IBS students are encouraged to stay in touch with the school after graduation primarily through our expanding alumni network on LinkedIn. Former IBS students receive regular updates about new programmes and offers at IBS and at Spark Institute at IBS, job offers, alumni events and other opportunities through our online channels. IBS frequently contacts former students to share their success stories and professional journeys with current and prospective IBS students.
IBS is proud of its graduates who are confident, hard-working and successful. Read stories about how our former students managed to get on with their careers!
IBS Career path
Congratulations to our successful alumni!
Pál Bíró completed his studies at IBS in 1997. He began his career at McCann-Erickson advertising agency where he worked for 8 years whenhe joinedRTL Club. At RTL he was responsible for customer relations, market research, B2B communication, non-spot solutions and online sales. After nearly 10 years he joined Google. One of his jobs at Google was coordinating YouTube, and he was also responsible for Google video partnership connections.
Congratulations and we wish him good luck and success in his new position.
See the news in Kreativ.
Pál Bíró - Source: www.fivosz.hu
"The education process does not stop when you finish university." Read our alumni interview with Timea Ella Jonas!
How do you remember your IBS studies? How do you remember your IBS studies?
I completed the BABS and IAA certificate in marketing communications in 2014. My professional profile up until today lies in marketing driven innovation with focus on business. I have good memories of many professors and looking back I am grateful to all of them. Not all of them were my favorite, mainly because their subject wasn’t my favorite, however all of the professors that taught me were professionals in their subject and above all knowledgeable and motivated in their field. If I need to highlight a few Prof. Kárász Zsófia is on top of my list for encouraging me to write about a non-traditional dissertation topic. Prof. Alan Godsave for the case study based education approach, teaching us marketing fundamentals through real life examples. Prof. Gonda György for introduction to change management, one of the most difficult but vital parts of every business. Last but not least, one of the operational staff, Etelka Dombora for support in every matter. My partner Andras Szecskay completed his studies as a BAIBR professional back in 2008, with major interest in marketing focusing on sport and event management.
What were major steps in your career before setting up your present business?
After the graduation we both found ourselves at multinationals. I started working for Heineken during my placement year, worked there during my last year of studies and stayed there after the graduation for another year. I had many different roles at Heineken working on different brands however the best career shift within Heineken was accepting a position in the innovation department. The work consisted of inventing new brand extensions, brands and categories - a heaven for a marketer. Andras had already been working for a while at E.On in the marketing department, I believe one of his favorite assignments was working on E.On’s sponsorship of the 2012 London Olympics. Andras quit his office job in late 2013 to make a shift in his work-life balance, giving life more space. He made a bold move and moved to Switzerland to follow his dreams and start his own business in the field of outdoor sports.
What is Singetrail? How did the idea occur to you?
Singletrail is a mountain bike coaching and guiding company, providing active getaways in the Swiss Alps. The establishment of Singletrail was a strategic decision in which we reviewed the competition in the resort and after a few business plan scenarios we decided that investing in mountain biking tourism could potentially bring good returns. We launched Singletrail Verbier in June 2017, after an eight month-long preparation period of applying for the work permits, setting up the company, defining a competitive product portfolio and creating a visual identity. It wasn’t easy. In the first months of the project, I was still working as a product manager in a local Swiss startup and Andras was pursuing his snow sport instructor qualification. The 2016/2017 winter was full on: a lot of late working hours, no weekends or holidays.
How is the business going?
We are closing our first season at the end of October therefore we have a month and a half to go to achieve our targets. So far we have had clients from all over the world; Brazil, Iceland, Canada, UK, and Sweden. Furthermore, we already have bookings for next year! The brand performance indicators are great, Singletrail is becoming a “real-brand” on the Swiss summer tourism market. It is fantastic to meet with other mountain bikers at various events and hear that they follow Singletrail on social media, or that they got a flyer or a sticker, that they heard about it from friends etc. Regarding the first year’s financial performance, we break even on the operational costs - which I think is something we can be proud of.
What are your plans for the future?
At the moment we are planning an extended sales strategy for next year, launching a new affordable product line and looking to extend the sales channels. We are also looking into the scenarios of launching Singletrail in other resorts. Furthermore, as the nature of business is seasonal to extend the season and ensure a year around revenue we are looking forward launching a snow sport product in the near future. The 5 year plan is aggressive, but achievable: Multi resort summer tourism product with Singletrail and a Winter product in Verbier. As a true entrepreneur you cannot stop on one project, when I am not busy with Singletrail I am working on a consulting and advertising agency concept called www.pretzelcreatives.com we will launch at the end of this year so watch this space.
In what ways did your studies at IBS played a role in your career and setting up your business?
The education standards of IBS are unique and competitive on the higher education market due to the practice based approach. IBS provides its students with a good foundation and the degree opens the doors towards the next career step. Unless you have the idea of the next Facebook it is good to finish your education, get into a good trainee program and fight yourself up to the manager level. The education process does not stop when you finish university, the knowledge that you pursue working on real projects with mentors it as valuable as the degree. To sum up, the reputation of IBS degree gave me opportunities. I was well equipped with the CV and motivational letter that I had learnt to write at IBS, and a basic but applicable knowledge. When the interviewers asked questions I knew what to answer. How IBS helped me setting up my own business? For example, we needed to submit a proper 20-page business plan and I learned the basics of writing a business plan in IBS. Every company requires an accounting practice - I learned the basics of the accounting in IBS. PR plan? Choosing the right legal form of the company? All thanks to IBS.
Former IBS student Timur Csillik is the managing director of Rendi, the biggest online platform for on-demand home cleaning services in Hungary.
Timur Csillik studied economics and management at IBS, and graduated in 2014. He has more than 4 years of experience in international trade, e-commerce and shared economy based services. On the occasion of UNESCO’s International Day of Hygiene, 18 September, Rendi’s voluntary action is exceptional. They chose an institution where cleanness and hygiene is especially important, the Nursery and Elementary School of the Visually Impaired. The kids studying here use every little corner of the building. When they are trained to improve their orientation abilities, for example, they literally paddle about the building. So, understandably hygiene is a priority here – says Timur. This is exactly why Rendi chose this especially challenging task. The goal of Rendi is to become the leader on-demand cleaning service for the CEE region – says Timur. They plan a long-term cooperation with the school of the Visually Impaired and help to improve and make the learning environment safer for the students. Great idea, great job done!
Read the full article here (in Hungarian).
We interviewed Zoltán Batho, an IBS graduate who is building a life in Australia.
Your life and professional career seems rather adventurous. How did you get to live and work in Australia? Could you describe the major steps, turning points in your career?
I completed my IBS studies in 2001, and I have great memories of Tom Owens who taught us marketing. I loved his classes and I wanted to work in marketing myself. In the same year we, with a couple of my classmates (such as Bence Gazdag and Borbála Bacsó), we participated in an international marketing competition (IAA) and reached third place in the category of the Central European region. My first job was at a foreign trade company, Trendex Holding. But I wanted to carry on studying and getting to know other countries, cultures as well.
Where did you study?
My second language at IBS was French, so I applied for a Master of Sciences in European Business at ESSCA. During my placement year, I got an amazing opportunity to work for the biggest sport superstore in the world, Decathlon in France (Marseille) and then use my knowledge and experience when me and my colleagues opened the first Hungarian Decathlon at Budaörs. So, I began to work in the Decathlon store in Budaörs, in 2004, as an Operation and Security Manager (OSEM) until a head-hunter found me for a rapidly developing Hungarian outsourcing company, 3D Brigade. I took the offer and became the business developer for the US market. At the time in Hungary, there were excellent professionals, artists who could make great 3D graphic works, animations but there were not enough commissions within the country. My job was to find new businesses in the US market. I was rather successful in it, we worked with great companies who were in the global market of computer games, such as Intel, Electronic Arts, Ubisoft - among them. Let me mention one of our probably most well-known work in Hungary, the film, Children of Glory (Szabadság, szerelem), we made a “digital crowd” for the film. I worked approximately two years there.
What came next?
In 2009, with two of my IBS friends, Szeréna Vajkovszki and Olga Uhrin, we founded an on-line lifestyle center, called Ablak A Magra. Our aim was to inspire people in Hungary as well as provide them access to a healthy way of living. We were trying for long but the Hungarian market was not yet ready for it. This was our first, totally independent business venture, so we practically learnt from and on one another, we learnt how difficult it was to manage a business. After a while we had to stop this business and we departed. From the three of us I was the one who carried on more or less on the same track. I imported a French bio-cosmetic product line, La Clarée, this business worked well, but after a while I began to feel that I was getting burnt out and really needed a break from the 70-80 hours workweeks. My girlfriend (who is my wife now) was working for a big multinational company at the time. One Sunday evening we were working home, and realized that we did not talk to each other the whole day, and we only grabbed some food together and went back to our laptops. We both felt hat this was enough, this is not the way we imagined our life together. This was in 2012, and in 2013 we saved and saved, and went for a backpacker trip in Central-Eastern Asia for 6 months. We were in Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, India, Malaysia, and Australia. It was our second day in Australia when we both though this is where we wanted to be, and continue our life. Sydney has put a spell on us. How could we get back and stay there? – we were wondering. We came home, our money was also running out, so we had to come up with a plan to be able to get back to Australia. We both believe in, and this is a kind of principle in our life, that we never want to put the question to ourselves “What would have happened if …” we both rather take the risk and go into it.
It is probably easier said than done...
Yes, it is easier to decide than to carry out. To get a proper work visa to Australia is not a simple task. For me, the easiest way was to get a study visa, as I already wanted to carry on studying and get an MBA. So we sold our car and apartment in Budapest, got married with each other, and went to Australia. I studied at Holmes Institute, which is a well-known Business School, in Sydney In the first year, we basically took any and every work, from floor sanding to fixing televisions, and being a waitress at a restaurant just to be able to survive. According to post graduate student visa I was allowed to work 20 hours a week, as a student, and my wife 40 hours a week. In order to be able to meet the requirements for another (graduate) visa), I actually did a double degree in two years (MBA, and also an MPA, Master of Professional Accounting). After receiving the graduate visa, finally I could work full time and started to apply for jobs in my original profession, digital project management. In the meantime, I also tick all the other requirements (such as different language exams, translator exam, etc.) to be able to apply for a permanent residency (PR). All in all, in less than 3 years, we managed to become officially resident in Australia.
So now it is easier for you to come and go in and out of Australia.
It is, but PR is still a type of visa which is valid only for five years, so we need to think ahead and consider to apply for citizenship.
How did you get your first managerial job in Australia?
In the second year I managed to get my first high-level job at an Australian digital company as a digital producer. Of course, we both got tired of the works like floor sanding, many of those really hard physical work, which we did for living. I have the most experience in digital work so I began browsing job advertisements and of course I wanted to step forward in my work as well. I submitted my CV for a really attractive option, with the courage of those with no chance. Two days later I received a phone call, 4 days later I got the job, a week later I was working in a studio as a digital producer. This was pure luck. The person who evaluated my cv was somebody who appreciated its colourfulness, the twist and turns in it. Since then, I changed company and now working for one of the best Australian digital agency.
How about your wife?
More or less the same happened to her. After working in the hospitality industry for almost 2 years, she got a chance to work in the film industry thanks to one of our local friends, who was working for 20th Century Fox Studio in Sydney. The studio was shooting the new Alien – Covenant movie and was behind schedule, they were eagerly searching for people for the set maker department. She applied for the job on a Thursday and already started to work the next Monday as a mould-maker. Some of her senior colleagues were in shock when they heard that her first movie project was this one, the new Alien – Covenant, which apparently had one of the biggest budget in the history of the studio.
Good question. I was on placement in Boston, USA, I was also working in France, and spent some time in Canada. Probably, I loved Canada the most of all the countries I have experienced. For me, Canada could have been a great option to live, as I speak French as well. However, me and my wife make all our decisions together. If she is unhappy, I am not happy either. And we both somehow work with solar energy (more than others), so the weather has a great deal in this decision, apart from the beauty of the country. We have great chances, opportunities in this country, for both of us.
Anybody who wants to build a life, a career in a new country has to start from scratch. Australia is a huge country with great opportunities. You should be steady. The company where I work now, Rotor Studios, is one of the best digital companies in the country. I, a young Hungarian immigrant, with a residence permit, could be the digital producer of the first Australian digital virtual reality roller-coaster project at Dreamworld Australia. Being steady, working hard are appreciated, and open up possibilities.
For more useful information about Australia, you can follow our bilingual Facebook blog here!
An example of how to set up business in Hungary as a foreigner
You are from Norway, you have already completed your studies at IBS and you are still in Hungary? How did you choose to come to Hungary in the first place? How did all these happen?
I had some friends who were studying medicine in Budapest, and I had one other friend, also from Bergen who had investigated IBS, so I just thought why not try it. I did not know much about IBS at that time.
I finished IBS in 2013. My major was business studies, a bit of everything. I really liked change management studies and marketing these were my favourite fields. In 2013 I went back to my home country, I wanted to work and collect experience.
You set up some businesses after you returned to Hungary in 2014.
Yes, my first business was connected to Christmas. It was at the Christmas market in downtown, in Kalvin tér.
Where did the idea come from?
Well, I just talked to a friend who organized Christmas market, and he could get me a place for a good price. I was selling waffels, roasted almonds, things that I missed form home and that might not be so usual for people here. To be honest this was not the greatest success of my life. I invested a lot of work and did not get too much pay-off. But it was a good experience. It warned me the factors that you should pay attention to. It was seasonal, it worked just for a short period of time. I learnt how to pay attention to all details, like decoration, the payment system, the goods themselves. There were plenty of small details that made my stand different from the other ones. One-by-one the details were not important, but together they changed the total picture, and made my stand less desirable than the others, and this proved to be crucial. I learnt from my own experiences, and now I know how important the small details are and this is what makes a difference.
