I have people that are capable of handling each and every task, anytime – Kolyo Doynov, chairman of the Board of Directors of Siko Trans
Kolyo Doynov was born on the 13th of May 1973 in the city of Sofia. It seems that 13 is imbedded in his life path and is always carrier of something nice. The thirteenth year is the most important one throughout the history of Siko Trans – the company that started doing business as carrier and nowadays focuses its attention on the forwarding operations. In the last several years it achieved an increase of 35% of the carried cargo volumes, but the 13th year since the start gave my team the self-confidence of successfully developing professionals”, according to the manager.
Doynov, what are the stages the Siko Trans team had to pass to get in the “teen years” the feeling of professionalism and security?
Company development and expansion happened naturally. We suffered many blows of destiny, not only the economic crisis, but others and all kinds of hindrances – starting from regulation and legislative confusions, to labour legal cases and disputes with clients and suppliers. But if one follows his or her reason and intuition, he would be successful in passing all the different stages until achieving maturity. In order to build up successful business, you should be quite diligent and active, but it takes some humbleness as well as lots of flexibility and objectivity of actions. To my greatest satisfaction we survived the chaos level and created very well-structured and operating company system. Yes, we have always achieved greater turnovers. Yes, our team kept growing all the time, but in the last two years we did this in planned, organized and well-controlled manner. We improved the procedures, structure, we analysed risk, implemented protective mechanisms and numerous innovative approaches. It is not only my satisfaction, it is the satisfaction of the entire team.
Financial crisis faded away, but refugee wave got us. What is going on in your industry nowadays?
Generally speaking, right now our industry enjoys exciting stirrup. Europe had long forgotten the crisis, unlike Bulgaria – people there are active and the business operates. In our industry we have witnessed an interesting dependency – once you make X successful carriages, you would be nominated for numerous following projects. Our happy clients do not hesitate to contact us and on more and more occasions we get orders without formally holding tenders and competitions, but on the grounds of direct negotiating.
What is that critical number X? How many carriages a forwarding agent is supposed to perform to be considered reliable?
I would like to say 5-10, but for many clients we have performed hundreds of carriages and they maintain the competitive model for each and every type of transport. Some of them implement the German attitude of slight mistrust towards each and every contractor in the delivery chain. Their model cannot stand flexibility and modifications. While others, being more flexible and adaptable, trust the forwarding agent and that’s the winning way. Naturally, they do not grant their trust forever. There are times when we are being tested, trialled and we have to prove ourselves. If we score good marks on such occasion, we are truly satisfied.
Do you win over new clients in your peak 13th year?
To our joy we managed to improve and increase the employment level and trust with our clients so far. The new ones that we won over, are not few, but we keep working to increase their numbers. Our innovative highlight is valuable and useful to all our clients. This provides us with assurance in our future business-projects.
What is going to happen with the project for constructing the warehouse base?
In 2015 we purchased terrain near Sofia Airport and onto it we will construct cutting-edge logistic base. I have always thought that constructing is easy – you buy land, pay an architect and then a constructor, and work hard to get faster money back in the bank. Unfortunately it proved that conditionality and dependencies when performing a project are so many that it took me more than half a year until I got to know the nuances of the construction processes. So the first sod would be turned in the middle of this year, hopefully.
What is the inspiration behind this project? Did your clients ask you to perform warehousing for them?
Yes, we had many inquiries in recent years and we perceived them as signal telling us that the right moment for another step in the direction of upgrading the services we offer has come. At the time we do not offer logistic operations since we do not have a large warehouse. Our ambition to rent one proved difficult, because no suitable areas are on offer. If we are to find somewhere a warehouse, it is either not very convenient or at very high, non-profitable price. Hence we decided that the best option was to build a base of our own.
To each forwarding agent it is important to have cargos not only from point A to point B, but return – from point B to point A. When commissioning a new line, are you sure it will be full of trucks on the way back?
In the past the locations from where we had no cargos, were marked with red signs at the map and in the end of each day we knew where we had cargos and where we didn’t have. And we moved the red flags to know that no truck should go there. But the general rule goes that we go where the clients tells us to. The good professional always copes with the hard tasks – “I can’t”, “It doesn’t work” and “I do not know” are irrelevant.
Did red zones at the map decreased?
We rather improved our skills in finding cargos within these areas. Throughout practice we piled up knowledge and for many years we have been trying to get them in tabular pattern, proving not an easy task. It is useful to have people that could cope with every task, anytime. This advantage gives us self-confidence and assurance. This way we satisfy the high requirements and criteria of our clients.
Did the seminar organized by “Logistics” magazine with lecturer Ognyan Vasilev, changed your reasoning of a manager in some way?
