“There are too few women among the first 500 businesspersons. I didn’t expect that after 20 years their number be that little, although the number of female entrepreneurs is quite large in Romania. I wonder why that is. Could it be that the risk of business growth is beyond the direct collaboration with people, because you get to no longer know the names of the people you work with, you no longer know their family stories? For an entrepreneur, especially when it is a woman who loves personal relations, growth means a great risk, which I personally have taken.”
The above declaration belongs to one of the richest women in Romania, Anca Vlad, the founder of a real empire with businesses of over 200 million dollars and 1.500 employees.
With such a performance, Anca Vlad proves every day that women can succeed on their own, even in a tough world, with apparently exclusivist laws, such as the business world in our country.
THE INGREDIENTS OF SUCCESS FOR A BUSINESS WOMAN IN ROMANIA
“Practically, we open the private market of medicines in ’90”, remembers with undissimulated nostalgia Anca Vlad.
Feeling the social need that was just flickering at the beginning of the last decade of the last century, together with the enactment of the first forms of capitalism in our country, the brave Romanian started as a medicines distributor on the external market (as an ex-director for Romania of the English company SmithKline Beecham Pharmaceuticals) and, subsequently, from the local producers for “the chemist ladies, newly become owners” of the first private pharmacies.
Thus, in 1991, Fildas SRL company already made their first millions of dollars. In 1999 followed another key movement in the spectacular career of the Romanian entrepreneur, when she purchased through a state auction a network of 60 pharmacies and a storage in Pitesti, thus entering the retail market.
This is how Catena pharmacy chain was born, a chain that currently includes 200 pharmacies in almost all the country’s departments. “It is a challenge because you leave the business-to-business zone and you enter in the area of psychology, of understanding the customers, of what they want. I can say I am in a quite interesting stage of building my business, now that I’ve created a brand.”
“I had the privilege of receiving a good education, I still love my teachers from The Faculty of Economics. I believe that any young man or woman equipped with a solid education, the knowledge of some foreign languages and the technicalities of a certain field of activity can arguably success. There is no need for someone to open doors for you.
The doors that someone opens for you can be slammed before you get the chance to go in. I don’t believe that door opening is necessarily the key for success. I’ve seen businesses for which large doors were open and which failed… You have to be confronted with problems in order to be able to learn from your own mistakes.”
A success business is however extremely acquisitive because it permanently requires the attention of them who run it, who have to be constantly on the search for new opportunities.
“I am constantly looking for new opportunities, I look around at what the customers would want. You have to be present all the time, even when you are on vacation, you keep thinking if there is something that is missing, that you forgot. As an entrepreneur, you are 24/7 connected to your business, no matter where you are”, advocates the woman who ranked first in the female entrepreneur top of Romania, in 2005.
“I’ve always considered that I do not have employees, but collaborators, in whom I trust until proven otherwise.”
If we were to consider the interest and concern with which she selects her employees, we could say that the human resources management plays a huge role in being successful in your business. “From the beginning, I’ve considered that I do not have employees, but collaborators, that I respect and whom I trust until otherwise proven.
There comes however that difficult moment when you have to accept to work through people, with other people, whom you have to trust and to accept that failures are imminent.
The greatest challenge of female entrepreneurship appears when the collaborators fail your trust: we are more vulnerable, more easily wounded, whilst men overpass such disappointments without too much trouble”, pointed out for us Anca Vlad.
To this prescription add a constantly greater dose of flexibility and the availability to get updated with the latest regulations in the field and you will succeed…
THE ANTICRISIS MEASURES ARE NOTHING BUT OBSTACLES FOR THE SMEs
This prescription functions in crises too? “These are times that are very difficult, perhaps more difficult than ever”, admits with a certain concern the business woman, who does not give up however the calm and serenity that define her.
“We live in a context which is not too predictable, you have to constantly make speculations concerning what can happen, because you make budgets and you start needing the banks. And there is much to it: it is not only you and your family, there are other 1.500 people and their families.
There is a large number of female entrepreneurs, but the risks you have to assume are not fit to the personality of a woman, who needs stability…”
“I have the feeling that the organizational structure of the public administration deteriorated.”
By far, the public administration is the main source that generates incertitude in the business realm. “The relation with the bank would be great if we hadn’t so many legislative surprises… There are things that happen and that I do not understand at all”, pointed out my interlocutor.
With specific regard to the emergency Ordinance issued by Boc Government before he was relieved, through which the payment terms for the reimbursable and free drugs were extended to 90 days, respectively 180 days (from 60, respectively 90 days), in full economic crisis, Anca Vlad pointed out that this measure contravenes even the European directive.
“Who governs shouldn’t be that important as long as people from group II know and do their job. However I have the feeling that something happened to the organizational structure. There has to exist a permanent transfer of experience and I’m afraid that at this level something happened.”
“In all Europe, the payments towards the entrepreneurs and the private companies are done by the state, when this is the customer, in 60 days!!” It is one of the modalities in which the state can support the SMEs without resorting to the state’s help, regulated by the European normative and without violating the concurrence’s laws. “The Fildas group will resist because we have been through very difficult moments! But there are people who get fed up and leave the system.
As long as we are in a context with prices fixed by the state, one cannot speak about a greater gain for those who remain, but the quitting of the market by every player leads to lower quality services due to the narrowing of the concurrence.
I feel a great disappointment and disorientation at the level of the SMEs, of the private pharmacies, that cannot stay without money 6 months! A part of the providers will understand, others will withdraw from Romania, the same way that happened even after other legislative changes.
We are a country that cannot pay like France and Germany, that’s right, but if an exchange of 4 lei for 1 euro is imposed, in the context of an exchange of 4,3 to 1 euro, this loss can no longer be supported. There are no resources for such measures!
Even ordinary people prefer leaving the pharmaceutical market… The effects will be felt, in the end, by the population. There are and there will be serious problems in the system”, summoned the one that became in 2005 the ambassador of female entrepreneurship in Romania.
“In a period in which all the European countries try to support the entrepreneurs, in Romania, companies will be lost and the state will find itself with many unemployed.” Anca Vlad sees here, the same as in the case of the VAT refunding, another flagrant case of “clear discrimination in disfavor of the SMEs…”
“As a company, we pull our energies together because difficulties are something that must be overcome.”
Nothing could determine Anca Vlad to give up the support granted to the community, towards which she feels a great responsibility, as a business person. “We are a big company and we cannot neglect our social activities, which already constitutes a tradition in the company.”
The “soul” project of Anca Vlad is called European Bridges, on which occasion she organized creation workshops for female plastic artists in whole Europe, who work together in a hall specially decorated. The impact on their creation, many artists confess after years, is huge.
Although it says that creation is supposed to be something intimate, the fact that they can talk, that they can share their most intimate thoughts influences their career in an unanticipated way, we have found out from Anca Vlad.
The list of sponsored cultural and artistic manifestations can continue with the exhibitions made in the country, but also in Paris and in Berlin.
In 2009, together with the Association of Women Creators in Plastic Arts from Romania and the International Feminine Cultural Federation, they organized an exhibition of contemporary feminine art at the Houses of Parliament in Bucharest. The concerns for art are however even larger: “I do not see them as expenses because business is, in fact, creation.”
ANCA VLAD – INFORMATION FROM A LESS KNOWN BIOGRAPHY
– President of honor of the Association of Women Creators in Romania, elected in the International Association of Female Entrepreneurs
– Leading Women Entrepreneurs of the World;
– Golden Medal for Excellence in Business practice at the International forum for Excellence in business – Geneva 2004;
– Manager of the year 2005, declared by the Institute of Directors – London.
Taken from bloombiz.ro