How did you continue?
My next idea was to set up a fitness centre. During my IBS years in Hungary it was always difficult to find a good fitness centre in Budapest, both my friends and me, we all experienced this, especially in the city centre. You either go to very expensive fitness places to have a decent place to work out or you go down to a basement gym with no air, dirty and 30 year old equipment if you want to pay a normal price for fitness. I saw some possibilities in this field. I started it with a friend of mine one and a half year ago. We carefully studied how we would like to do it and then we started. We also had to find the money to start the business with.
I guess the equipment are rather expensive. How did you raise the money?
Yes, this type of business requires a very high investment up-front. I do this business with my friend who is from my hometown. We were trying to collect the money in the course of half a year. We just went to everybody whom we could imagine could and would be willing to invest in our business. People were rather sceptical, we had a lot of “no”-s. It was also difficult that we wanted to set up this business outside of Norway, in another country. We tried to get money here in Hungary but it was very hard because we do not have a record here. So the banks in Hungary were not an option for us. Neither did we have that many connections in Hungary. It was easier to go to Norway. After a long journey to raise money we found some guys that wanted to invest in us. They helped us not only with their investments but also to find the right equipment among other things, so with a lot of know-how, which make it easier to start the centre near to Oktogon square, in Aradi street.
What do you think the strongest features of your Number 1 Fitness? What can you offer to your customers?
Nr1 Fitness is a completely new centre, freshly renovated in a top class office building in the middle of the city. I don’t think there is many other gyms in Budapest with this much natural light and view from all parts of the gym, the whole gym is also at the street level without any galleries.
Another strong feature is that we are open 24/7, our members can easily buy their memberships online and then they get a personal code which is giving them access to the gym as much as they possibly want, all day, every day. Our equipment is brand new, and our prices are the lowest in the city centre, despite our high quality.
I am confident that we are delivering the highest value for the price our members pay, and to be able to keep the quality this high in the future too, we have decided to put a membership roof so it won’t ever be too crowded in our gym.
Who are your customers?
They are not those hard-core bodybuilders. They are more those who want to stay healthy and fit, but might have other more important priorities in life, however they see that staying healthy is a big part of living a good life. At this moment its mostly students and the corporate workers in the neighbourhood, and a good 50-50 % mixture of Hungarians and internationals.
I assume you like it here. Do you have plans here?
Well, yes I really like the city. I have good friends, quite a few from IBS. Of course, I do have plans. My big ambition is to have a big fitness chain in Budapest. I see much potentials in Hungary especially in the health sector. Also, I think more and more people in Hungary pay attention to fitness and staying healthy, more and more care about their health.
How do you and your parents, loved ones feel about your being away?
Well, actually I can go home more often now than at the beginning when a new business requires a lot of work, a lot of time to invest.
Are you yourself into fitness and working out?
Of course I am! That was the trigger to open this business. To be honest, since I launched Nr1 Fitness, I have worked out less... which of course is a bad thing, working out gives you more energy even for work. This will change now!
Our former student, Kinga Szabó has been the appointed advisor of His Royal Highness Sheikh Abdulla al Sharqi in Abu Dhabi.
When did you complete your studies at IBS, and what was your major?
I completed my studies at IBS in 1998 and my major was Corporate Finance and European Studies.
Do you have any memories of an professor, or specific task that you found useful for your further career?
I truly admired most of my professors, and when I was an teacher’s assistant in Statistics seminars during my final year, I had an amazing connection with the Statistics department. I especially enjoyed the numerous case studies I had to do during my studies. I think it has really prepared me for life and contributed to my success.
Did you have any “failures” during your studies or work, which later proved to be something you have learnt from?
In 2012 I had to leave Hungary and also close my 14 year old company. I was devastated at that time. Looking back at it now, I have realized that it was the best thing that could have happened to me in terms of my career.
Where did you begin working after IBS?
After graduating from IBS, I was working as a lead stock-exchange analyst for Buda Broker. However, soon after my graduation I realized that my goals and ambitions simply were not fitting into the majority of the organizations I knew. Therefore, I quitted Buda Broker and started building my own business in 1999.
What brought you to Abu Dhabi?
In 2012, I had to make a decision whether I stay in Hungary and struggle with the economic and political conditions or start a brand new career somewhere else. Although it had many elements of risk, I decided to leave the country with my family. Two days after the decision had been made, I received a proposal from Abu Dhabi. As I had no previous connections with the Middle East, I was very excited to accept the offer.
What were the major steps that led you to your present position?
In 2013, I established my own company in Abu Dhabi. My business partner at that time in my company was a very reputed local (Emirati) business man, who put his trust in me. We soon became the only registered subcontractors in the region for E&Y and Deloitte in corporate finance activity. We have done several amazing projects as subcontractors and I had the opportunity to meet the most influential local business men. One of these clients of mine introduced me to His Royal Highness, Sheikh Abdulla al Sharqi, member of the ruling family of Fujairah. His Highness was impressed with the meeting and he soon invited me for other meetings as well. He tested my competence several times by inviting me to project presentations in his office and he was watching how I was acting and communicating. After one of these tests, he called me for an urgent meeting and offered me the position of becoming his advisor.
What does your work actually cover?
I meet with all the project owners who wish to approach His Highness for investment. I have to make decisions in a quick manner whether the project has any potential or not. If the project has potential, His Highness will meet the owners. We then commence the preparation of the investment and make feasibility studies. I am the key contact for the project owners throughout the whole investment procedure. This is an position of high responsibility as I have to be able to judge whether His Highness should invest his money in a particular project, or not. However, this role is granting me lots of opportunities and challenges, which I love.
Is it usual for a woman to reach such a high position in Abu Dhabi?
There are a few women in very high positions, but it is not common that women holds such an important role. Somehow the advisor’s position is reserved almost exclusively for men. I am therefore very proud of what I have achieved in such a short period and in an completely new business environment.
What is the major difference between your life in Hungary and in Abu Dhabi, especially since you are a woman?
The major difference between the business cultures is that you in Abu Dhabi have to build up trust in a longer period of time. The businesses will not grant you orders just by your website or brochure, you have to build this trust by visiting the potential partners personally and impress them continuously. However, once they have voted for you and you have won their trust, you can be sure that you will remain employed.
Do you have family?
Yes, I have a family. My husband is an electrical engineer and he is also working here. I have two wonderful sons on 9 and 17 years. Both of my kids were born in Hungary but do now consider Abu Dhabi as their future home. My oldest son is actually considering choosing IBS as his graduate school.
What do you do in your freetime?
This is a very tricky question. I am doing lots of charitable activities besides my work and family. The activity I am enjoying the most is to read novels, when I have time. Besides this, I consider part of my mission to introduce this region to other European business people. I would like to encourage them to start considering this region as an business opportunity. I am also coordinating the Hungarian Business Council to motivate Hungarian people to establish business relationships with the United Arab Emirates.
Balázs Halmay graduated from IBS in 2001 and now works as Head of Marketing and Communication in HungaroControl.
What did you do after IBS?
I graduated from IBS in 2001, I was a marketing and marketing communication major. I was so lucky to be one of those who went to Oxford for a two-week introductory course, which was really a great experience. I had my placement year at Pannon GSM, where eventually I spent 8 years in total. I started working for them already before graduation. The mobile telephone business was booming, it was a fantastic period. Of course, I had several phases during those 8 years. At the beginning, it boomed rapidly, then it stagnated and we had many management and structural changes. I was a campaign manager at the time working in the marketing and communications department. I had the possibility not only to build the core brand, Pannon but could also launch new youth brands, Bee and later Djuice within Pannon GSM to protect the market position from Vodafone, which, at the time, targeted young consumers. I was also working on the 2006 Pannon rebranding, turning the old-fashioned brand with the visual identity of the colours of the Hungarian flag to a fresh, international and more dynamic brand. After 8 years, I felt that I needed to learn new industries as well, so I moved to beer industry to Borsodi. After joining the EU, Hungarian beer industry was challenged by German beer. Borsodi was the top selling brand at that time but it was at high risk.
How did you get there and what did you do at Borsodi?
I was recommended by one of my ad agency partners in Pannon, being an experienced youth brand expert. My task was to refresh the Borsodi brand. Borsodi had to find a new target audience since after the EU accession cheap German no-name and private label beer brands attacked its dominant market position, and it was the youth segment.
My idea was just to adopt some already proven best practices from more advanced western markets where they tried to attract people with flavoured beer who did not like beer because it was bitter. In 2007, there was no flavoured beer in Hungary. However, my proposal was turned down because they wanted to target men and their concern was that flavoured beer would rather attract women. Well, today all beer brands have flavoured beers in their portfolio, and the market is booming… I had some other fresh ideas to refresh the Borsodi brand but the management did not accept them. They had their vision to target the youth segment but were not yet ready to actually make the changes which would have lead them that way. There were just too many “no”-s, so that I switched to a new job.
What was your next job?
I went to the automobile industry. Nissan CEE had their Central Eastern European headquarter in Budapest. I was offered the position of the Head of Marketing Communications for the 4 Visegrad countries: Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary. Nissan is a challenger player in the automobile industry in Europe. Here it is the smaller brother of the Renault-Nissan Alliance, while in other parts of the world it has the dominant role. So Nissan had to develop its own niche model for the European market. Being a challenger brand at that time at Nissan it meant also a challenger marketing and brand building strategy with unique model launches and disruptive communication campaigns.
In 2008 the financial crisis hit the automobile market extremely severely. I am really proud that in the dramatically shrinking market we could save the volume, thus increasing the market shares keeping a fair balance between brand building and sales support promotions. We built the brand using creative media in unusual ways with a unique cinema room branding activity and airing on TV, making of the TV spot shooting spots as special branded content programme. On the dealers front, I could also introduce a new third party dealer advertising control channel strategy resulting in consistent visual identity, media usage and +40% Share of Voice in media. We could localize these campaigns in our four countries with a creative and effective media usage.
Did you continue your studies?
Of course, I do believe that lifelong learning is really important. Whenever you stop developing yourself, you start dying. After 10+ years of working for multinational companies as a marketing and communications expert I felt the need to study and extend my knowledge to a management level, so I could convince my non-marketing minded colleagues by “speaking their language” about my own ideas. I wanted to do an MBA in Hungary. I did not have the option, or the budget to go abroad to some fancy expensive university to earn my MBA. I searched together with my wife, Zsuzsanna Kiss (see our interview with her here), and we found CEU Business School.
It was a good choice, partly because we could learn many useful and new things, partly because our time and free time got more structured. The level of education was rather high although some of the things we studied were somewhat a repetition of what we had already studied at IBS during our BA studies 10 years back. I was expecting to gain some new marketing knowledge as I am a market-oriented, market-minded person. Unfortunately, the marketing education was not that strong at the CEU MBA.
Marketing has changed a lot with social media, with the financial crisis and with the huge budget cuts. Today each and every Euro should be considered and a careful return of your investment should be planned. In previous years budget was not so big of an issue in marketing. So I had to learn all these things and find the best way to spend the money. I had to justify each and every Euro, e.g. why I spend money for this media and not another one, maximizing the impact my campaign makes. I was expecting some tools of how to do all these but I did not get that at CEU. Do not get me wrong, besides the marketing education most of the other courses were really great and I loved the CEU MBA years. However, an opportunity opened to go abroad within the programme with a student exchange. So Zsuzsa and I decided to apply for a grant to the same place.
We applied for the Emory University in Atlanta. Emory Business School is owned by Coca-Cola. We assumed that we would get what we missed at CEU. Both of us were accepted, it was in 2013. It turned out to be an amazing semester. We were there for 4 months together; we studied numerous marketing related courses, focusing on online, big data, brand management and all kinds of current trends in marketing. After the semester in Atlanta the Emory University invited me back to work for them in an online project job which was quite an honour for me, and of course I accepted the offer.
What came after Atlanta?
Hang on a bit, since during my CEU MBA here in Budapest one of my previous bosses from Pannon GSM, who worked for T-Mobile/Magyar Telekom, invited me for a fixed term maternity cover job. It was the time when T-Mobile was changing its commercial brand, both the mobile and the landline brand, from T-Mobile and T-Home to Telekom. So the corporate brand was taken to the commercial level. Here my role as a Brand Strategist was to coordinate the rebranding itself and to keep contact with the Global Brand Management team of Deutsche Telekom.
After Atlanta when I came back to Hungary I was headhunted by HungaroControl. It is the Hungarian air navigation service provider. It is a state-owned company, which is a totally new area for me, both the field, aviation, and working for a state-owned company as well.
What is your task at HungaroControl today?
My task is rather challenging. Eurocontrol, the European professional association for Air Navigation Services, has a vision. Within a couple of years, Eorocontrol will integrate Air Navigation Services within Europe. Not each state will have its own navigation services provider (like today all of them have), neither will there be a need for each country to have one of its own. In the US for example there are only a couple of service providers controlling air navigation. Most probably, the same will happen in Europe. By the time it happens, HungaroControl would like to be the one who integrates at least in the CEE region and not the one being integrated. My professional task at HungaroControl is to build a high profile brand and professional reputation.
Another aim is Employer Branding, a sort of recruitment support for which I have a recent example. HungaroControl was present this summer in three music festivals: VOLT, EFFOT and Sziget, where we built a 18 meter-high tower, a very strong visual symbol of Air Traffic Control. The really cool link between our TOWER!HIGH and the festivals was that the visitors could actually jump out of the tower. We are going to summer music festivals with a definite target oriented communication. Generally, people have no idea what HungaroControl is. They do not even know that such a sector exists.
In aviation rule #1 is “Safety first”. Since it is the Air Traffic Controllers who provide this safety, our task is of key importance. We introduced our activity to our future colleagues and we recruited air navigation controllers by building a database upon a mobile Game App registration which is testing air traffic controller abilities. This job demands very special type of people. A navigation controller has the same or even higher respect and responsibility than pilots. They have to know the same security measures and must have the same level of preparedness and brilliant minds as pilots. A navigation controller is responsible not only for one aircraft but for 8-15 at the same time. It is a very responsible work. Consequently, a very well paid one as well all over the world.
