Maxim Behar in The Career show podcast

Maxim Behar in The Career show podcast

Host: Hi, you're with The Career Show podcast. The podcast tells the stories of the most successful Bulgarians and their lessons for career, business, and life. I'm Sasho Kadiev and my guest on today's show is Maxim Behar. One of the undisputed leaders of public opinion in our country and a man with a lot of experience as a media expert, PR guru, diplomat, and business leader. Maxim is one of the most recognizable and successful faces in the world of PR communications, not only in Bulgaria but globally. Maxim.

Maxim: Hi, Sasho.

Host: You say yourself that you don't like the Bulgarian translation - public relations. It's hard to say. Is that one of the reasons?

Maxim: It's a bit of a poor translation. Maybe in the eastern part of Europe, it’s called public relations, but there are many countries that use the term PR.  Just like marketing doesn’t have a translation I think only PR should be used. Many years ago, we founded a PR college and when I went to register it, the people in administration told me that there is no term such as PR which is used in Bulgaria. I submitted lots of applications just so we could coin the term and we finally succeeded.

Host: Let's not look for another translation.

Maxim: Although there are a few connotations that are not so good. One of those connotations is that they listen to someone, especially politicians, and say, “Did you hear what they said?” and the other person says, "Leave it. They’re doing it for PR”, which means that something is wrong or that someone could be lying.

Host: Why is there actually such a connotation in society that PR is more about distorting the truth?

Maxim: The reason is that mainly politicians are surrounded by people who call themselves PR and that is the second bad connotation. PR is not a profession. PR is a business and there are many professions in this business. And when I've met politicians a couple of times and they say, "Hi Mr. Behar. How are you? Come meet my PR." And so in those years, it seemed like the name of that profession started to have different meanings and different shadows around it. But in the end, the truth is that we who do business with this and seriously advise large international companies do our job the same way our colleagues in Germany, France, and the UK do theirs. Especially the UK and the US, which are the parents of this business.

Host: You wrote the book "The World PR Revolution" and it became an absolute bestseller. It was also ranked at the top of the charts by an independent organization that evaluates the popularity of these types of books. What do you want to get across to people and teach them what PR is?

Maxim: I really think what's been happening in our business over the last 10 years has been a revolution. And that revolution is mainly on media ownership. All of a sudden we all woke up with media in our hands. It really is a revolution. And I say very often that we were until recently consultants to our clients. We were advising them on how to present themselves to the media, to their employees, and to the public. However, one day we woke up in a completely different environment. And we are now something in between publishers, editors, and reporters. Publishers because we own media. And in fact, the characteristic of a publisher is to own media. Editors because we work with content. What we do from morning to night is come up with interesting, provocative, and truthful content for the social media that we own. And reporters, because it's the reporter who finds the news. The one who finds the interesting stories.

Host: To reflect them.

Maxim: To describe them in such a way that his readers will read something new, not something old. And that's why I decided to write this book because I saw these huge changes happening in our business. When I did a big survey about 30 out of 100 of my colleagues around the world thought it was an evolution, not a revolution. However, there are two huge differences.

The first difference is that social media is interactive. You read something immediately, log in, and share your opinion. And the other big difference is that for the first time in all of history, social media is measurable. You can measure how many people have read your article, how many have liked it, and how many have shared it. You can't do that sort of thing in a newspaper or on TV. In all of social media, you can go in and see that analysis. And that's why I decided to write the book "The Global PR Revolution.” I’m really glad that you mentioned Book Authority as this is one of the largest book platforms. People like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and Jeff Bezos use it and give their votes, and now in the PR section “The World PR revolution” is in second place.

Host: How do you perceive this?

Maxim: I didn't expect it and I came to the conclusion that if you want to write something and have it be really influential and have a good result, it has to become interesting to the US. That's where the real market is especially for our business. And it can put you on the map so that everybody is reading and discussing your book. Some may accept it, some may not.