Ognyan Vasilev inspired me with great enthusiasm, because he provided clear definition to many issues that bothered me for many years. I realized them, I understood them, but I didn’t arrive to these clear definitions and understandings he provided. He helped me feel much more confident and I clarified the disputable ones. It is nice to find confirmation of your conclusions and decisions right in your teacher’s personality. What I borrowed from this seminar is a confirmation that my manner of reasoning is the right one.
In our New Year’s questionnaire you hinted that you are to abandon the intuitive management model. What are the new management mechanisms you are about to introduce?
Actually we formally got rid of it some years ago, but informally it took us many years to build relations within the structure. In addition to the changes we undertook some years ago, this year we performed another one, radical restructuring. We introduced new management level for the team leaders, that’s the way we call them. I believe the company would include new people that have the qualities to manage personnel. And this is the most valuable thing because 2+2 in human resources usually equals more than 4. The success of our large team is always more important than the personal result of a particular employee. You could have great people, but if there is nobody to manage them the right way, nothing will turn up well. We didn’t make some huge discovery while implementing this model, we rather provide the company with the opportunity to grow thanks to the abilities of people that are skilful in management. While utilizing these skills of theirs, they undergo development.
How did you find these people?
Just like in the army – the person they listen most to, turns into corporal. I believe the best practice is about supporting the informal leaders and making them undertake managerial functions if they possess the particular qualities. Right now I expect applications from the team for team leaders. There are four managers in Siko Trans that manage the company. It is a matter of time to structure the team leaders’ level beneath them and it would not be a constant. It is Siko Trans’s ambition to provide new employees and good specialists with the opportunity to perform – I employ people with no professional experience, as well as people with significant professional experience. Everybody that wants to work and develop, gets this chance. If he or she wants to be a manager – OK. If he or she wants to be forwarding agent – right. He could work in smaller or larger team – we have various positions and that is an interesting process in itself. Since the beginning of the year we have HR manager because we understood we need a specialist to observe people and develop their strong points. Recruitment is perhaps not a very complicated process, even if we make a mistake, fixing it is not difficult. We rather assign a particular person with the functions to undertake people’s development because it is essential to establish in timely manner the strengths of an individual and set him or her in the right direction. The one that loves to swim cannot be made to dig – it won’t work out. The easiest way is to spend some money on training, more important is to require effect from the money spent – then we would soon get return on investment and the person would be useful for him/herself and for the company. Generally speaking, we follow some natural logistics and consistency. If one can do A and B, we would make him do A and B, but would assign him with C as well. If doing C proves difficult, but necessary, we would teach him do it.
When you say “we will teach him”, what would be the training pattern?
A combined one. For a starter, every person employed in Siko Trans has a mentor of his own that directly takes care of him. At the level after the next is the HR specialist that decides on the training everyone needs.
Do you take advantage of the courses of the “Bulgarian Association for Freight Forwarding, Transport and Logistics” (NSBS)?
Quite actively. Without any exaggerations, I would like to say that the know-how to be borrowed from the courses arranged by NSBS, is great, because comes from the operative business. We are talking about people with proven results and these are managers with some of the best achievements nationwide. Namely from these people we could borrow knowledge at a very good price. I do not mean money, but the time and the manner of teaching. These people have lectured their employees, they have elaborated methodologies, they have found the way to say the most important and most needed in a week’s time in a manner that makes it possible for you while working with these notes in the months and years to come to be able to rapidly find assistance in various situations. And finally to realize what is the most important and necessary to get your job done. The Management Board of NSBS did something essential to the industry – it insisted on creating the “forwarding agent” profession and after it is included in professions’ classifier, contacting universities is much easier and we could impact them on the knowledge to be acquired by the future forwarding agents.
You are the majority owner and manager of Siko Trans, and according to Ognyan Vasilev this is not quite accurate.
My function has always been different than the one understood when talking about the “manager” title. 13 years ago I was operative worker but I was titled manager. Later on I was really managing the company, and now I am Chairman of the Board of Directors, but I participate in the operational work, when there are severe situations and the operational management of the company finds it difficult to make a decision or hesitates.
What professional errors changed you the most?
Of course I made errors throughout my professional development. The most important thing is I never perceived them as a threat against which I should do something to make it pass away and impact me the least. First of all I ask myself what I am supposed to do not to repeat that mistake. Actually what makes me proud is that mistake repetition in our company is almost zero. Me and my team try making lots of efforts to draw a lesson and create protective mechanisms. For several years already we have consciously and carefully developed an auxiliary system of procedures which is accessible to each and every company employee. It makes it possible for our colleagues to get information on the possible solutions in severe situation. If they cannot find their way out, they should refer to their direct manager. The idea is to help people navigate on their own and make decisions in individual manner. We are ambitious to make it possible for everyone to cope with his/her problems and offer solutions. There was that HR rule: “You cannot go to the boss without at least two ready solutions to the problem”. How come one would go to his or her boss and say: I have a problem and shut his or her mouth.
Whom do you learn from?