Do you do everything together with Zsuzsanna?
We have been doing many things together that we can but we also have our own professional life and career. We met here at IBS at the end of the second year. I was going up on the stairs, she was coming down on the stairs, we met there and a couple of days later I asked her out. After the first date, in about two weeks we were living together. Ever since, we have been together.
So what happened on that stair?
Love at first sight.
Zsuzsanna Kiss graduated from IBS in 2001 and is now the Sales Director and Country Manager of Media Sales at Cinema City - CineWorld Group.
Could you tell us about the major steps that led you to your present position?
I started my IBS-Oxford Brookes University studies in 1997 and completed them in 2001. I remember one of my greatest experiences was that we could spend two weeks in Oxford before we began our studies. I liked the mind-set and the atmosphere of IBS although I must confess that I had to face some tough experiences as well.
Can you tell an example?
I had to learn how to learn, how to think in a creative way. I came from a strict and rather rigid Hungarian system of education, from a secondary school in Debrecen. After my first marketing exam, when my professor György Hay returned my paper, he said that I did not pass the exam. I was shocked, I wrote down all the things perfectly that were in my textbook, I said. He sat down with me, and we discussed my paper. He explained me that textbook content without real life example was not enough. So I failed my first marketing exam.
My experience was rather shocking, but thanks to it I had to learn how to think in a creative way. This school prepares you for life, especially for business life. I think I learnt the most from failing, and now I am actually grateful. What’s more, I have fond memories about a certain day when I got acquainted with my later husband, Balázs Halmay (see our interview with him here). I was really sad coming down the stairway and he was really happy as he was coming up the same stairway. He was always a very good, successful and outstanding student. We looked at each other and this was the moment of spark on both sides.
Getting back to my career, I was at Műszertechnika during my placement and I wrote my thesis paper on Public Procurement Marketing which was very much connected to my placement job. Right after IBS I worked for the television channel RTL as a marketing manager. That year a new type of interactive platform was launched. This meant that we had to find income sources beyond normal advertisements. We initiated phone-in quizzes, reality shows making money from viewers voting, and I was working on these extra incomes. It was a very exciting period of commercial television. Well, we also had to deal sometimes with people who came to complain about huge phone bills, because the kids used these high-fee phone lines.
How could you manage that?
We had to direct them to the mobile phone companies. It took a while for the Hungarian audience to get used to this type of games and the consequences that came with them. The beginnings were tough. I worked for RTL for 5 years then changed to Cinema City. By now, I have been in the movie business for 10 years. There was a little here and there in the meantime. From Cinema City I went to Palace Cinemas, then back to Cinema City when the two merged in 2011. There were two multiplex cinema chains, Cinema City and Palace Cinema in Hungary. Cinema City was strong in the countryside, Palace Cinemas was rather Budapest-focused. The long-term strategies of the two chains were different. Cinema City always wanted to develop continuously, step by step (now Cinema City is the part of CineWorld Group, the second largest cinema chain in Europe), while the primary aim of Palace Cinemas was to develop a very successful and attractive business that can eventually enter the market and can be sold with a nice profit.
How did you get involved in the movie business?
Honestly, I did not plan my work career in the media business. I went to interviews, I did them, I was good at them, so it was a bit accidental that I got involved in the movie sector. When I began working in Cinema City in 2006, I had to develop everything from zero. I had to build my team, our network of clients, how we work today. My team and I set up and developed this field, literally from scratch. There were a lot of direct calls, meetings, we had to set up a network of connections. As the Country Manager of New Age Advertising, I am in contact with companies and media agencies that advertise or have spots before the film screenings. My task is to generate income from mainly on-screen and off-screen cinema advertising activities. Cinema media is a premium media reaching premium audiences and can be targeted with minimum waste deviation for advertisers.
Can you tell an example of a business success that you are proud of?
It was my dream project and actually it happened this year. From April 2016 our IMAX in Budapest is called “Simple IMAX”. Simple is the brand of an OTP filial. As a result of a three-year long negotiation process, we could sign a long-term contract which is the biggest contract of New Age Advertising in Hungary, maybe internationally as well. One part of the deal is that the Simple brand became the name sponsor of IMAX cinema, which is an image strengthening device. The other part is that people can buy cinema tickets through the Simple mobile application. We can see that it was important for Simple to have an even stronger brand image and to multiply the usage of the Simple mobile application and with Cinema City we could find our mutual way, hand-in-hand.
Are you working together with your husband?
Although we do together everything we can, we have our own career paths. We continued our studies together after IBS. We went to an executive MBA program at CEU, when there was an option to apply for a US grant, we both applied and both of us received it. This is how we could go to Atlanta to the Business School of Emory University where we spent a semester. This was a fantastic experience. We both felt the need that we have to develop ourselves and the way we think and act.
You have work and you do your job well but somehow it becomes a routine. We needed a change. In Atlanta we had excellent and very demanding professors, we studied different fields of marketing (strategy, communications, online, product, international etc.), we had product branding simulation contests, real life case studies, presentations, negotiations, how to pass your intention in a way that both parties feel it a win and not an imposition. All these added a lot to our IBS experience but it was tough. We had to step out of our comfort zone but it was worth it.
Our former student, Kiarmin Bahremand did both his BSc and MSc studies at IBS and now he runs several businesses in Hungary.
Where are you from originally?
I am from Iran, from Tehran. I came to Hungary in October 2000 together with my brother. It was rather soon that I decided to stay in Hungary. I began studying engineering, informatics and software at the technical university. But I am really a business type of person, so I applied to IBS in 2004. Actually, I was the first Iranian person to apply here. In 2005 I became the exclusive recruiter to Iran.
Did you travel to and back to do this job?
There were many Iranian students here in Budapest and in Hungary who were not happy with their school for various reasons. So, I started recruiting in Hungary, in Budapest, in Pécs. I was doing that for years and I will continue to that in a bit changed format.
I am a Hungarian citizen now, but I had to learn a lot for it. I also had to pass an exam of Hungarian history, I learnt the national anthem, etc. I also needed to speak Hungarian. By now, I can say that half of my conscious life I spent in Hungary, I wanted to stay here and I wanted to become a Hungarian citizen. My brother studied general medicine in Iran and he wanted to become a specialist. At first, he wanted to go to Germany, but then we decided to come to Hungary. He did not speak the language and he could not study towards his specialization. Anyway, he stayed, he studied, learnt Hungarian. We were also lucky, I rented a flat and the owner of the apartment was a Hungarian gynaecologist. This doctor asked my brother what he wanted to do and the result was that he helped my brother with a lot of advice. Eventually my brother became an oncologist surgeon.
I did both my BSc and MSc studies at IBS as well, I finished in 2008 and I specialized in marketing management. After IBS I went to Pécs to do a health management study and this time I already studied in Hungarian.
Did you already consider to set up a health business?
There is a need for private health services in the country. Approximately a year and a half ago, we started our private clinic, Villa Medicina. We have gynaecology and pregnancy care service, urology, laboratory tests, naturopathy, among others. The machines and the equipment are very expensive but it is possible to run a clinic like that. Our clinic is the only place where we can do a 3 dimensional prenatal screening with ultrasound, we make holograms where you can see the baby, and even a baby sculpture, all these are really new stuff. We are also interested to run a surgery where patients can go home after a surgery. A same-day clinic can really help to reduce the costs of medical care which is very good for the state health system as well. This is our next plan. It will be an exclusive great place but we need to be working on it yet.
How do you get great professionals?
Our great advantage is that we can select the best doctors for the private clinic through my brother’s experience. More than 35 doctors are working for me as employees. We are also interested in education. Young doctors would like to get extra education.
Over the years, I could also work out a good network of friends and colleagues here in Hungary. With a friend of mine, we own a sport bar as well in the city, in Nagymező utca. It is called “The House,” mostly foreign students and tourists love it. There are events like movie nights when people bring their pillows. There are people living in this town who want to be at a place which is like “home,” ; the aim is to provide them with one. I have different businesses and I communicate with people daily, so it is a good basis to learn about needs.
How do you remember your IBS experiences?
I went to other universities as well here in Hungary, as I mentioned, so I can compare them. The professors at IBS are friendly. I liked the interactivity of IBS teaching and learning, the timing, the place, the scaling, how the different duties are scheduled throughout the semester. The school is not like a huge public institution. I also liked that I could choose between writing a dissertation or doing a project for my MA. At that time I owned a company that was dealing with public space advertisement lighting, by the way, the market went down since then, so I had to close that company. Anyway, I wrote my project of the cash flow management of my own company. I especially have fond memories of a great professor who helped me a lot, John Netting.
How do you feel about your choice to come to Hungary and not to elsewhere?
My grandfather was a kind of governor, ruler at a certain territory in Iran. Our family still holds huge lands of pistachios, and there is an area still bearing his name, Mahmudabad, “abad” means “he, who makes changes.” When he died, he left this big land to his 7 sons, my father among them. Parts of my family is living in Germany, parts in Sweden, in the US. I am happy I came to Hungary. There is opportunity here, I am not sure I could have my own clinic in Tehran. I became Hungarian.
Our former student, Tamás Wachtler used to live and work in France. He is currently the country manager of Renault Hungaria and the youngest managing director in Europe within Renault.
You were among the first students of IBS .
Yes, I studied with László Horányi, Katalin Gecs, Petra Götz, Iván Erős, László Lendvai, Péter Zöldi, Balázs Halmay, Zsuzsanna Kiss, just to mention a few. I am still in contact with quite a few of them, László Horányi is one of my best friends even today. Actually a few weeks ago we had a reunion, so I could also check out the new campus in Graphisoft Park.
Do you remember some of your professors?
I remember István Tamás. We could just go up to him or we went out for a walk and we talked a lot. We had really great conversations, discussions. These were informal, very useful and inspiring conversations, great occasions. What I really liked about the school is its practice-oriented attitude. Of course, I loved my placement year but I can say that all the classes gave us practical and not only abstract theoretical knowledge. I also loved that we studied everything in English that was rather new at the time in Hungary.
Where was your placement?
I was at Műszerechnika KFT where I worked in marketing. Műszertechnika was a distribution brand of Pannon GSM and Vodafone with many small stores. At the time, all young people wanted to work with mobile phones or cars, these were my two dreams as well. I remember, we had an opportunity during summer of the placement year to open a little shop where we ourselves were selling Pannon GSM phones. This was the strategy of Pannon GSM. I opened a little shop in Siófok and it went really well. I could make quite good money in the course of three months in the summer. It was a wonderful experience to work for yourself, and although a small business, it gave a very special and different feeling than to work for a big company. You could feel business responsibility and the weight of money on your own shoulders.
What was your first job after IBS?
After completing my studies I saw that a marketing position was opened at Renault Hungaria, so I went for an interview and I was lucky to be accepted. I began working for Renault in June or July that year as a junior product manager. My products were Megane and vans. Then I stepped forward and I became a brand manager and I was dealing with premium category cars and vans. During those two years we were the leading company in the category of vans. In Hungary we sold the greatest number of vans. Renault has taken leading position in this category in Europe for 20 years. Then, between 2004 and 2008, I was a regional manager. I was working with the biggest sales distributors in Hungary, two in Budapest, one in the countryside. One of my main tasks was to convince the two Budapest distributors to cooperate in order to make bigger profit and better turnover.
Renault is a French company, did you always work in Hungary?
Every year we received a questionnaire about our wishes, where we would like to work. And I had been checking out the appropriate box in the questionnaire that I would like to work abroad. Until, all of a sudden, in 2008 my phone rang and I was told that “it is your time, you can go to work in Paris.” This is how I could go to the French centre of Renault in Paris. I worked there for 5 years.
Did you speak French?
I had some competence in French but I was not very good at it. I was also told that it was an international company where the common language was English. I also did all my interviews in English. What actually happened was that the first few sentences of a meeting went in English but when it came to the discussion and serious matters, everybody switched to French. During the first six months I went home with a headache every single day. I had to concentrate so hard on what went on around me, and my job. . In Hungary, approximately 80 persons were employed, in Paris 30-40 thousand people. Techno Centre, where I worked, was a town in the town, in the vicinity of Paris, near Versailles.
What was actually your job?
First, my field was Laguna, I was a kind of a mediator between the engineers, designers and the representatives of the different countries. This job was called “coordinateur marketing.” The different countries have different needs and expectations. In Germany for example, higher performance, in Spain to have better air-conditioning, etc. We collect these demands and expectations from the countries through the marketing managers of the different countries and we convey these to the engineers and designers. They make calculations based on these data, how much a higher performance engine would cost to introduce to the German market and how more cars could be sold in Germany as a result. On the other hand, when a new type of Laguna is introduced, we call it „face lifting,” the car is renewed, but it is not totally new, the engineers and the designers provide 3-4 options how they feature this change. Different types of “face liftings” can happen, from really significant changes through medium type of changes to significant face liftings which really change the car. Based on the inputs of the different countries we decide how more cars we could sell as a result. So, I worked as a coordinator between the designers and the targeted countries.
How could you manage this with your French meanwhile?
In half a year I could pick up a good language competence, almost in an unconscious way. I go for a run in the morning, well I used to, these days I have less time and energy. Anyway, I remember the feeling when I was running, I was thinking of some work issues and I had this flash that, oh my god, I was thinking in French. I had to realize that on the other hand, when I was thinking of my family, I was thinking in Hungarian. The language of my inner monologues changed accordingly.
So you have a family.
I went to Paris with my girlfriend and we got married later. Yes, I have two kids, both of my kids were born in France. Marcell is 8 years old, Maya is 4.
What was your next step?