Host: Your personal story is an amazing example of how a person can reach great heights in life. How they can develop themselves and the environment they live in, no matter the place they were born. You don't have to be born in New York. You are an example of exactly that and I want to bring you back because you are the best PR expert in the country today without a doubt. One of the best in the whole world, a person with a lot of experience. But if we take you back how many years 30-40 in Shumen.

Maxim: And more. 60 years.

Host: 60 years. How old are you?

Maxim: 55.

Host: Okay, we bring you back to Shumen. Your family is one of the 7 Jewish families left in Shumen at that time. What was your life like then?

Maxim: My memory of Shumen is gray. Everything was gray and what I remember for sure is that the winters were very cold. I remember that my dad was coming back from Sofia and one time he brought a peach. These are details that are stuck in my head. It's important to note that Shumen is a wonderful city center of many cultural firsts that happened in Bulgaria. The Shumen Theatre was the first theatre in Bulgaria, the Shumen Symphony Orchestra was the first, and the Shumen Community Center was the first in Bulgaria.

Shumen years are a very distant memory for me. Somehow I don't have good memories of the first 7-8 years while we lived in Shumen, but 20 years later I came back to Shumen to work and live. My son Misho was born there. Then I went to work in Poland and my daughter Ralitsa was born there. But then when I came back I got to know this city and I made a lot of friends. Now I go back there with great pleasure. We have no property, but I have Uncle Miko who is 93. And when it was his 90th anniversary I called him to congratulate him and I said, "In 2-3 months I'll be coming to Shumen tell me what to bring you for a present." and he said, "Can you bring me a 4 GB external computer disk, I'm out of disk photos on my computer.". And I brought him one, but it was phenomenal. Uncle Miko being alive and well continues to sit at his computer from morning till night editing photos.

Host: When was your first job?

Maxim: I was 14 years old it was the summer of '69. When my mother passed away in March. There was an accident my dad survived my mom passed away and there was no one to watch me during the summer. Dad decided to give me a job at the then-Serdika milk plant. The famous "Serdika", which today is "Danone". So in the summer of ’69, I went to work in the carpenter shop at Serdika and we were forging crates. You don't remember it, but back then fresh milk in Bulgaria was sold in big glass bottles.

Host: I remember milk being sold in plastic bags.

Maxim: It was sold in glass bottles. And in the carpenter shop, we used to make crates that could fit 12 bottles. One day the director of the factory arrived and came into the carpenter shop and said, "Who's Behar here?" and I froze.  I was only 14 years and I wondered if I could have made a mistake. I told him it was me and he asked me if it was true that I knew English. My dad had sent me to learn the language at the local Community center and I knew only how to greet and say goodbye to people, but I still told him that I knew how to speak. He requested that I follow him because they couldn’t reach an agreement with Swiss the people who installed the machine for the plastic bags. I ended up in the director's office and I stayed working there for two more months. I was making coffee and using a dictionary to translate whatever they said. That was my first job when I was in 6th-7th grade.

The first summer in high school I told my dad I wanted to go to the seaside and he said I had to earn my own money. So I went to a machine shop that wasn't far from where I lived. I spent the whole summer there and earned some money then I went there again. Finally, I stayed 5 years in that factory. Do you know what a vise is?

Host: Yes.

Maxim:The vise that I used for 5 years is in my room in the office of M3 Communications.

Host: Did you get it?

Maxim: Well, yes. Because the guy who bought the plant one called me later and said, "Why don't you come in and have a coffee.". And by the time we talked he said to me, "You know there's a guy here that you worked with if you want to see him. And I want to give you your vise." And I say, "There's no way 500 people worked here in this plant. It's not possible for you to know which one is mine." And we go down a big aisle that I used to run down every morning at 7 o'clock so I wouldn't be late for work. Because being late from work was 5% of my pay. And I usually took 50, 60 to 70% of my wage if I could get there.

By the time the new owner and I walked down the aisle, I really saw my vise. He had cleaned it, polished it and now it was in my room. And it reminds me of those wonderful years. By the way, I still see my friends from the plant. We usually have lunch or dinner around the new year. The people from my brigade and I keep talking as if we parted yesterday and we were on shift until yesterday.