From everything and from everybody. From history and from modern world. But not from what Merkel, Putin or Obama said today, even though every evening I watch all the news. I read the history of the past century, of the century before it, even of the times millennia ago. Which is the most successful management model? The army, the Anglo-Saxon one. For millennia Empires have been structured that way and right now the most established formal business structure is once again of the hierarchical, army model. But the army model is not just iron discipline, it is about many more things: clear and exact rules, hierarchical nature, loyalty to the company and readiness to protect its interests, prioritizing not only the individual, but the collective beginning. It is the right approach for a manager to have broader view of the whole picture and to remember that there is always place for one more point of view.
Are you risky player in business?
Everybody in business is risky player. If you are cautious under some limit, you cannot do successful business. You could be an employee or even turn up into good manager, but you would never be brave enough to make an enterprise of your own. Business is risk in itself and everyone who is not willing to risk, could always work for a salary, there is nothing wrong about that. I am definitely not of the gambling type. I am capable of bearing risks and I am convinced that to great degree one has to be decisive. And decisiveness above certain limit turns into pure risk.
Idleness is the worst thing. Sometimes it is better to make the wrong action that to be idle. One cannot stand still.
What do you do when an employee lies to you?
There are two options. One of them is about pretending to be interested in being lied to. There are cases where I am not interested in being fooled, then I can be bad. For sure lie is related to loyalty, and it is personal quality. To me people that are disloyal to our suppliers and clients, to their close people, colleagues, parents, relatives etc. would naturally turn disloyal to me. Objectivity and flexibility to me are mandatory model of communicating with people. When I say people, I mean the Siko Trans team, our clients and partners, as well as all the people I know. Lack of objectivity is the destroyer of all values. And flexibility is mandatory to people that agree on some sales, purchases, appointments, optimizations etc. You cannot do business without being flexible.
But in order to be objective, you should have measurers…
Measurers are something very important, because you cannot define X constant criteria and clap your hands. The next week or the next month we would add another measurer and find out that another is not relevant any more. This is an ever changing environment of measurers that we have defined as leading ones.
You were ambitious about developing a crises situations department?
The occasion for creating this department is not just because of solving some isolated problems. Our ambition is to do things in a more intelligent manner. You cannot be specialist about everything. If you are good in negotiating, I am strong in problem-solving, and another one is good in administering. Every person has particular strength and it would be best to distribute and unite these strengths. But this is essential not only to the individual company. This approach is vital to the forwarding industry. The legal literacy of the small carrier cannot equal the one of the attorney-at-law, hence I believe that we, the people in NSBS should focus our knowledge on a team to provide assistance. I have set and objective that is like a mission of mine – creating within NSBS national crisis centre to serve our entire industry. Let me give you just one example. A colleague of mine called me the last week: “They stopped my truck in Belgium, I do not know what to do?” I am not sure I was very helpful with my pieces of advice, but I gave him some directions for sure. But I am not supposed to consult him, this is to be done by a special team of specialists with experience and knowledge. This is my objective – finding the experts that know regulations in our business well, and could be helpful and assist all the colleagues in the industry in critical situations. In my practice of carrier I had that case of kidnapped truck and driver and I know how important it is to know whom to call for help.
Which are the most interesting processes throughout the global forwarding network right now? Which are the services Siko Trans would render in the future?
I would really like to tell you about my ambitious attitudes towards including drones and quadcopters in our portfolio, but this still sounds like a fantasy. But there is no fantasy about that one – in just 5-6 years every office building would be equipped with site where drones in all kinds of regimes would be landing. Do not smile untrustingly, we are flexible and could outstrip the competitors in rendering this service.
No matter how strong a player is, even if you include drones in your deliveries, it is important to make it a part of a larger network. What are the cooperation types you are ready to join?
There are two options before Siko Trans, bound with the development abroad. According to one of them the company would attract foreign investment from large global or European market leader. That would be a great development for Siko Trans and our aspirations. The other option is for Siko Trans to establish its position of strong player, internationally as well, with the establishment of offices in other countries. Let me say I dream of the both options. The first one is quite traditional and more probable. The second one is more challenging and interesting and honestly speaking, in my thoughts I devote it more time. But I would lie to you if I tell you I could forecast what is going to happen in the future.
What are your other dreams?
I am dreaming of brand new technologies to be implemented in our operations. Dreams are the engines behind the personal and professional development and right now I focus my thoughts on maintaining flexible managerial approach in successful and high scoring manner – something that is essential in the conditions of high requirements, and sometimes disloyal market competition. I am trying to use the advantage of knowing well the various work aspects in depth, of the out-of-the-box vision as well. Personally I am dreaming of stealing more time for my family.
What are the values you are teaching your children?
I am trying to raise my children in the manner I am educating my 13-year-old “teenager” because of whom we are having the interview right now. To me it is important to teach my children how to bear responsibility, be utterly honest in their relations with people, loyal to their close ones and grow in a calm and harmonious environment.