I worked on Laguna for 3 years. This was a strategic work and I asked if I could switch to a more operative field, so I was transferred to the European Region. My special job was setting up the pricing and product strategy of Dacia. This was a very interesting and challenging job. Dacia as a brand has totally different connotations in Western and Central Eastern European, former communist, countries. Dacia has its communist past, here, in this part of the world, we immediately know what Dacia was. In Western Europe it does not have its past, and we did not have to struggle with its received connotations of being a Romanian, communist brand. Instead, Dacia was seen something like H&M or IKEA, cheap but good.
How long did you work in Paris?
I had to leave France after 5 years and I was transferred to Slovenia. I was deputy marketing manager of Renault in Ljubljana. Ljubljana is the regional centre of the Balkan, Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia, Greece, Macedonia, Montenegro, Kosovo, Albania, we were there between 2013-2016. We loved Slovenia. All these countries are very different. They all have very different attitude to work, which I had to learn.
So now you are in Hungary, how long have you been the country manager of Renault Hungaria?
My appointment is rather fresh. I have been in this position for three months. Actually, with my 37 years of age, I am the youngest managing director in Europe within Renault.
Looking back to your career so far, you have been working for Renault since you left school.
This is true. But I had a very versatile work. Basically, I worked in a new field every three year. I also worked in an international scene. I have always been happy with my work. I feel lucky. I think you need 80% luck and 20 % work to have a great career. But without the 20 % work your luck is just would not work.
What are the new challenges of your new position?
I have much more people than in my earlier positions, the sales network is very different here. We have distributors who are independent but we still need to manage them, they have to follow our rules and regulations. I would like to motivate my employees and distributors even more, for even higher performance. Couple of weeks ago we had a big meeting, all the employees, all the distributors, the management got together. People could meet with others whom they talk over the phone, changing emails daily but never met personally. This was a big success, people could feel that they belong together, they have to work together for bigger results. This is a great force for motivation. I also would like to reach better results in the market both in terms of the number of selling cars and bigger turnovers. We have never had so many new models to be introduced to the market within a year as we have now. This is a huge task.
Our former student, András Angyal is currently working at LG Electronics as an Account Receivables manager. He shares some interesting details about his career path with us.
How do you remember your IBS years?
I started in 1996 and completed my studies in 2001. We were among the first ones studying in the British system and in English. I studied in the same intake with Krisztián Nyáry, Péter Zöldi, Balázs Halmay, Zsuzsanna Kiss, Szilárd Máté, among others. I was in finance as I had always been interested in finances and technical things. I wrote my diploma work about credit controlling. My professor of accounting was Elemér Szamosvölgyi, and I also remember other excellent professors, István Magas and the late Tom Owens, my marketing professor.
How did you get your first job and what was it?
I got my first work place thanks to my placement year in Béker KFT that was producing different steel constructions and mechanisms. In 2001 there was a world fair in Hannover with a really funny steel construction produced by this firm.
It was an American firm that relocated from Scotland to Hungary and headquartered in Nyíregyháza. Later it was sold to the Swedish Lindab AB. I started there as the financial and personal assistant of the American CFO. From that position I moved higher and higher step by step. I shared my time between Budapest and Nyíregyháza where most of the administration was handled. I could participate in meetings where generally a beginner, somebody on a placement could not. I did planning and controlling, practically, I took all the steps from making out invoices to book-keeping. I could gain knowledge and practical skills that I could really use later in my career. This was in my third year at IBS, and I continued working for them in a part time job in my fourth year. I was lucky that my firm covered my tuition fee for the fourth year, which was great as IBS had always been a relatively expensive school.
After graduation, I was offered a full-time job at the same firm, but by this time it was called Butler Europe KFT, which later became Lindab Butler KFT due to the changes in the ownership. I worked there until 2005, my last position in the company was controller. I changed my work when I had to travel a lot between different locations of the firm, Budapest, Biatorbágy and Nyíregyháza.
What was your next job?
In 2006, I switched to Sony Ericsson. I simply went for an interview and was selected. I worked as a medium level manager dealing with customer outstandings. Actually, I am still in this field up to now. There was a regional centre 50% owned by Sony, 50% by Ericsson. The Budapest hub was a relatively big regional centre: the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Croatia, Serbia, Ukraine, Belorussia, and the former Soviet member countries belonged to us, and the main profile was mobile phone sales. In 2008 I was relocated to Kiev where a totally new team was set up.
I worked there for 9 months. Originally, a three-month stay was anticipated, but I was requested to stay in Kiev until the end of the calendar year. From the financial sector of the company I had an overview on certain processes which were not 100% positive concerning the stability of the company. So I began searching for another job and came back to Hungary from Kiev. Looking back, I think my concerns proved to be correct, and in a short period 50% of the firm were dismissed. The financial crisis also hit the market, but I personally was doing fine with a decent salary. What I did not see was a perspective, a vision of the future. That is why I decided to move on.
How did you find your next job?
I searched online and I was lucky enough that I happened to be in Hungary between my travels and could go to the personal interview. I got this job at LG Electronics Magyar Kft where I have been working since 2008 as an Account Receivables manager. I have a team of five. We have partners like Media Markt, Auchan, Tesco, etc. After receiving the partner’s payment, I give the final permission for delivery, so we are the last step in the process of a large order. Of course, we need different credentials and guarantees before the actual delivery, so we work with large multinational companies but we still have to define the credit limit by customers. Luckily, there are global credit insurance companies. We also have to monitor the market processes closely as all information about our partners and the products is essential.
Why do you find your job interesting?
It is a challenge every day. Although there are daily routines, however, we can be supersized by sales, new creative ideas any given day, or a partner can modify the payment schedule. My role is to find the right balance in order to achieve a so-called win-win situation where the sales numbers are good and the collection is sufficient as well. Last year I spent one week in South Korea. It was interesting to see the cultural differences and how they work in the LG Twin Tower.
How about your free time?
A multinational company defines one’s life. It is really unpredictable when a workday ends, at 5 p.m. or at 9 p.m. My work depends on the partners and on the sales, so the job is great but to plan a family life is another thing. I love rafting, sometimes I go to Slovenia, and I also love to bike. Generally, I try to make time for sports and work-out because I sit a lot, and although I get tired mentally, physically I still have a lot of energy.
What would be your dream job?
Mostly I am satisfied with my current job, otherwise I would not be here. Obviously a higher reward or more responsibility could be motivating for me. I would say a little bit more flexibility would be better, but it is just a dream...
Our former student, Tatiana Vacaru is currently living and working in San Francisco at General Electric.
Where are you from originally?
I was born and raised in Moldova where I lived until the age of 15. While I have lived abroad for the last 13 years of my life, Moldova is still what I call home and I go back as often as I can to see my family.
How did you choose to study at IBS? What brought you to Hungary?
Studying abroad has been on my mind since I was very young. There was something about traveling and getting to know new places that attracted me a lot. This is the reason why I decided to attend high school in Bucharest, Romania, as my first studying abroad experience. By my last high school year, I learned that Europe was bigger and had so much more to offer in terms of academic opportunities. Through research, I narrowed down my list to a few options in France and Hungary. During the spring of 2007, I happened to be in Budapest with a volunteering event and so I took the opportunity to visit not only the city, but also the IBS campus. What attracted me the most was the way the curriculum was structured (common year to get my head around which direction I wanted to pursue and placement year to get experience before even graduating), and the fact that students could earn a dual degree (British and Hungarian) in the program taught in English. Living in a beautiful Central European city came as a bonus …. So I signed up.
What was your major interest in IBS? Do you remember a professor who was very important for you and helped you?
Joining IBS, my interest was more towards International Relations, as I wanted a career that would allow me to travel and discover the world. After the 1st year though, having taken classes in accounting, finance and business management, my interest shifted to the business side and decided to join the Finance and Accounting bachelors. I have to admit, the decision came after thoroughly discussing options with my mom. As years go by, I realize she was right in pointing me towards a career that allowed me to not only grow professionally, but also travel the world (it turned out, you can actually do that as a finance professional!).
The programme was not necessarily an easy ride, it required continuous preparation and dedication and obviously an important role was played by the faculty members who taught the classes in a very practical way so we can take those learnings and apply them during the placement year, and also beyond that.
What did you do right after IBS? Where did you spend your placement? What studies, jobs did you take?
After graduating from IBS, I was looking for graduate programs, I knew that big companies have those and they are focused on young professionals who wanted to continue their learning in an actual business environment. Finding out about the Financial Management Program (FMP) at GE, I applied, got selected and started working for the company in August 2011. FMP is a mix of working and studying type of program that lasts 2 years. It consists of 4 rotations in different GE businesses in Europe (I was in Budapest, Florence and Paris) and on top of the job, each rotation has a curriculum assigned that you need to pass in order to maintain program participation. The 4 jobs I did during the 2 years were a mix of accounting, commercial finance and financial planning and analysis, which are core skills for a career in finance in GE.
After successfully completing the two years, GE offers young finance professional the option to either take a regular job in one of the business or apply for another leadership development program called Corporate Audit Staff (CAS). I started CAS in September 2013 and did mainly consulting projects, and also a few financial audits for the GE industrial businesses and also a start up in Colombia. During these 2 years I learned how to solve business problems, no matter how big or small they are and I also got to travel and live around the world (US, Europe, Russia, Colombia, Iceland to name just a few).
What is your present job? How did you get to your present position?
The CAS experience was amazing that also helped me determine where I wanted to take my career next. One of the projects I had worked on was helping a start up in Colombia launch a new product on the market. For 4 months, I worked with a team of engineers, sales representatives and the CEO of the start up to get the product ready to launch. It was such a memorable experience, that I decided to join GE Ventures, a division in GE that is focused on investing and supporting start ups to grow and disrupt the market with new products and new technology. 6 months ago I moved to San Francisco, California where I have been helping the business take technologies available in GE’s research labs to global markets.
Tell a bit about the company where you work, what is it dealing with? Who are the people working there, how do you feel in the team?
California work environment has a different feel to it, due to the Silicon Valley and all major tech companies being present. People come to work here believing what they do can change the world: whether by inventing a new technology, setting up new companies or investing in promising start ups, everyone is at the fore front of change at global scale. Then there are all the companies and the entrepreneurs who made it really far (Mark Zuckerberg Founder and CEO of Facebook, Elizabeth Holmes Founder and CEO of Theranos, Travis Kalanick Co-founder and CEO of Uber, etc.), who add an extra layer of enthusiasm, especially to young professionals looking for inspirational role models.
Who are your friends in San Francisco? How do you spend your free time?
Due to the business dynamic in the Bay Area, there is also a great diversity of young professionals who come from all over the world. Making friends is not difficult, there are many meet up opportunities such as conferences and events where people can network. San Francisco is a very lively city, with lots of opportunities to do outdoor activities (Californians are known for their healthy and fit life style), and also to go out with friends to restaurants and bars. During the weekend I also try to do short distance trips in the Bay Area, whether it’s the Pacific ocean beach, or national parks there are enough options to explore and have fun.
Julia Mechtler, a former IBS student is talking about her career in arts management in one of the most significant galleries in New York.
Tell a bit about what you did after completing your IBS studies. Where did you study, where did you work?
After I graduated from IBS in 2008 in business studies, I moved to London to work at Christie’s Postwar and Contemporary Department as a Graduate Intern. The art market crashed in October 2008 after the poor results of the London auctions, and consequently Christie’s wasn’t renewing contracts. I decided it was the perfect time to go to graduate school, and I moved to New York in September 2009 to study Visual Arts Administration at New York University. Before I moved to NY, I lived in Budapest from February to August and worked at the Hungarian National Gallery’s marketing department.
How did your IBS studies help in your further study and work?
When I moved from Buffalo, NY to Budapest in 2004 to study at IBS, I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to do. I loved art history, but I didn’t want to work at a museum or to teach. Every school paper or project I did at IBS involved the contemporary art market. Even my thesis was about corporate art collections in Hungary.
Two of the most important opportunities that IBS offered for me was the ERASMUS study abroad program and the work placement year. In my second year, I moved to Sevilla, Spain for ERASMUS. I studied Spanish for years in American schools growing up in Buffalo, NY but that didn’t mean I could speak Spanish. I look back now at my time in Sevilla with such fond memories. I walked through beautiful parks lined with citrus trees to go to school and even took art history class in Spanish to learn about the 17th century painter Francisco de Zurbarán from Sevilla.
During my work placement year at IBS, I was accepted into the Museum of Modern Art’s internship program in their marketing department in NY. This was my first time living in New York City. At the time, social media was just starting to become popular, and I was researching how to present the museum on Facebook. I attended all the museum openings, which I realize now how difficult they are to get into! In January, I moved to Venice, Italy to intern at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection. My time in Venice still feels like a dream. I lived in Dorsoduro and had gondolas passing by outside of my bedroom window. The interns at the PGC have a wide range of tasks from helping at the front desk to guarding the paintings to giving tours on Abstract Expressionism. These internship experiences were priceless. I was still so young and unsure of what I wanted to do, but it helped to guide me to where I am today. During the last year of my studies at IBS, the university launched an Arts Administration program. I was extremely fortunate to be able to attend the art history and arts administration classes.
Did you have a definite image of what you really wanted to do with your arts management training?
After IBS, I knew that I wanted to work in the for-profit sector of the art world, but I needed to continue my education and decided to move to NY. I was always interested in what determines the price of a work of art. All the internships I completed over the years definitely gave me a better understanding of what I wanted to do.
What brought you to NY? How did you enter NYU? How was the process?