Host: That sounds very nice Maxim. These are difficult years for you. You lost your mother very young. How did that change you as a person?

Maxim: My dad got married too soon after that. To a mother who is alive and well. I call her mother because she raised me. I spend every weekend with her. She is over 90 years old. I don't have an exact recollection maybe she made me a little more combative, tougher. I suffered a lot I remember that very well. I suffered a lot in the first months. And sometime after that, the woman who came and raised us with my sister and also gave birth to my younger sister. She was so loving and took such good care of us that somehow that lack disappeared, but of course the pain remained. To this day, I go to my mother Rachel's grave. I lay flowers and remember her.

Host: Rachel such a lovely name.

Maxim: Yes.

Host: Then in those years when you were in the plant you made your first newspaper?

Maxim: That was in Serdika. It was called the Daily News. I have no idea why it was called that. Maybe I liked that name because of the English classes I went to. But I didn't have much work at that place. There was a typewriter, which not everybody could have then. And I used to put 5-6 sheets of paper on it and write down news about the neighborhood.

Host: What were you reflecting then?

Maxim:Who went out with whom? Who was seen out in the neighborhood? Who won the football match we used to play on the playground?

Host: Were there readers?

Maxim: Well they were 10 in number because that's how many the indigo machine could produce. We were selling them for 2 stotinki. Then we'd go with a friend and give that money for boza and sweets at the local bakery, which now is a supermarket.


Host: Did you then develop a love for being a journalist, a person who would engage with the stories of others, so that you could reflect on their reality?

Maxim: Probably yes. I've always been a bit of an extrovert and I've always wanted to share what I think, what I can and know. Yeah, that was the first form which then evolved into me doing journalism. I majored in foreign trade. My dad worked in foreign trade all his life he ran a big company called Balkan Car. At that time it was the largest manufacturer of electric trucks in the world.

Host: So you can say that you lived well in those years?

Maxim: Relatively well. Our little apartment in Buxton where my mother still lives. We weren’t rich, but we weren’t poor either. All my dad brought from abroad were magazines in English which I devoured. I grew up with with the idea that I would like to share what I know. When I got my degree in foreign trade, my dad told me that I was not built for a salesman and I should focus on journalism and writing, which I love.

Host: And it's strange what people keep telling us, that Jews are merchant people and it's in their blood.

Maxim: I don't believe in the idea that one nationality should have something imputed to them that applies to everybody. But maybe all these centuries Jews have moved from country to country. They have been persecuted. Perhaps there is a hereditary militancy in their gene or in them. Rapid adaptation. I would say they have very good qualities to get along with people wherever they live. However, to this day, I still think he was right and that I’m not built for a salesman. So I became a person of communication.

Host: What I read about you and found curious is that you participated in the creation of the newspaper "Standard".

Maxim: It was a very romantic period in my life together with my friend Valery Zapryanov. We were standing in an empty room in Poduene and we were gathering a team. Our publisher, Krassimir Stoychev, was a very influential man back then and had the means. And with all his controversy, I think I learned a lot from him. Because he was a very pragmatic and conservative businessman. The kind we didn't know in Bulgaria. A man focused on profit and a man who read a lot. And he stood behind us for a couple of years until we did Standard. I think it was a very successful paper with a lot of reference material articles. It was forbidden to use slang in our paper. We wanted to make a serious newspaper. Then we saw that a serious newspaper didn't have a big audience. So I spent nearly four years at the Standard newspaper. And one day the whole team left together with Valery Zapryanov.

Host: What happened?

Maxim: We had a misunderstanding with the publisher. And we decided that if we parted we would part as a team. Then I remembered something Winston Churchill said: 'You may have achieved a lot with journalism, but you have to know when to give it up'. And then I thought I could try something else.

Host: Was that when you decided to do PR?

