“I believe in Einstein’s maxim that everything could be achieved with a lot of hard work.”
Radoslav Nikolov is the CEO of SAP Labs Bulgaria and always strives to manage a team to meet customer needs. He believes that everything could be accomplished with a lot of work and is trying to organize a secure environment for his employees. Radoslav Nikolov talked about the goals and achievements in an inspiring interview for DevStyleR.
Would you briefly tell us about your goals, what to expect in the future?
From 60 colleagues in 2000, the company has already reached over 850 people. We plan to continue our growth and soon to become 1000 people. At the moment we have three offices in Sofia and we are working towards a new common building for all our colleagues, and expect in near future to be together in one office.
Over the years, we have strengthened our position as a strategic research and development centre. In Sofia, we develop and enhance the cloud platform of SAP – SAP Cloud Platform. The key in the company’s strategy is to integrate various business processes and applications of our customers. SAP Cloud Platform is the platform that connects the work of the main part of the teams in our company. It makes the integration and expansion of products from the SAP portfolio in a cloud environment possible. In this context, we continue to expand the range of activities in our company – from product definition, through development, maintenance and moving into different areas.
In the coming years, we want to become one of the major players being a development centre in the digital transformation of SAP as a global company and for all SAP customers.
What are your ambitions and rules that you follow?
I have always followed the rule that if an opportunity arises, you should “grab” and take advantage of it. I believe in Einstein’s maxim that everything could be accomplished with a lot of work and a bit of luck. I think the road to success is done with hard work and efforts, but sometimes luck is crucial. However minimal it could be, if you miss it, you may not succeed in anything. That’s why I have decided to take advantage of all the possibilities. If one of them is not my “luck” then the next one will be. My ambitions are relevant to the company’s business and the mission of SAP to help the world to work better and improve people’s lives. In the development centre here in Sofia, I would like we to be able to help and change the lives of millions of people for the better. I would like this mission to be to attract future colleagues who want to work together with us on key technologies and, indirectly to change our customers’ businesses and hence the lives of millions of people around the world.
What is the impact of industry development on employees in the IT sector?
The development of the IT industry enables employees to learn from the latest technologies, to influence any significant innovation in any field. In today’s world, technologies identify innovation and the development of other industries.
How do you determine and measure success?
The success of our company is determined by the success of our SAP customers, including our partners – they are also clients of our software. If their business is successful and they are happy, then we are also successful.
How would you define your greatest professional achievement?
The opportunity to be in the position I am currently, also the opportunity together, with the whole team, to develop products and contribute to the business of a giant such as SAP globally.
What are the core qualities required to be a young entrepreneur?
Entrepreneurs should not be afraid to make mistakes and try again. They need to listen to their clients, understand them and focus on the challenges clients have – not on their own ideas or products. When the entrepreneurs know what the challenges are and are flexible themselves, they can achieve the desired goal and be successful.
The good team is a prerequisite for the company’s achievements. How do you manage to retain quality people and motivate them to be the engine of the company?
We keep colleagues by meeting their needs – in the context of work and opportunities for development. Relating to this, I have a favourite maxim: “You can give people the chance for further development in the company and risk that they will leave, or you may not develop them and take the risk that they will stay.” The company creates a positive environment and pleasant atmosphere of work and relationships with colleagues. We are constantly looking for new trends and methods of work, so that colleagues could further develop in new directions if they want to. I am glad that we are united as a team and our colleagues are committed – not just to work for the company but also helping other colleagues.
What motivates you to continue to achieve your desired goals?
Progress and development. Progress and the road to achieve the goal are what bring me satisfaction, not the achievement of the goal itself. Development actually happens on the way, and then you change. And of course, when a goal is achieved, the moment of celebration must not be missed.
Which is the biggest professional challenge you have ever encountered?
“Do more with less”. This is valid for everything in today’s business. With development and gaining of experience, a team should be able to work more efficiently, doing more in less time. A challenge is when such progress must happen for a shorter period of time – a kind of “skipping” five years, e.g. in the development of the team and colleagues. This is the real challenge.
At the company level, my biggest challenge was to achieve what we are currently doing – our development centre being a key part of SAP’s global strategy, growing at the pace we are growing, and having talented colleagues to work with.
If you are at the beginning of your career what is the advice you would like to give?
One tip would be my rule to take advantage of every opportunity given to me; another one would be to focus. At certain point the need for focusing comes, and the sooner you focus, the better. Combined, the two imply that you grab the given opportunity, focus on it and remove anything that does not add value to you.
What is it that you perceive as your personal objective that’s worth fighting for?
Education. I want Bulgaria to become a strong IT player in the field of high technology worldwide. In this regard, I strive to support the development of education that is needed by future IT specialists and leaders. In this area, our company is also socially responsible. We help pupils, students, teachers, university lecturers, educational institutions in different ways. We create the conditions and stimulate our colleagues to do so too. In addition, we create an environment for colleagues to donate resources to people in need through personal engagement, and we hope to have succeeded in changing at least a few lives.
How do you keep concentration, your calm and rationality in crisis situations?
I over manage the tension through exercise and enough sleep. In time of crisis I try to control my breathing. Over time I have built the attitude not to react emotionally in difficult situations. I try not to react impulsively, to ask more questions to get the information before I answer.
What is the reading that changed your ideas about your profession?
Jack Welch’s autobiography – (Jack: Straight from the Gut.) It overturned my ideas about business in the context of governance.
What is your approach in taking important decisions?
I always start by gathering enough information and analyzing it. I ask myself what will happen “if” – what we will lose, what we will win, what the results will be. I analyse based on facts. Of course, it depends on the time I have to take a decision. But even when I have to act quickly, I try to follow this approach.