New York City is the center of the contemporary art world. Collectors from all over the world come to NY to see art in galleries, museums and art fairs. I knew that I needed to continue my education here. I applied for the Master’s Program at NYU in Visual Art Administration with a concentration on the for-profit sector and for the Arts Administration program at Columbia University. I took the GREs (Graduate Record Examination) in Budapest in order to apply for Columbia and came to NY to interview at both schools. I was accepted into both, but I chose NYU as it had a stronger focus on contemporary art and had a very unique program. The Visual Arts Administration program is part of Steinhardt School at NYU, but they allow you to take classes from the Institute of Fine Arts and the Stern Business School. I had a strong background in business, so I was able to take more art history and contemporary art classes. Some of my incredible professors included Roselee Goldberg, the founder of Performa, and Philippe de Montebello, the previous Director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
What were the major steps that led you to David Zwirner Gallery, which is one of the most acknowledged galleries in Chelsea, New York?
After the market crashed in 2008, I knew it wasn’t going to be easy finding a job, so I did a lot of internships while I was still in school. I interned at Gagosian for a year and worked parttime for collectors Susan and Michael Hort. I started to apply for jobs 6 months prior to graduating. After two months, I was called in for an interview at David Zwirner for a sales assistant position. I was still writing my thesis the first few months as I was at Zwirner. Years later when I asked my boss why she picked me out of all the applicants, she told me that I had a positive attitude and I said that I was willing to do anything.
Where can we see your blog?
I started a blog called the Hungarian Contemporary Art Exchange back in 2011 with my best friend Anna Olajos, who also studied Arts Administration at IBS and now works as the International Relations Manager for Art Market, Budapest. The blog started out as a school project with an aim to bring more awareness to contemporary Eastern European art. Unfortunately, we’re not blogging anymore, but I just learned recently that Ruxanda Renita, also an IBS alumna, writes about contemporary art from Eastern Europe for a website called ArtGuide East. When I was living in Budapest, everything was written only in Hungarian. I think it’s crucial that there is a dialogue in English on the internet about art from Eastern Europe.
What type of art are you really into?
That’s a tough question to answer. Of course, I love many of the artists from David Zwirner including the painters Yayoi Kusama, Neo Rauch, Michaël Borremans, Marlene Dumas and Lisa Yuskavage. I also love minimalism and the work of John McCracken, Donald Judd and Fred Sandback. Outside of Zwirner, I love the work of Adrian Ghenie, Jim Lambie, Keltie Ferris, Liz Nielsen, Brendan Fowler, and Sarah Braman. I also try to follow the Central and Eastern European art scene and love the work of Alexander Tinei, Zsofi Keresztes, Erik Matrai, Marton Nemes, and Gergo Szinyova.
Do you have a favourite or important professor of whom you have fond memories from IBS?
I have very fond memories of my classes with Jeff Taylor and Delia Vekony. I loved both of their classes very much.
Do you have contact with Hungary and the professional art scene here? What are they?
Many of my close friends in Budapest work in the art world either as artists, at galleries and art fairs or curators, and I’m in touch with them on a regular basis. I am very passionate about the contemporary Hungarian art scene, and even though I am not in Budapest, I try to stay connected as much as possible. I am on the selection committee for an artist residency program called Art as Ambassador sponsored by the Central European Institute of Quinnipiac University in Connecticut. The residency was founded two years ago and gives Hungarian artists an opportunity to come to NYC to live and work for a period of 6 weeks. Marton Nemes was the first artist in residence, and Gergo Szinyova is currently in NYC doing his residency.
Your paper thesis at NYU was, Strategies for International Growth of the Hungarian Contemporary Art, can you mention in what ways you see this as an option, possibility. What would you recommend to artists, art professionals here in Hungary to achieve that goal?
In my thesis, I compared the Hungarian contemporary art scene to the success of the Cluj School artists from Romania. For young artists, I would recommend to make sure you have a professional website in English with a CV, images of individual works and installation images. This is so basic, but not all artists have a professional website. I also suggest applying to residency programs. For art professionals from Hungary, I think it’s very important to speak English very well and to travel to art fairs. You have to be a part of the global conversation about contemporary art.
What would be your message, advice to art management students?
I recommend going to see a lot of galleries and museum shows. Also, do a lot of internships! I have met so many people through my internships, and I continue to stay in touch with them. Many of them work in the art world now. Lastly as glamorous as the art world may seem at times, it’s not easy and you have to remind yourself constantly why you are doing what you’re doing. You have to be passionate about art to survive in the gallery world.
What are your plans, how would you like to move forward?
My plan is to continue working at David Zwirner in sales and to build my client base. I hope to eventually work with artists at the gallery and to move into a director role. My dream is to work with a Hungarian artist at a blue chip gallery. If that doesn’t work out, I have always dreamt of opening my own gallery space.
What are you doing in your free time?
I barely have any free time, but when I do, I like to go to see museum shows, spend time in Central Park, see friends and family and do some sort of exercise, like yoga or spinning. I am also in the middle of planning my wedding, which will be in Budapest this summer. I actually met my fiancé Michele Iadarola 11 years ago in the cafeteria at IBS.
Jasmine Plavsic completed her BSc and MSc studies at IBS and she runs her own company, Presser.
How did you find this school from Finland?
I have an older sister and she studied there as well. She found out through my father’s friend whose son studied at IBS. I studied there twice, first my bachelor’s degree between 2002-2006, then I went back to Finland, where I live, and then after four years I returned to Budapest to do my MSc in Human Resource Management.
What was your major interest in IBS? Favourite subjects, professors?
I remember Katalin Tardos, György Gonda, Ian MacDonald and many others. I loved most of the subjects: management, cultural skills, economics... What I was not especially fond of was business law and accounting, do find them important for my current job though. I also have fond memories of Etelka Dombora and Andi Kovács from the student centre, it was real fun when Andi came to Finland and we could meet.
What did you do after your received your MSc?
By that time, I had already experience as a Communication Specialist at Avon Cosmetics and was responsible for Finland, Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia. After MSc degree I went back to Finland and I found a job very quickly as an employer branding specialist in a local publishing company. I was extremely successful and gradually became the Business Area Director and eventually the Country Manager. Now I run my own content marketing company Presser, which is one of the major players in this sector.
What does an employer branding specialist do?
My task was to consult companies on how they could better communicate their brand as an employer and find the right communication channels. The idea is not only to enhance the recruitment process but also to retain and develop the current talent internally. We published articles related to this topic in our own magazines distributed with major business journals in Finland. My placement was at an advertising agency, TBWA\ in Helsinki. I would have been happy to have my placement in Budapest, but the language barrier hindered me. I do speak German, Finnish, Swedish, English but not enough of Hungarian.
What is your company doing?
We are publishing magazines for b2b and b2c audiences that are distributed inside the major newspapers and magazines both in print and online. We concentrate on a high quality content and offer companies a forum to deliver their message in a right context for the targeted readers. We are a consultative sales organization of 3 people and me. Yet, we work closely with independent writers and photographers so have a constant buzz with the production.
Kaisa Ylihärsilä, Project Manager (left) and Jasmine Plavsic holding a cover picture of their latest annual magazine Business Insight
How is this business going? What are your expectations?
I have a good overview on the industry due to my previous experience, all the crucial contacts, relationships and the knowledge on every part of the business. Hence, the beginning was quite fast. We had clients quite early on and also plan on going international in the coming year. However, there is still room for growth also in Finland. Last year the turnover was 500 000 Euros and intend to increase it this year to 700 000 Euros.
That sounds wonderful. Do you feel your IBS studies helped you in your career and business?
Yes, absolutely. I especially appreciated the practice-oriented approach. We always had to apply the knowledge in practice so passing a course you need to understand the topic thoroughly. We were busy with teamwork, individual projects, presentations - not only with essay writing which, however, I also find extremely important. I also think that my internship at TBWA\ gave a good start and valuable connection to have a job later on.
I also would like to mention that I got a lot if international contacts thanks to IBS. I have friends and contacts from all over the world, in Europe, USA, Vietnam, Mexico etc. We are still in touch. Not long ago we had a reunion in Budapest where people travelled even from as far as Los Angeles.
Do you use these connections and contact in your business as well?
I definitely hope to do so. Some of my fellow students actually have asked for my help regarding various topics. Somebody form Turkey, for example, recently asked me about the educational system in Finland that he needed in his current job.
Do you have free time and what are you doing then?
I am very work oriented but of course I have some free time. I mostly enjoy eating out in nice restaurants, I also like doing things outdoors, outside of home. Meeting my friends, going to movies. jogging, which is something I love, it keeps my head clear. When I was younger I used to do figure skating, I was competing in it. So, I am also skating during winter. I do not have a family yet so I believe this is the time to enjoy the life to the fullest.
Viktória Minya, our former student is an internationally acknowledged perfumer and the creator of the first Hungarian luxury perfume brand.
How did you choose to come and study at IBS?
Actually there is not much romantic about it. At that point I was not really clear about what I would like to do. I have always been interested in all kind of arts but my parents did not really thought that one could make a living from them. Studying in English was something that really appealed to me. There was not really any another opportunity that I liked this much, and of course a British degree was also attractive. Looking back, I think the attitude of IBS teaching and learning was really interesting.
I was there for the first two years only, the third year I spent in placement and the fourth year I went to Paris to finish the university at a famous French business school, ESSEC via the Erasmus Program. After the Erasmus experience I went back to Budapest to complete my studies at IBS. The skills that I learnt at IBS were very helpful, as well as speaking a very fluent and almost a bilingual level of English. I speak French as well but I would not survive in this milieu without English. Most of the time when I am in contact with international clients I need to speak English.
Did you choose France consciously, with the thought that you would probably work there in a traditionally French type of industry?
Well, when I heard about the Erasmus program, my first choice was Vienna but it did not work. At that time I spoke rather good German, so I really wanted to go there but I was not accepted. As in the third year I studied French, my first choice became France and of course Paris. It has been almost 12 years that I live in France.
There was a time when you were more well-known internationally than in Hungary.
Yes, and I think this is still more or less the case, and that is very much ok for me.
Have you been keeping contact with Hungary throughout these years?
Yes, I have all my family in Hungary. I often go home to visit them, but I am also invited a lot to Hungary for giving inspirational speeches, interactive perfumed shows, even unique team-buildings or just to attend radio and tv interviews.
How do you actually work when you create a new scent or a fragrance?
There are three types of creation jobs that Parfums Viktoria Minya is dealing with. One is when I am working on scents for my own line, Hedonist. Then there is when I am working for other companies who order a scent from us. And there is the private perfume creation when the customer orders a product. All these have different methods. Let’s say another company orders something from us. They have an inspiration of what they want to communicate. They are giving me a lot of details, how they imagine the scent, if it is for male or female, to which country it would go, to which age group. They would tell me sometimes also what ingredients they want or what they absolutely do not want in the perfume. Based on these I write up a formula, then I would give it to my assistant she would prepare it with the help of a high precision balance, and then we are going for probably a hundred or a thousand trials for weeks and months, we smell and evaluate them together and then we would change certain elements till the desired effect is obtained.
How did you work out your brand? What were the major points of building up your brand?
I feel I was really lucky at the start, my brand became rather quickly internationally known! I spent a lot of time with all the creation part. I would spend a lot of time finding the perfect name! The design was done by Miklós Kiss. Everything went very slow, and I remember being frustrated with that, but eventually I spent a huge time in all details, and I can say that it was worth it. When the product was ready, I had interest from all over the world, a Beverly-Hills based cult fragrance shop started to carry my brand, and it became one of their bestseller in no time!
Although perfumes are generally associated with women, is the world of a professional perfumer a women’s or a men’s world?
Traditionally speaking it would be a men’s world, a lot of men are involved in this industry. During centuries, it would be the father who shared his knowledge with his son, and so on. But I think during the last decades this situation started to change. Women’s different sensitivity added a new aspect to the creation. And now it is quite common to have female perfumers. But things are changing slowly, it is still a bit of a men’s world.
What are your plans, where would you like to develop your career, your products?
With are opening more and more towards the Middle East, we are going to work together with a luxury mall in Dubai to develop an exclusive line for them.
You have been following your passion and you became successful in your profession and in business as well. What would be your message to those, IBS students among them, who are before their career choice?
A lot of people say that if you are starting to pay your rent from the money you earn from your passion it is not going to be your passion any more. And there is some truth in it, I have to admit, the creation process loses from its freedom once you are working for others and for deadlines, for example. But doing every day what you really love is never a bad idea.
How do you feel about your present situation when you are a rather worldwide acknowledged, famous perfumer? Do you like this situation, how do you deal with it?
It is very pleasant, of course. It did not get to the point when it would disturb my personal life or privacy. So, I do not have any problem with it, I enjoy it. It is true that I have more and more requests that I cannot satisfy or even answer at this point, and I remember at the beginning, I answered and would never say no to any requests – I am realizing that I simply cannot do that anymore.
Our former student, Fanni Sallay has always been interested in baking. She began with one kilogramm flour, by now she has three shops of her own.
What inspired you to open a cake shop? How did you learn to make cakes and cookies?
I have always been interested in creative subjects and especially in baking and cooking. We have family stories that I was a relatively small kid when I already asked for cookbooks for Christmas. Somehow, I always knew how to make things. Of course, later I started studying these skills on purpose. To get my certificate I completed courses that gave me the “official paper” but basically it was my hobby: during summers I went to France and I worked and learned in bakeries in Paris, Lyon and Marseilles.
How did it begin as a business?
When I started, I really was not very conscious. I had always wanted to do something creative and something around or in gastronomy. My ex-husband and I used to work in construction business and when the 2008 financial crisis came, our business went bankrupt. We already had a kid and I had to do something. I began baking cookies and cakes as I had always loved to do it. I simply knocked on the doors of coffee shops, coffee houses and began to sell my products. It was a hobby, my love, and then came the times when it became an absolutely necessity to do it.