Maxim: I decided to do advertising. Back then PR was not something I was familiar with. Nobody knew what it was and I thought it might be interesting to do advertising. Advertising in 94-95 in Bulgaria meant making calendars, and pens with the name of the company on it. That's how I started and at one point I came across an American company that was coming to Bulgaria. They called me and said, "Can you make me business cards?", I said, "Sure." Then a guy from America came to interview me. And I started reading and I saw that I should do PR. I went to the American Cultural Center, I knew the press guy, and I asked him if he had anything about PR for me to read. And he told me there was a book on publicity, still in my office I keep a lot of that kind of stuff. I also keep my first typewriter. And this book was called Contemporary Advertising and at the end, there were really two pages on PR and I read them. Then I said to myself, this can't happen in Bulgaria.

Host: And what did you write then, do you remember?

Maxim: No. It was something about how you had to convince the journalists from the newspapers to publish an article commissioned by your client. I started working with a company called Amoco Petroleum. They built several successful gas stations in Bulgaria. Then they pulled out. But that was my first big client and then a lot of new clients came along. And that's how M3 Communications actually started to function as a really good PR company.

Host: When you signed the contract did you then set up M3 or was it your advertising agency?

Maxim: That's right M3 was the agency where we did the pens and the calendars.

Host: How did you come up with the name M3?

Maxim: There are a lot of people around me who are with M. My son is Michaud, and my father is Moncho. And of course my name. One day in December '94 I went to register a company because I wanted to try if I could do private business. There was only one notary in Sofia then. It was - 20 degrees, I waited maybe hours in the big queue. When our turn came I was told that this company had no name. How will it be named? And I automatically said M3.

Host: And when you started doing this, were there other companies in Bulgaria that dealt with PR, or were you the only one?

Maxim: I didn't know any others. I didn't have any contacts. I read here and there that some company was founded then. But here we are in 1-2 years becoming 30 years old and all this time we have been doing what we are doing now.

Host: And what really sets you apart as the best PR company in Bulgaria? Because you've won a lot of awards, you've been with the biggest clients. You have a presence at ICCO yourself. Isn't that the largest PR organization in the world?

Maxim: It's the world's PR organization, I was president and I'm still on the executive committee as international development director. But ICCO is a giant organization.

Host: Are you the only Bulgarian who has been inducted into the Hall of Fame?

Maxim: But that comes after working a lot on international projects. I was in London a few days ago and I saw the locals. I've been a Fellow of the British PR organization for a year, which is like a special consultant. It's a lifetime position. Special advisor to the British PR organization. We have a bi-annual meeting at the House of Lords. It's an opportunity to see interesting people in your business. To follow them on social media, read their stuff. One of my principles is to get up at 7:00 in the morning, make coffee, and sit down and read something that was written yesterday that relates to PR and my business. I've been doing that for many years and it's always given me great pleasure. I can learn a sentence or a word. I may not learn anything however I need to read something that was written yesterday. A couple of years ago at the Davos Forum, CNBC interviewed me and one of the journalist's questions was: 'What do you expect from the Davos Forum? What will you remember it by?" and I said one sentence to her. And she looked at me like that and said "Which sentence?" and I said "I don't know. I have yet to learn it.". Because if you learn one sentence you're going to read this morning, from a forum, from this podcast. One sentence if somebody remembers it's not wasted time. It can change your life. And that's why I read an article every morning. I go to meetings all over the world all the time. Sometimes I learn nothing, but I tell myself it doesn't matter.

Host: How many countries have you visited?

Maxim: Over 60 for sure. By the time I was president of ICCO, I had visited 42 countries in 2 years. It was constant traveling. It was workshops or participation in PR forums. I still travel and present at many global PR forums. Every year at our ICCO summit which we have it's the most prestigious summit of PR experts from around the world. Every year talk on different topics. Usually social media, the PR revolution, the changes. Our changes. Sasho we are different people and all of us have different stories.

Host: But you adapt despite your age.

Maxim: You know, let me tell you about age. I think age is determined not by how old you are, but by how quickly you react, and how quickly you make a decision. I think that's the criteria. I know people in their 20s and 25s who when you tell them and ask them something, it can take 3 hours until they think of an answer. And very often they don't know what to answer. One of my books that was written 10 years ago was written first on Facebook and it was probably the first book like that. It's 111 rules. The first rule is "The worst decision is better than no decision." That is, you can be wrong, but you have to make decisions. You can't stand by and do nothing. And whether it's a business decision or a personal decision, it has to happen right away. And that to me is the criteria of whether a person is young or an adult.

