never enough proof of their existence. They can somehow be felt when hiring, during their interview or, possibly, through psychological tests set up by human resources specialists. As they mostly focus on human interaction, soft skills are increasingly needed as the position of the employee in the hierarchy is higher, but the situation differs from one job description to another. If the programmer we had as an example earlier does not necessarily need soft skills when writing code, a sales or marketing specialist will interact with the top management and thus cannot work without them.

Motivation: differs from case to case

Motivation is a problem that concerned psychologists way before Maslow's Human Pyramid of Needs. There are many hypotheses and models that relate to this theory. I will just state that a first classification refers to financial and extra-financial motivations. The former refers to material compensation and are accepted unanimously. However, since the beginning of the 20th century, it has become clear that there is no direct link between payment and the efficiency of a person. 100 years ago, however, besides the famous $5-a-day salary, Henry Ford offered land lots, kindergartens for their children and, in the case of immigrants, English courses to help them integrate into the mass production processes. Today, large companies provide health insurance, relaxation areas, various educational classes, physical activity facilities. All of these include career plans and contract terms that offer job security and much more. Perhaps, the first thing to remember is that motivation differs greatly from one employee to another. Effective management should be as flexible as possible, in accordance with the needs and incentives of employees, beyond the standard packages.

The Employer’s Perspective

From what we described above it seems that that the employer will consider the three components as we’ve structured them. Hard skills are easy to identify and absolutely necessary to ensure performance in a particular position, so these are the first ones that will be tested. Soft skills can be identified to a certain extent in the midst of the employment process, but initial perceptions can be confirmed or denied later on. What’s more important is sustaining them at the workplace, often as a necessity for promotion on a higher hierarchy level. As final words, motivation has qualitative rather than quantitative aspects. Employers should be less concerned about the answer to the question "how motivated is an employee?", but rather show concern towards the type of motivation that employees are most responsive to. Schematically speaking, if hard skills are mainly the employee's concern, soft skills relate to a process that takes place between the employee and the company, and in the case of motivation, it should meet the needs of the employee. Only by paying attention to all the three components, the employer and the employee can have a mutually satisfactory and productive relationship.
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Romania seen through foreign investor eyes

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