How I started was not really a very conscious move to the direction where I am now. I began working in this confectionery business, and I could reach success relatively early. My products became popular and acknowledged, I received more and more orders with more people buying them. After a while I began to set up my little studio, a workshop. Then an opportunity came when I could get in contact with Costes Restaurant in Buda owned by Károly Gerendai. This was the first Hungarian restaurant that got a Michelin star. I worked for them and I received more acknowledgement and visibility. Károly Gerendai is well known because of Sziget, he is its main organizer. I remember one evening at Sziget when there was just one single piece of my cakes left, and Károly Gerendai set up a bid about who would get the last piece, and he, with a generous gesture paid HUF 30,000 for it. I received more opportunities at the VIP section of Sziget Festival. I delivered the desserts to them. I also set up a stand and I could sell my products there. Then Tchibo Hungary contacted me, and I became the product manager and product developer of Tchibo. Tchibo was followed by McDonalds, McCafé, so I had more and more work.
How does a product developer work in case of cakes?
The clients describe me what they want, what kind of ideas they have and I develop a product accordingly. We also deliver this product to them, luckily, by now we have a truck, so we can do it as well. When I design a product sometimes it is a brand new something, sometimes I just make slight changes, add or take away something from existing products. Right now, we are going to supply the Central European region of McDonalds. There are very different qualities, but McCafé quality is very high standard as well.
You also wrote a cookbook.
Yes, parallel with all these I was working on my book, which came out as a big success. What I am really proud of is that I still love my work and I can immerse in it. People who are around me are thinking the same way. Here is Lili for example who is about to complete her thesis at Corvinus University. She is working and studying. There is somebody else who is a fashion designer and studied at MOME, so I work with people who are urged by some inner force. I think I have an excellent crew.
How did you decide to open your shop?
After a while I just began to feel that I really would like to have my own space and shop. I am actually talking about the last 5 years. I found this place that I rent in József Attila Street. You should know that we began this whole business without any money, and we have never had an investor. Recently there was an article published about me and the title said, “From one kilogramme flour to a 200 million worth business.”
The business went so well that I decided to open my second shop. It is Garden in Hűvösvölgy. This is a different quality place, a cosy house with a big garden decorated with lampions and fireplaces inside. My media coverage was rather good. I became the Hungarian face of BBC Goodfood.
Our third cake shop has just opened in Óbuda at Kolosy tér. I also plan to open a shop in London as I am participating in international projects. BBC for example has all kinds of thematics in gastronomy. I wrote about the trends of cakes in 2015 for BBC Goodfood.
What trend do you follow?
The trend and the way I work is very close to the French type of bakery as well as the ingredients I use and the texture of my products. I was also very much influenced by the American trends, this latter is more apparent in the look of my products. My personality is very much there in all of them. The cakes and cookies are totally my creations, they come out of my head.
Do you have a role model in cakes?
I would not name one, but the first one who made a great impact on me was Pierre Herme. When I began to produce my products in Hungary, I was totally alone and unique with what is called today new-wave confectionery.
What is new-wave confectionery?
I can tell you what it means for me. It means that the look and the taste do not have to meet any compromise. The use of ingredients and the care how we use them, the quality and the personal touch that we invest into our cakes are everything that you can expect from a homemade cookie. The technological conditions and background that are connected to all these characterize the so-called “industrial” products. Our cakes are the amalgam of these two. Form, content, quality. I order the ingredients from France mostly, we use French butter and cream.
Who are your clients?
We are rather well-known in Europe, our clients include diplomats, we deliver for receptions, the US ambassador, Hawaii diplomats are popping in the shop almost every day, young intellectuals, who travel a lot and are informed about the world, and a lot of tourists.
Where do you advertise yourself?
Nowhere. I have always been convinced that I want to produce something genuinely good and receive acknowledgement for that quality. So far, I have not paid anything for marketing. This is really not the “rule” but still interesting. We have a lot of opportunities. Just before you came somebody was here and offered us laptops in return to displaying his company’s sticker in our shop-window. So now it seems like a dream but there is a lot of work behind all these. It was a long way from baking for my kids at home to having 50 employees whom I am responsible for. I feel the responsibility more and more.
Why did you choose IBS for your studies?
I have heard about IBS from a friend and I just went there and asked István Tamás for an appointment. This may sound weird but I just wanted to discuss it with him why I should go and study there. He gave me an appointment and we had a really memorable conversation. I loved the atmosphere and the smell of life that I could clearly sense in the school. I have great memories and I still have friends from there. I must tell you that the whole school was fun.
You are planning to go back to study at IBS for your Masters. What motivates you to do that?
When I was studying at IBS, the school trained us how to run a business, how to be successful in business, prepared us for a lot of things that I could really use. Now I have a medium size entrepreneurship and I would need more business knowledge. I also feel that the knowledge I gained at IBS should be integrated into my work on a higher level. In my present life, in each field of my life I control what is happening, I am responsible for everything. To be honest, I want to go back not only to study but also to enjoy a different position, I want to be in the position of a student.
How about your private life and your business? How do you reconcile the two?
I have three kids, they are 3, 5 and 7 years old. My parents help me a lot. They moved to the country and founded a bio-farm. My father is an engineer and my mother is a medical doctor. They are both very good in their professions. I feel that I found my place, I can be a business woman and a mother, everything has a place in my life. It is wonderful to be a mother, I could not really name a better thing in life, however, I would go mad if I could not really use my creativity. My kids fuel me with a lot of energy that I can use in my work. This is why I feel good.
Erika Reich completed her studies at IBS in 2002. She is the co-owner of Noir Chocolate Bar in Hegedű utca, Budapest.
What did you do after IBS?
Right after school I went to work for the marketing department of channel TV2 as an event organizer and coordinator. Parallel with this, I ran smaller programs at Fix TV. With my partner, we were travelling a lot, to Spain, Italy, France, to Portugal, I also have relatives there. During these trips we were often sitting in little coffee shops, chocolate bars, cafes, and I just loved these. In Hungary at the time there were nothing like these, so I was wondering if it was feasible to open something like them, and little by little, I fell in l love, and got obsessed with this idea. I was sure that in Hungary and especially in Budapest this would work. So, it became a dream for me that I wanted to carry out. I began thinking, and I went back to IBS and I consulted with the rector, Mr. István Tamás who helped me a lot, with ideas, advise, considering this as a business option. It seemed a bit ambitious plan to open the first chocolate bar in Hungary. What we really learnt from our teachers at IBS is that the first thing is to believe in your dream and to really be persistent and want to carry it out. You need to believe in your own dreams and the rest will come.
Well, probably you need something more than just believing in your dreams. How could you raise the money to begin your business?
Well, as I said, the first thing was that I believed in my dream. I received a lot of help from IBS in consulting, in setting up a business plan, I also asked my sister if she was willing to participate and also run the business when I am not in Budapest. My sister, at the time, was working for a multi-national company at a totally different field but, but she was happy to be my business partner. Mr. István Tamás often supports starting businesses, helped us as well. He was not only a business consultant but also supported us financially. We remain grateful for his help.
What is really special about Noir Chocolate Bar?
We use exclusively the best, highest quality chocolate. The place has a very special, warm, and sweet atmosphere. We also offer a large variety of high quality chocolate drinks. Already the first week brought us a full house. To be honest, we ourselves were not prepared for this many people. We have never really advertised ourselves, people learnt about us by word of mouth, and still, we have a very strong group of regular customers. I must confess though that we have this core of regular customers only in the season. Chocolate is a seasonal product, hot chocolate, chocolate fondue all these are strongly connected to winter. We are really doing well from September until next April, but we are still open in the summer except for August. Our next big plan to extend the Chocolate Bar with a terrace that would be a big step to overcome seasonal difficulties. I moved back to Hungary 4 months ago, and this will be our next big step.
Where did you live before?
I lived in Iran with my Persian Husband. In Iran, I made chocolate as well, where it was even more popular than in Europe. I could not open a chocolate bar but I prepared manufactured, hand-made chocolate. Teheran is a big market so it was relatively easy to do business with something, which is high quality, unique, and a foreigner brings it in and prepares it. I missed Budapest very much, so I came home and we will see what future brings. My husband and his family are very modern, contemporary. He used to work in Budapest. Actually, we got acquainted in this Chocolate Bar, he had his office near here and he frequently came in. I lived in Teheran for 6 years and it was wonderful, it is a rich and colourful world. It is also a wonderful country, I loved to live there but I am basicly a girl from Budapest… The Chocolate Bar was expecting me back with all its charm and emotional ties. We have our tenth anniversary on December 6 when we will project the film Chocolate. I would like to extend and develop the business, so I am going to open a chocolate manufacture, I have just found the right place and I am trying to find the right people to work with. We will not only prepare nicely packed chocolates but will also have presentations, and offer trainings.
Where did you learn all these?
As I have not studied cooking or catering, I had to learn all these in special trainings and courses mostly abroad, in Belgium, in Canada among them. I have also read a lot of books written by master chefs of chocolate. And of course, practice, practice, practice in real life.
Katalin Antal is the appointed CFO of Microsoft Hungary as of August 31, 2015. Katalin studied and, for a short period of time, taught at IBS.
IBS blog asked Katalin Antal on this occasion. Katalin studied and, for a short period of time (2 years), taught at IBS. She was working in the FMCG sector for more than a decade, and she has considerable experience in B2B. She worked for Procter & Gamble as well as for Ecolab. She is a versatile business leader, her special knowledge covers budgeting, business forecasting, controlling, accounting, project management, financial modelling, financial challanges of marketing and supply chain, as well as auditing, and introducing SOX and ERP systems in company management. She worked with multifunctional teams and with multiple regions as well.
How did you chose IBS?
I was a professional table tennis player for 8 years, including my high school years, I played in the Club of Statistics. After high school I choose IBS because the first year seemed to be really attractive, when we study English and basic subjects. I thought this would be great, and I will have time to decide what to do later. In the meanwhile, however, I got to like IBS so much that I did not want to go anywhere else and I completed my studies here.
Looking back, what do you especially find useful in your IBS study that you could really apply in your career?
First of all, the way we were taught and we were learning, problem solving. I think this is the aspect that really differentiates IBS from other Hungarian universities. If there is a problem, we may not know the solution but it is for sure that we will find the solution somehow and solve it by the deadline. We had a lot of project work, group work which was not very common at the time, and it was a rather competitive atmosphere as well. There were many very good teachers. Katalin Julov and Elemér Szamosvölgyi for example, who taught us business policy and accounting respectively or István Magas who was the chair of the Applied Economics Department at the time. We had lots of project work and I think this attitude to teaching and learning gave IBS a unique competitive advantage compared to other universities.
Are you still in contact with IBS?
I am still in contact with quite a few of my schoolmates, and I also taught at IBS for a while which I really enjoyed. I taught corporate finance and controlling on BA and management on Msc and also participated in a newly founded coaching type of program for two years.
How did your career proceed after graduation?
Everything began in my third compulsory placement year at KPMG, then I joined Procter and Gamble and I graduated in the meantime. I think the mindset that I learnt at IBS, my actual work experiences at these great companies, the Procter and Gamble values and principles, drew me to my present position. P&G is a very interesting company, they rotate everybody in two-three years, within their function. I was in many positions there, including a headquarter position in Geneva, Switzerland. From P&G I went to maternity leave, I have two kids, an almost 7 year old daugther and a 5 year old son. When I went back I was the CFO for a new greenfield production plant in Gyöngyös. After a while I left for another quite big company, Ecolab. It is a US based B2B company, they produce dangerous chemicals, and sell their cleaning products to hospitals, hotel chains to fast-food chains for kitchen cleaning, among others. After Ecolab I was headhunted by Microsoft.
From your skills and expertise, I find “business forecasting” the most exciting.
The role of finance has been changing continuously. Business forecast is trying to anticipate, how business will perform in the future, what the main assumptions, the risks and opportunities are, how sensitive a business model is to certain external factors. My job is to highlight the most important parts of the business to concentrate on and also draw the attention where the problems are or going to be. Business forecasting includes financial statements, accounting, book-keeping but it is much more than. It is really exciting for me, as this type of view and analysis can provide decision makers with a very good basis in their work.
What are the new challenges that you meet in your new job?
This is a new type of industry for me. FMCG is a very dynamic business as well but the financials and the products are different. The challenges are how I can challenge the business in a way that helps to further develop the organization and the Hungarian business of Microsoft.
Agnes Romet-Balla completed her studies at IBS in 2001 and she is the Communication Director of UNICEF Hungary.
Where did you begin to work after IBS?
At the time when I was at IBS the third year was a placement year for us. I spent my placement year at Westel (today T-Com, or Magyar Telekom). After the placement year I stayed at Westel and worked there for 3 years. After the third year, I began to feel the need for a change and I went to the UK. Working as a barmaid was not a life goal but gave me the chance to think over what I want. When I returned, I have already known, I wanted to work on PR/communication field. Gold Communication KFT was my first consciously chosen workplace, a real practical school. I worked out the PR activities of firms like, WIFI Hungaria, Mitsubishi and quite a few IT companies.
All what I learnt at IBS, I could turn into practice there. After a while my friend and IBS schoolmate, Balázs Szántó asked me to join Noguchi Porter Novell as an account director. We are still in contact and friends, and Balázs has become the partner of Noguchi Porter Novelli since then. At Noguchi, I worked with companies like Coca Cola, Tele2, Hewlett Packard. After two years at Noguchi, I got interested to go over to the other side, to the consumers’ side. I was not looking for any new job but a head-hunter company called me with a nice opportunity. That was the time when I changed and started to work for Red Bull Hungary as a communications manager.
When I became a mum, my priorities changed and I was looking for a job where family and work can live together. And again, as it already happened a few times in my life and I hope will happen in my future as well, I received a phone call with a job offer. This time it was UNICEF Hungary that was looking for a communications director.
UNICEF is an altruist organization. How does altruism, in other words, your job connect to your studies in business?