Host: You don't like the word employer? And how do you define yourself?

Maxim: Colleague, manager. I want my team to regard me as both. A manager sometimes has more responsibilities. My responsibility as a company owner is to be able to provide good projects and to be able to share my experience with my colleagues. I work with young people, some I've worked with for more than 15 years, some 15 days or weeks. I want to pass on my experience to them so that they make decisions as quickly as possible appropriately.

Host: After so many years, don't you get tired?

Maxim: Every morning I drive my little car to the office and think about who I will meet, what I will say to him, how I will greet him. Which client will I call? It is always with the same energy with a little more experience of course, however with the same positivity and the same desire to go to my company. It gives me great pleasure that everybody has difficulties.

Host: When do you find it difficult and how do you deal with it?

Maxim: It is not important how one works; it is important how one rests. Because you can work 20 hours and at the same time not be productive, not do anything and there is no result from that. And you can work 2-3 hours and get a lot more work done. I try to diversify and rest. I have a new book coming out now that I wrote with my wife Veneta about the Camino.

Host: Did you pass it?

Maxim: We passed the Camino last year. During those few months, we wrote the book together and that relaxed me too. I wrote a book about Seychelles with recipes and stories. I try to work efficiently. I try to help my colleagues and at the same time relax well so that I am always fresh and always positive.

Host: And even though you're changing all the time and adapting to the times you live in. I've noticed that one thing doesn't change about you, and that's your mustache.

Maxim:I've never shaved it off in my entire life. It's a part of me. From high school. That's my image.

Host: You've met a lot of people around the world. A lot of interesting, smart, famous people you've even met King Charles III. Tell us an interesting story from those meetings.

Maxim: I have many interesting stories. Our first meeting with Prince Charles then happened on the occasion of a visit of the King, who was Prime Minister at that time in London. Prince Charles was to come to a business forum, and Simeon Saxe-Coburgotsky invited me to go with him to this forum. And then I wrote, together with a Scottish colleague of mine, Gilbert Macoll, the first standard for business ethics in Bulgaria. Because I wanted to give a gift to Prince Charles. I went to London, but Prince Charles did not come to this forum. And I said “I'm sorry His Royal Highness didn't come” and then a lady with a big hat raised her hand and said, "I'm here on behalf of Prince Charles." And this lady Susan Simpson came up on stage and I handed it to her. And to get out of this uncomfortable situation I said, "Here's your standard, but tell Prince Charles that if he should come to Bulgaria and bring it back to me". People laughed at me. I came home to Sofia and two or three weeks later I got a lunch invitation at St. James Palace.

I went to the lunch, I had to be at a briefing at the Royal Automobile Club, so I could learn proper etiquette - which forks to use, how to address the Prince. During lunch, we sat down and talked. He was very interested in Bulgaria and I told him a lot. At one point he said to me, "Sir I have a gift for you and I would be very glad if you would accept it." and I said, "Oh Your Highness thank you very much.". I was sure he would give me a cup of tea or a book about Buckingham. He said to me, "I've invited some businessmen in the next room very rich, very famous and I'm giving you 15 minutes to sell your country, to tell these people about Bulgaria." I was numb at first. Because these were people who might have read about Bulgaria before they came. I wondered what should I tell them. And as we walked from one room to the other my brain started to boil. Then he introduced me. And I tried to introduce and tell them about Bulgaria in a very interesting way. It was a unique incident because I was meeting Prince Charles sometime later on another occasion. And I was sure that he would not remember me. He looked at me and pointed me out and said he remembered me. And I said to myself at the time how connected it was to my business, to come up with something interesting and have somebody remember it. Being able to create good news so that it would be remembered. After that meeting, I gave him an invitation to come back to Bulgaria with the condition that he hand over the business ethics standard to 6 companies. The people who had come 1 month earlier insisted that these companies were British. I insisted that these 6 companies should be Bulgarian. So 6 Bulgarian companies got their business ethics standard.

Host: Speaking of companies and ethics, let's talk about your company, M3 Communications. What is the hierarchy?

Maxim: We have a board of directors, there are 5 people on the board, and some of them you know. These are colleagues with whom we have worked together for approximately 15 years. Each of them is responsible for a respective department. We have a PR department which is the largest in the company. We have a digital marketing department that is also growing every day. We have a graphic design department, we have an events department, we have a web design department, and programmers. Kristina Radkova is the head of our PR department and a wonderful professional.

Host: I'm not asking you by chance because you say it's horizontal or is that how you want it to be?

Maxim: Rather, I think leadership should be horizontal. That is, everyone should be the leader of their projects. Because when you say leader it means big boss. I think technology is so much more advanced and people are so much more educated and everyone should be a leader in their place. To be in charge of their projects, to be in charge of their team, to be in charge of their workplace, and to be responsible accordingly. But to be well prepared so that that responsibility only carries it in a positive sense. I think this is a very good concept that I described in a book of mine during the pandemic, 5 Minutes to Tomorrow, which talked about what would happen after the pandemic. That's pretty much what happened, the world changed. However my emphasis there was mainly on management and leadership so that everybody was responsible in their workplace for their projects. I think that formula works pretty well. But in addition to colleagues who have been with us for a long time, I also work with those who have been with us more recently.

Host: What do you think of the telework that the pandemic has imposed as the standard?

Maxim: It's a given. We have to comply with it. Some of my colleagues work remotely, and it would not be professional for me to supervise them. They have their tasks and they have to be done.

Host: You look at the outcome and you don't care where they work from.

Maxim: Not exactly, because the result is important though and teamwork is important. And a question that I haven't answered until now is how do you do a remote team? Because you can't make a team in Zoom. And for that, my colleagues are obliged to be at the office 3 days of the week and 2 times a week they can work remotely. During those 3 days, we get to know each other, work together, exchange opinions, and do our "brainstorming" - our discussions about projects and clients. So I use an option that is convenient for colleagues. Sofia is not such a big city, but still, there are colleagues who commute to and from work for 2 hours every day. If they can use those hours for something more productive I don’t mind them working from home. However, I still like to see them in the office and spend time together with them, so that we can work as a team, especially in our field which is focused on creativity. We can fully focus when we are together.

Host: Many leaders complain that it is difficult to find quality people. And especially with the so-called new Generation Z. These willful, much more willful, much more critical people on the one hand and champions of fairness in the workplace on the other. The values of a company, for them, are sometimes more important than the pay. Do you deal with such people and how do you deal with them?

Maxim: It's a worldwide problem and it's not from having people or not having people, it's from a new generation coming up. There is a new generation coming that I have very good feelings about. And I meet managers all the time who are constantly complaining that these people are good for nothing. And it's the opposite. These are our young colleagues between the ages of 18-25 who are extremely knowledgeable and have a very high degree of honesty, punctuality, and ethics. They don't have the corporate culture that we have to create for them. And they also don't have a precise scale of values of what is more important to them. Is it important for them to work in a big company or is it important for them to take a big salary? That value system is mute and we have to be careful and very collegial with them to create it. And I think they're not going to change - we have to change. This should be the baseline managerial perspective. Our approach is extremely important to these people and I think this is a great generation, with great people. But there are exceptions in all generations. But I'm very pleased with my colleagues who are under the age of 25. As an average age, we're a very young company.

Host: What is the most important requirement for you to get hired at M3?

Maxim: There is only one. And that is a twinkle in the eye. When I do interviews I always look the candidate in the eyes, I don't care much what kind of experience they have. Yeah, that's an important thing. But if I don't see the sparkle in the eyes, if I don't see the desire to develop, the ambition to become better, to prove himself. Because I can make a professional out of an amateur in 6 months, but I can't make a hard worker out of a lazy one. I can't make a good team player out of a schemer. Those are character traits I can't change.

Host: Are you able to spot them faster with experience?