UNICEF has this idealistic public image that it is a kind of angel that comes out of the blue and saves kids. In the real world, UNICEF has a very strict and transparent financial and operational plan to be able to be an “angel.” We belong to the Geneva centre, and the centre is very strict and demanding. We have a very tight yearly budget plan and a very serious yearly strategic planning. Saving lives is not a cheap and ad-hoc activity. Every fundraising and communication activity is build on a strict plan.
As a communication leader, I have very strictly defined frames of work, I have a forecasted sum that I need to be able to raise by the end of the year. It is hard-core business. My major task is to communicate convincing enough to be able to raise money. It is a great responsibility, I always think that the sum that we spend for something can save kids’ life. So our communication budget should be handled really carefully. A large part of our work is trying to find ways of saving money.
I saw at your desk some dolls.
They are part of the Dolls for UNICEF project. We asked acknowledged Hungarian designers to make their dream doll, then these dolls are adopted by famous people, who give their face to the fundraising campaign, and this is very helpful.
Who are the people who donate to UNICEF?
You would not believe but not wealthy people. Most of our donors are from middle class and SME business but there are of course some big companies as well, but most of our donations are from one-off donations (e-dm, Dm, 136 66 charity line, cash or giro). As most of the bigger NGO we are focusing on regular donors as well, but we need at least two years to see the real changes.
What is the difficulties of your job?
This work is emotionally very charging. Personally I do not see those kids who are dying or even die, but I have to act, speak, communicate in their names. It is hard to talk about children’s death every day. When I began working for UNICEF, I needed approximately a half year not to cry every time when I read a story, saw a picture or launched a campaign. We need to convey the message to people that the 16000 children’s death per day can be reduced to zero. And there is a progress. When I began working for UNICEF I had to refer to 21 000 children’s death per day but this figure really should go down to zero. Whenever I go to a meeting this is the bottom line.
Is this the job that you always wanted to do?
Well, after high school I wanted to become an actress. But my mother did not want to hear about it. Honestly, besides that, I had no idea where to go, what to do. My mother found IBS for me, and we agreed that until I had no more specific ideas I just go there and study in English, that would not harm, just for the first year. And then I got stuck and carried on with my studies at IBS. It was a wonderful community, good company, great life, great friends, some are still with me. So, I stayed until it was no longer a question what I wanted to do.
Former IBS student, Laura Paál is the regional director of GE ITLP (Information Technology Leadership Program).
GE ITLP provides young IT professionals, completing their studies or beginning their career, an opportunity to acquire practical knowledge in network building, human resources, managing tight deadlines, leadership information, etc. Young professionals who are participating in the program can gain experience and develop their knowledge in different fields of informatics, mobile technology, internet safety, data analysis, cloud technology, as well as in company leadership. In their two years of study, participants can test their competence in international environments, in different fields, and in various labour cultures. They can meet challenging tasks in different parts of the world while working within one company.
According to Laura Paál, one of the strength of the program is that it faces the participants with challenges that they need to respond in a short time and in a focused way. They need to adjust to circumstances that they could meet daily in their work. Actually, they do meet them daily, as the tasks are always real life, actual tasks.
Although informatics is still widely considered a man’s job, there are more and more programs and initiatives to fight against old stereotypes. As a female leader in IT, Laura Paál herself is a living example. As she says, she is well aware of old stereotypes although personally she has not experienced prejudices against women. The proportion between women and men in the program is definitely good. Currently there are 5 women among the 9 Hungarian participants. There always many talented applicants but the final decision is always made on the basis of professional and potential leadership qualities.
Read full article at HR Portal here.
More on her career here.
Zsófi Faur completed her studies of economics at IBS in 2001. Right after school she opened her art gallery, the Zsófi Faur Gallery.
How did the idea to open an art gallery occur to somebody who studied economics?
I have always lived among art, my father is a collector, my grandmother was a model of the famous Hungarian painter Ödön Márffy. My father and grandfather bought art directly from the artists who are now classics. My family history and connections helped me a lot in setting up a gallery in 2001.
Was this a great time for the art market and what was your focus?
It was rather early, we were among the first private galleries opened in Hungary, at that time we were called Ráday Gallery, in 2010 it is called Faur Zsófi Gallery. We focused on still living but already classical artists who fell into the category of “tolerated” or “forbidden” under socialism. We also worked with contemporary artists however we could not deal with them exclusively. Photo was an option for our gallery. Very soon we began to feel that we need to step out to the world, we could not rely on the local Hungarian market only. Great international professional curators, art dealers do not come to Hungary, so we need to go to where they are. One way to do this is to participate in contemporary art fairs. It was hard to get into this international market at the beginning, it is not easy to get accepted to a fair. Hungarian photographers are well-known worldwide, everybody knows who Robert Capa, Andre Kertész, Brassai were. These iconic names sell Hungarian photography and photography could also fit in the “progressive art” category. We have been participating in international art fairs since 2007 and in this respect we are unique among Hungarian art galleries.
What is it that you received from IBS to help this business?
I liked that IBS trained us for life. This is what generally is missing from Hungarian higher education. We had to do a lot of team works for example. In other universities you are shocked when you step out of the university into real life. You need to be creative, solve problems, you are able to carry out a project from A to Z.
Can you make your living from your gallery?
Before the financial crisis this was a good business, a gallery had to have a unique profile, style, a circle of customers and you could make your living from it. We did not have too many customers but they were regular customers. Since the crisis local customers have practically disappeared. We cannot continue our earlier practice of exhibiting and selling. We need to go abroad which requires finances.
How do you raise the necessary money?
The difficulty of this situation is that we need to be on the safe side I cannot experiment with artists and see how they are doing in the international market. It narrows down our options, we need to sell and from the income to cover the cost of the next fair. I work with those artist whom I am surely can sell. I cannot afford to introduce a new artist no matter that I trust and believe he or she is great. If I cannot sell him or her, I lose money, I cannot afford to risk. You should also know that the financial crisis has the most serious impact on the circle of customers whom we target, who could buy art for 5-15000 Euro. You can always sell very cheap or very expensive works, but the medium level is difficult. People do not believe that what is cheap can be good quality.
Who are your contracted artists?
I work with a few photo-artists. Béla Dóka, Anna Fabricius, Viola Fátyol, Gábor Arion Kudász, Ádám Magyar, Ágnes Éva Molnár, Gergely Szatmári, they are around 35-45 years of age, move internationally, they have a certain acknowledgement already. They are well informed about international trends, some of them have international awards.
Who are your customers?
Mostly Europeans, last year we went to Asia as well. We were in Palm Springs, California in February. Palms Srings is a promising territory for us, where people have the tradition to buy art and they can afford spending money on art. We participated in the SCOPE Miami 2014, in December. To Palm Springs we echibited the works by Béla Dóka és Gegely Szatmári, Ági Podmaniczky Csilla Bondor, and BOLDI.
When did you move your gallery from Ráday street to Bartók Béla?
We moved 5 years ago. The gallery in Ráday street was too small and not really appropriate for exhibitions. This is here a great space for exhibitions, I can set up exhibitions that I like, the shop window, which is the facade of the gallery works really well, not only passengers but everybody can see it even from the by-going trams.
Do you see already the light at the end of the tunnel of the crisis?
It is not easy to answer this. Lack of money is a decisive factor. Photo artists need to go abroad and sell there, they should be informed about international trends and know that East-Central European poverty, difficulties are not selling any more in the West. I am sorry to say but artistic trends and market trends are two things, how a curator approaches art and how a gallerist does that are very different. Artists often should choose between exhibiting or selling. Art has become a product like any other product, and selling is not happening in the galleries but at art fairs. That is, we need to adjust to the new situation if we want to survive and use these transformed marketing channels.
Update, 19 November, 2018
According to Forbes, she is among those 125 persons who make Budapest one of the best place in the wolrd to live. Check it out here.
Nekedterem is a successful online grocery delivery service created by a former IBS student.
What did you do before Neked terem (Grown for you)? Our year at IBS was rather successful, I have great memories of the late professor Tom Owens. We learnt a lot from him, he taught classic marketing with a lot of case studies, and I think we were probably the first who received this type of new marketing and business knowledge at IBS in Hungary. After graduation I began working at Ogilvy & Mather agency as an account assistant, then I worked at HVG’s marketing section. I got more and more interested in internet business and I was among those who set up Vatera. The idea came from a Greek guy who raised money to launch an auction site in five countries parallel, earlier he had studied at Harvard Business School. The model already existed and his idea was to reshape it to a new context including Greece, Turkey, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland. I was involved in building brand awareness, Hungarian website development and marketing. From the five countries Vatera proved to be viable only in Hungary. At the beginning of the 2000s, online business was yet in its infancy in Hungary but it was a very lively period to initiate something. My ex-husband was very much involved in internet and through him I could really get up-to-date information. I worked for HVG Jobline in marketing, I learnt a lot both about website development and freshly emerging projects. In the meantime, I completed my studies in cultural anthropology, simply because I wanted to study something else, not just business. I also studied interior design, and for a while I was really into it. My first own enterprise was connected to internal design. I set up a twelve-part hobby course for those who wanted to furnish or refurbish their home or were interested in home design. Actually, I am still offering these courses, it is however more and more difficult to fit them into my schedule.
How did the idea of Neked terem occur to you?
After the birth of my second son, I thought how great it would be to get fresh vegetables and fruits directly from farmers. I began to talk to old ladies who were selling their products at the market, and set up my network. Meanwhile, a software programmer began to build a website for me. At the beginning I had some difficulties how to cooperate with farmers. The older generation was a bit suspicious, they were not familiar with computers at all, let alone online business. They think when you need fresh vegetables you walk to the market and buy them, and this is the way how it has always been and how it should be until the end of time. It was also hard to have the producers understand that we are bringing new customers and not taking away their good old customers. Little by little, I got acquainted with younger producers and then with the Élő Tisza cooperative. It is a flexible, loose network of producing, selling and quality control. Through this network we buy fruits and vegetables. We have our own network of suppliers as well. We also included more hand-made and home-made products, like dairies and meat.
Did you have some international models to build up your enterprise?
Yes, I did some research and thought that there would be reliable demand for a shortened food chain. Not everybody has the time to go to the farmers’ market and a lot of people would choose home delivery. The French agriculture community model is based on one family producer who supplies several families regularly, in other words, a few families maintain one producer family. This is the shortest way from farm to table. Another typical box system is when a company buys from different farmers and the products are distributed in a customers’ community. In Great Britain, registered customers pay in advance monthly and they receive their food boxes. In these systems the products do not have individual prices, the company regularly delivers a box of fresh products for a fixed price. This is not yet a viable option in Hungary. The Hungarian customer wants to be specific and wants to know the exact price of each item. In Hungary it is rather difficult to have regular orders. We have a lot of registered customers and they order on an ad hoc basis. We do not want to force them to order regularly as our system is rather flexible.
What is the special feature of Neked terem?
Our speciality is that we concentrate on local and hand-made products. Our target is the health-conscious customer. We also want to help local production. Our products can be traced back, our customer service receives and answers questions and we have a money back guarantee. Our customers can meet producers, we have our open days. The shortened food chain allows a more personal connection between producer and customer, this is our philosophy. We also help producers in marketing as much as we can.
Who are your customers?
Typically young people with family and kids. But instead of generational and income characteristics, I would say that our customers are more health-conscious than the average.
How do you see your success?
In the last two and a half years we doubled our revenues. We are developing, we deliver in Budapest and in the suburbs twice a week already, we have broadened our offers, we have organic products, cleaned vegetables, salads and spreads. I also consider it a success that we have suppliers who make their living from our business.
What are your plans?
Of course we want to develop further, but not much. We can grow as a franchise within the country, we may also extend our range of offers, with meat for example, goat cheese, wines, etc. I would like to extend the circle of our suppliers. I can imagine to double our present scale, but that is the maximum, that is my limit.
A young Hungarian woman in the world of a competitive, male dominated world of perfumes.
She saw herself on stage, she wanted to become an actress but she studied economics, as an agreement with her parents. Almost by accident, she discovered the world of perfumes when she was on Erasmus in Paris. She always loved perfumes but in Paris she learnt where she should study to become a professional perfumist, the Grasse Institute of Perfumery. The school was expensive, so she began working as an economist, and saving, spending her free time at a nearby Guerlin shop. She was very successful in her job but even more dedicated to her dream. When, at the age of 27 she was offered the director’s position of the same firm where she worked, she rejected it. In her interview she is talking about all these, as well as how the ability to have a “good nose” can be developed. Now she has her own firm and perfume creations. Her Hedonist stunned the profession with its authenticity and originality. Hedonist is a cult product from Indonesia to the US.
Probably you have come across the comfortable Dr. Batz slippers, shoes in shops, malls. The surprise is that Dr. Batz is not a foreign orthopaedist but a former IBS student, Zoltán Kárpáti.
All these began with your IBS dissertation paper. What was it about?
My paper was about marketing and branding a special product, Dr. Batz slippers. But I need to begin my story earlier. When I finished my IBS studies in 2002, I already had been in the “business”. My parents were working in the shoe business and they regularly expected me to participate in the family work. I was given a small van and a key of a depot, saying, “Here you are, dear son, try to sell these shoes in the countryside.” And I did. I knocked on the door of shoe shops, introduced the products, and the shops ordered some of them. 30 days later I went back to collect the money and take more orders. At the time I was around 18. In the course of all this I noticed that there were some seasonal dynamics, ups and downs of certain products. For some reason slippers were especially well selling around Christmas time. I thought that we should focus on slippers only. Overall this was a good experience for me, I could learn a lot about the world of trading and business. But I also felt that this knowledge should be developed further, I just knew that I wanted to learn and study and get a business diploma. So, I decided to go to IBS, where I had a friend who studied there. I was accepted to IBS, but while I was studying I was still involved in several other things. I am proud that I always covered my own tuition fee which even back then was something. I had a great experience at IBS, I have great memories of those years but I must admit it was also tough.