Maxim: I have one such case years ago I went in to get something and I saw a girl standing for an interview. When I went out and asked my colleagues who this girl was, they told me she was an intern candidate. I told them to hire her immediately. It was a look for no more than 10 seconds. She was the director of the PR department after a year. And now I can tell very quickly if someone is willing. But I can definitely tell very quickly if someone is going to become a professional in the next 6 months. There are people who give up at the end of the first year. There are those who want to take it easy.

Host: I would like to ask you; unlike other business leaders you drive a small car?

Maxim: Electric, though. I drive a Smart electric two-seater.

Host: Can we say that this is a matter of overcoming ego?

Maxim: Maybe yes. However, it is rather related to practicality. To look for what is comfortable, what is pragmatic, to look for what is good for you. A small electric car that you park for free in Sofia. You charge it for practically no money. It does a wonderful job, it's fast, it's elegant. You're eco it's not irrelevant. Bulgaria is different, the world is different, we are different now. My wife drives a car like that too. And we call them Trabantche, because my first car was a Trabantche, which I bought as a student in Prague with the royalties from a magazine I wrote for. My dad used to collect the royalties in a box and finally, when I graduated I had already collected enough to buy a Trabantce.

Host: And red, why is that your favorite color?

Maxim: I have no idea. It's the color of the M3, it's the color of my car. I have no idea maybe because it's brighter. Because the color itself speaks and shows that you want to be more expressive. You want to show that you want to say something. To be seen. That's part of the PR business, by the way.

Host: Maxim you have this saying in your life that if your dreams don't scare you enough, then they're not big enough. How do we translate it? Because people dream about different things.

Maxim:That’s right. You know Bulgarians always need three things: 1000 more leva until payday, one more day to finish a job they started, and one more room in their apartments. Another phenomenon is that Bulgarians are the only people who talk with their TVs at home. We all dream of something that works for us every day. However, if you dream about something big, interesting. We're not talking about ego here, we're talking about achieving interesting things and having people follow after you. Then it's not easy. I believe in leaders making other leaders. That's the criteria by which you should be judged whether you're a leader or not. Not by how much money you've made or how often they show you on TV.

Host: You are in the leadership of the UNWE. And now you're studying it yourself again at Sofia University.

Maxim: Yes. In 2019 I graduated from Harvard’s wonderful course on leadership management or how to make decisions as a leader. It was the most valuable money I've ever invested. Because it was for 1 month and every day we had 18 hours of learning, and meeting interesting people. When I came back the pandemic started. At the same time, I was already on the board of trustees of UNWE. And at one point I decided I wanted to do a PhD because I wanted to look at my business from the academic side of it. I went to Sofia University and I hope to finish it this November because I'm writing a dissertation.

Host: A lot of people look at us and ask why study in Bulgaria when they can go to Western Europe to the US to get a better education.

Maxim: It is not bad. Both are useful. There is a theory that it is very backward no matter in the world or here. Certainly, there are prestigious schools like Oxford, Harvard, and Princeton that really make a gigantic effort and are very expensive to hire the best professors and most practitioners. What I had at Harvard were only practitioners. Because education moves at 20 miles an hour, we in practice in business move at 100 miles an hour. And in that difference of speeds, you get a huge gap. Between theory and practice. The question is how to bridge this gap. This can only happen when people from business, and people from practice, enter universities.

Host: Is this the problem in Bulgaria?

Maxim: In Bulgaria, it happens, but of course, in my business, it is normal that countries like America and the UK are at the forefront. But if we talk about all other businesses I think education in Bulgaria is very good if you supplement them with some 2-3 hours online every day. There are already so many courses in different organizations that you can take online. I got ripped off on one because I didn't take it that seriously. I had to reach 85 points out of 100 I reached 83. I was so embarrassed that I dropped everything and didn't leave the house for a week just to take it. And not so much for the diploma, the certificate, but for learning something. I think that wherever you study you have to learn.

Host: And now something on the topic of artificial intelligence. As you know, it's coming every day in the world in every sphere. In your work unfortunately or not it does quite a lot. We've already seen artificial intelligence create the best PR articles, the best slogans, and entire ads. What do you think about that?

Maxim: It's not going to be scarier - it’s going to be more useful.

Host: Could a computer do everything your team at M3 does?

Maxim: No. I wrote an email to my colleagues telling them that AI won't take their jobs. However, people who know how to work with AI can take your jobs. This is something that is at the very beginning and we need to check it from many sides. Especially in terms of information. In terms of creativity, it is not. However when you're handling specific information you have to check it from many sides. But if you can get the best out of it of course it's only going to be beneficial. It was 140 years ago that Henry Ford introduced the first automobile, which was then called a gasoline carriage. He invited journalists, businessmen, and various people and said this is the car of the future. Then everyone looked at him and thought he was crazy. In the same way, you say it will get scarier, but it won't. Artificial intelligence will help us a lot. We need to study how it works. Let's see where it can be useful. Social media was the same thing so long ago. We are all on social media and we get knowledge from social media. It's knowledge because you learn interesting things, you get interesting news. And that's why artificial intelligence shouldn't bother us, we should learn it well. To know how to use it. And to be able to deal with our natural intelligence. To get better, to learn interesting things, to know how to present them. And then together with artificial intelligence, I think we will succeed.

Host: Nice and positive point of view. Artificial intelligence is just a tool like anything else. Something to say in closing. Advice to the young people watching and listening to us. People who are looking for a job. What can you wisely advise these people?

Maxim: I stay away from advice because every business has its own peculiarities each person is an individual to themselves. But in our company, we have a few laws and a few principles. One of these laws that I formulated 20 years ago and now every month I am convinced that it works better is the law of the three S's. In English, it is Speed, Simplicity, and Self-confidence. The speed at which you make decisions, the speed at which you answer emails, the speed at which you ask questions, the speed at which you learn. Our lives are so dynamic. Our business is changing at the speed of light. It is, in my opinion, the most dynamically changing business in the world. We had social media now we have artificial intelligence. Tomorrow we will have something completely different. All of our school windows will have displays embedded in them. We will see our mobile phones here, we will see our computers. That is, we should have a high degree of adaptation. Simplicity or making things pragmatic and simple. We have 100 tasks a day. Every morning I think, what are the three most important things I have to get done that day? The other 97 I can do I can leave them for tomorrow. That's one thing about having priorities. It's another to be inundated with news. We have to have a choice of what's most important, we have to know what's most important to us that we care about. The third which is advice from me it's Self-confidence. I don't know anybody who has succeeded without having self-confidence. And I think that's the big problem with Generation Z. They come, they work, they know a lot of things they don't have the confidence to express those things and achieve more. And one more tip and this is one of our skill principles on concentration efforts. You've got to have some skills, you've got to put maximum effort into making those skills materialize. And you have to concentrate as much as possible. And now see where the catch is. It is multiplication. If one of the three factors is 0 the final result is 0. I.e. you can have super skills and have put in 24 hours of effort, but if you're not focused the end result is 0. And for that dear friends, and business people you have to be very careful to have a balance between these three elements so that you can achieve a good result. These are simple things to do and know though.

Host: I am very glad that I had the opportunity to talk to you. You're such a fascinating speaker that I think it's time you wrote a book about your whole life.

Maxim: It's a very interesting film that I haven't always played a starring role in. However, I always find it interesting to play in this film and I continue to do so. And hopefully, this film will give positivity to people who are sometimes out of mood. Look at life with good eyes and it will look at you with even better eyes.

Host: And I wish you to go to Behar in Spain.

Maxim: I came back from there a month ago. And now I am organizing a world meeting of all Behar from all over the world next May. I saw the mayor. I stayed there for a week. This is the city from where my ancestors moved to the Ottoman Empire in 1492. That was 531 years ago. And I went back. There are many Behar all over the world and next May I will gather them all there and it will be great. That's one of my big projects coming up.

Host: If you've watched this episode all the way through then you're the kind of person who wants to evolve and be successful.

You can watch the whole video here.