Dr. Batz is a very good name, one cannot really tell where it comes from, definitely does not sound like Hungarian, neither is it obvious what it means. Was the name part of your strategy? In an earlier interview you were reluctant to tell the meaning of it. Would you tell it now?
“Batz” as the name of our firm already existed. It is a mosaic word from the initials of my mother’s, sister’s, father’s and my name, Babi, Annamária, Tibor, Zoltán. When it came to decide my diploma work topic, it was not a question for me, “Branding in the light of Dr. Batz slippers.” I have thought that it would be a good strategy to add “Dr” to the name, and thus signal that we are into healthy products, slippers constructed in an anatomically conscious way, comfortable and help to prevent foot problems. What I worked out in my dissertation became our strategy. It is not enough to be good. I learnt a lot at IBS, and I knew that besides that the product is good, and it has an appropriate and attractive price, something special should be added. I wanted to make a high quality Hungarian product and I though it should also be displayed in a special way. Let’s put it onto special stands, with a special light, right at the entrance of a shop to attract attention immediately as one enters a shop. This was a big difference compared to the unfavourable places of hidden shelves where slippers were generally located. We also gave the shops everything on consignment. This allowed us to define and strongly recommend a maximum price and not letting shops go beyond that. We could insist on this as the shops did not have any risks. It was also a new and unique feature that Dr. Batz products could be ordered in individual sizes, this was a new practice as shops always had to buy a sortiment package, even if they just ran out of one size. These were the basic principles, which actually have not changed much, of course now have nicer and better stands with LCD monitors and leds, etc. I have tried to go abroad and have the parts and the work done in the Far-East. But even though the price of work was much less, actually the total costs were half of the Hungarian ones, the quality they produced was not on the level of the Hungarian producers’.
How many people do work for you?
I have been giving work for more than 300 people for 11 years. I am very proud that all the works are done in Hungary. The insoles are made in Hungary and we have connections with innovative up-coming firms.
In an interview in 2007 you said that your export was 10 % of your overall trade that you intended to triple in a year with the help of your young colleagues? Did you triple the volume of your export?
Yes we did, however I must admit that probably I overvalued the capacity of my young colleagues. So I did it with another team.
How do you choose your team?
I must admit that I do it through my family and through friends of friends of friends. Also, the situation has been turned and now my family members work for me and not the other way. I have one person whom I absolutely trust, who is the brand manager, Zsuzsa Héjas, whom I sort of have been ”convincing” for years, to come to work from me and quit her former employer, to our great advantage. Throughout these years I myself had to learn to dare to delegate work which leaves me more time for my own developing, learning, and being creative. I go to exhibitions, watch the trends.
Do you follow the trends and the latest developments because you think of your future expansion, development as well?
Yes, of course. Actually, we have several new inventions and technologies. I think our next jump will be implementing a new technology with which we will be able to map and measure individual feet and prepare individualized insoles accordingly. Did you know that your footprint is as individual as your fingerprint? You step onto a pressure plate, and the structure of your foot, ankle, all details can be studied. You should also answer a few questions that show up on a touch screen, and we can prepare your individual insole by evaluating the picture and the answers. We bought a whole set of know-how from Italy. Two years ago I though it would take 3-4 months to develop the whole system and begin the production. We are still not done. It demands a serious transformation within the company. We still have a lot to do, and it will be minimum half a year from now that the slippers with these insoles can be tested and sold in selected shops. We will be able to produce individual insoles that can be put into any type of shoes. This will be a system that can make a breakthrough and can be competitive internationally as well.
Lilla Valkó, a former IBS student’s career path was featured in Nők Lapja Évszakok 2014 Tavasz. Read the translation of the article below.
There are people who break with the common study plan already as a teenager. Lilla Valkó, at the age of seventeen, in a framework of a scholarship program, got an opportunity to gain experience in USA. She spent a year in California, where she did her final exam and got accepted to university. However, she decided to move backhome to continue her studies surrounded by friends and family. “Back at home I faced the fact that I either make my American degree accredited or I choose from those two courses where my degree was accepted. I decided to take the latter option. For two years, I was studying law at Pázmány University, later reconsidering my plans, I changed in favor of IBS’s finance program.” It was important for Lilla to enrich her knowledge and international experience. In order to achieve her goals, she applied for a year long Erasmus scholarship in Madrid, where she also got a degree after two and a half year of long hard work. Following her return she graduated from IBS and in 2011 she moved to Brussels, where she obtained a master diploma in diplomacy with protocol specialization. Profiting from the experience and knowledge gained during these years, Lilla is now working as a cultural and art manager. “Already as a teenager,I wished not just to get familiar with other cultures, but also to explore them deeply. It was an advantage that I have been abroad for a longer time at a very young age, because people are much more open at this stage. Itscolorfulnessis what makes the world a beautiful place and its diversity makes it a whole, a complete entity. During my cultural explorations, it was always important that my base would be at home, becauseonly by connecting with your roots can you get strength and refresh. The distance on the other hand helps me to better judge and also to recognize the values we have here.”
IBS alumni Dorottya Vass and Veronika Csente, alias Prémecz sisters, are talking about their business success.
How did you get involved in NU Skin, a company selling anti-aging cosmetic products exclusively through the internet in 52 countries?
We met the company 7 years ago. At the time we had already finished our studies for some years and we were looking into different options. We set up our own media company, we did publishing and we also came up what we called, Patients’ Health Documentation Folder that we distributed in hospitals. All the three of us, we have a brother as well, were working on this product. Actually, our brother has now a web-design company that grew out form this project. We also tried to get into the business of tourist services, restaurants, anything that seemed to be financially rewarding. We had all kinds of undertakings. The two of us, we, the sisters, have always been thinking about selling promotional options for companies. However, we had to realize early on that this required investments, a lot of money, which we did not have. Neither did we have the know-how, to be honest, about how to build up a company. We have never been employees and we never wanted to be. We wanted to be the master of our own workforce and time.
Do you have a family tradition to get into business and avoid being employees?
Not really. However, the way we grew up is the reason why we are like that. Our mother was still at university when she already had three kids, and due to the unexpected twist and turns of life, she brought up three kids on her own. She wanted to give us everything so she worked a lot and she also expected us to work and contribute to the family finances. So we did everything together, we worked in the market in Szeged where we were brought up. She is a doctor, a psychiatrist. She decided to stay at the university after her studies and she was working all the time at the side. Wherever she saw an option for work, she took it. She sold at the market place, she did everything possible and this influenced the family spirit. We too have been working all the time, even after school and on holidays.
Why did you choose IBS?
Honestly, because we did not have any idea what we wanted to do. We saw IBS and it seemed to leave ways open for us, we also had good English. All three of us studied in the US. Our mother saw an advertisement that “everybody’s child can study in the US”, she thought if that is so, then, my kids should go. So, she really went after it, and first my brother, then my sister and eventually I went to a student exchange program. With IBS, we made the right choice, we loved the school. IBS was the first school where teaching was something like we grew up with, working in teams, cooperate, sharing knowledge. We liked our teachers, with some of them, we are still in touch. We use the presentation skills that we learnt at IBS a lot in our business right now. We learnt things that we teach now.
IBS is a private university and it may have been difficult for your mother to pay the tuition fee for the two of you. How could you manage the payments?
Paying the tuition fee was a “team work”, we the family did it together. We learnt to try to reach everything we wanted.
What are you doing exactly in Nu Skin?
We are introducing Nu skin to people and get them involved. Unlike other companies that sell through a network, we have a structure, a technology. Nu Skin’s main product is a concept. This means that if you build up a business network in three to five years, then you will have an income from this structure. This is our main task. The concept is that you can have a high quality income. We are focusing on the entrepreneurs, we do not have to do anything with the product, we are not selling it. We are showing people how they can become leaders and how they can have time and money freedom by building an international business network. We are looking for people who would like to change their lives and we are helping them by showing how it can be done. Nu Skin is actually looking for entrepreneurs and we show them what they can show to others. We are partners of the company. The company is doing the job for you. Marketing is our job and the company is paying us a fee. The company has consumable products and we connect the company with people. Some say they want to be a customers, some that they want to have a high quality life, and they want to become entrepreneurs themselves. We make our living through a concept. Everybody decides what she wants. We sell a system to them.
Could you explain in what ways you became especially successful?
Everybody is beginning from the bottom. We quickly understood that we need to find 12 people whose businesses will generate 3000 Euro sales volume per month to fully utilize the compensation plan. This 3000 is made from customers who consume the products directly from Nu Skin. We found approximately 30-40 customers in 2007-2008. Since then we do not need do anything in our business. It generates a passive income. In order to move on, we decided with my sister, that we will find 12 entrepreneurs around us who would do the same as us. For 7 months we worked really hard, we did not sleep, we approached people. Eventually, we managed to do what nobody else did in Europe until that time. In 7 months we reached the top. We received the prize of “Women Entrepreneurs of the Year 2008”.
Our motivation came from our mother. We saw our mom working hard for 30 years. We appreciate that and admire her, but we also knew that we were not strong enough to do the same. We wanted security, an income to raise our kids in well-being, to have time and spend that time with our family.
Is your private life connected to Nu Skin?
Yes. We both met our husbands in the business and the greatest thing is that we can do every part of our lives together with them. Time is the most important thing in life and now we can decide how to spend it and with whom. Nu Skin products helped a lot to get our families healthier and live a more valuable life. So we can say that what we have dreamt of, we made come true! We also think it important that we give back something to society. We do charity work to help children, we organized Christmas Eves in the prison of juveniles and we have a team of entrepreneurs who support a children’s food program and people with multiple handicaps.
Alumni Eve with Dr. Ágnes Fábián, President of Henkel Since July 1, 2011, Ágnes Fábián has been the appointed President of Henkel Magyarország Kft. Henkel has three business...
Alumni Eve with Dr. Ágnes Fábián, President of Henkel Since July 1, 2011, Ágnes Fábián has been the appointed President of Henkel Magyarország Kft. Henkel has three business segments, Laundry&Home Care, Beauty Care and Adhesive Technologies, Ágnes Fábian is also the Managing director of Adhesives Technologies. On November 27, 2014, Péter Szakonyi asked her about her professional career and some of the business strategies of Henkel.
One of the first questions was how it was possible for a woman to reach such a top management position. This is an issue that always comes up whenever the distinguished guest is a woman, think of the evening with Júlia Király. The question somewhat surprised Ágnes Fábian. She has always been a career woman but she never gave up having a family, a husband and kids, the so called traditional female roles. She admitted that a top position woman simply has to take more care of “logistics.” She does not think that a woman could not do what a man could. This might be a wrong question. She has an impressive career and as she says, she never met professional difficulties because of being a woman. She studied economics at Corvinus University (earlier Karl Marx University of Economics) Budapest she was an international economics major. As a student she spent her placement at Biogal, a chemical factory. At the time Helia D was an innovative Hungarian cosmetic product and she wrote her dissertation on Helia D. Thanks to her topic and placement, she was offered a job at Biogal, she began working in the export section of the factory. She spoke Russian and German, but soon, thanks to the political and economic changes in the world following the collapse of socialism, she learnt English. While working in Biogal, she felt the need to be more at home in the world of business contracts and legal issues, so she completed a special post-gradual training at the Faculty of Law Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest. Again, she chose a rather neglected topic at the time, Specific immaterial intangible assets. The paper was dealing with issues of intellectual products, copyright, innovation within a company, she carried this topic further in her doctoral thesis. Meanwhile, she had her first son, so she actually wrote her doctoral thesis while she was on maternity leave. When she went back to work a headhunter company contacted her to work for Loctite, a US firm dealing with adhesive materials. She was the head sales manager of their Hungarian branch. Loctite was later acquired by Henkel, so soon she joined the sales force as priority customer relations manager, in Hungary, she was responsible for international retail partners. Soon she was transferred to the headquarters of Henkel CEE in Vienna to work as the regional sales director of the Adhesive Technologies Business Unit. She traveled a lot, after 9 years, however, she needed a change again, and she was not concerned that a second kid might risk her career. So her suggestion to young females is that they should reach a senior position,they need to put down something, and then they have chances. You always need to be good at your job, you never know who pays attention to you and approaches you with an offer. When her second son was born, she was again offered a great job, which she could not take immediately. Great jobs might even wait for you. It definitely waited for her. This is how she came back to her present position, as the President of Henkel Magyarország Kft. and the director of adhesive technologies. As she says, you have to be ready when opportunity knocks. If you want to succeed in business, you have to cultivate your luck.
Another no less provocative question was about brand managing. What happens when a big multinational company like Henkel acquires local brands? These local brands disappear in the “deathly embrace” of the big ones. What intentions lie behind these moves? As Ágnes Fábian explained, when a multinational company acquires a local brand the purpose is to increase the market share. Any local brand that is connected to the well-known and acknowledged brand gains more strength. A well-known brand like Persil helps to sell other products under its umbrella name. This is global branding. However, there are other types, like double branding, when the global brand name and the local one are kept together. There are transitional phases, like the global brand name is dominating the acquisitioned product but some of the visual elements of the local one are preserved. The local brand can also be kept fully when it is powerful enough in the local market. The question is always how the investment returns if the market share is big enough. There are of course a great variety of reasons why a multinational company acquires another local brand. Just a recent example, Henkel acquired Dial, a US detergent brand. Henkel’s brands have a rather European heritage and to build brand awareness in short term or medium length is not easy in the overseas market. In this case, Henkel enters the market through a well-known US brand and this helps the global brand to step into a white spot. To sum up, brand acquisitions are more complex processes than simply destroying and annihilating local brands. Serious feasibility studies precede these moves. Or another example, recently Henkel acquired Spotless because of its high quality laundry products, its colourcather is in the first place. But Spotless has Vape as well, and this will be an absolutely new field for Henkel which has not yet worked with insecticide. So, there are thousands of strategies of brand managing.