Maxim Behar - CEO and Chairman of the Board of M3 Communications Group, Inc.: Ride the bike, whatever happens!
Sources: Sixth Almanach of Successful Business Cases in Bulgaria 2020
The future must prevail over memories.
My lesson from over than 25 years in the business in which I, and the company, have had our strong moments, peaks and downturns, huge victories and little ones, long-forgotten losses... Because the future is what we are now. How we think, how we predict, how we see ourselves in ten years. In the past, memories should only be in the lessons and nothing more.
You should always be ready for a crisis.
We stood by the pool at the spacious house in Beverly Hills with my good friend and client Alan Levy, who runs the mighty Tishman International, slowly taking a sip of a long and icy gin tonic, through a drought or two, he said to me, "Max, you always have to be ready for a crisis, always... For example, I've experienced a few already and always I come out stronger."
Alan is much older than I am, but not just because of his age, he is much wiser and he has more experience. This incident happened in the summer of 2006 when Bulgaria was about to enter the European Union. There was a great real estate boom in our country which dragged the whole economy up, and I jumped out of my seat and protested: "Alan, you don't understand anything about Bulgaria, even though you leave tens of millions of dollars in your projects there, and you are doing well. This country can not endure more crisis, from now on we go only upwards - we have seen a lot of crises, we learned our lessons, we are entering the European economic system in few months, other people like you with millions are coming... Forget about a crisis, just forget." After a few months, not only Bulgaria, but the whole world has fallen in a difficult financial crisis, the first in decades, and while I was walking around the office and calculating who and how, to cut staff and where to cut as much as possible, I often remembered this conversation and an inevitable and involuntary one-word combination in English came up to my head - self-made! Or the closest translation in Bulgarian would be "self-directed".
That word is one of the most valuable lessons of all these 25 years. Or the 9131 days when together with my team, sometimes teams were just doing miracles. We were studying ourselves, "we self-made ourselves", arguing with people like Alan Levy, with dozens, even hundreds like him, sometimes we succeeded, sometimes we looped, but we always knew and very well remembered that business was like riding a bike, you have to be constantly moving if you do not want to fall.
Learn your lessons every day.
We learn lessons every day and every hour. As a manager of a large company it is normal for me to make the most mistakes out of everyone, just because I make the most decisions in a day, hour or minute in the office, I always knew that I had to be the most persistent in learning my lessons every day. This is also the charm of doing business in a country like Bulgaria in which it is still relatively easy. Mostly because there are thousands of still vacant nishes and if you have the desire, the imagination and the energy, you can achieve miracles. People, on the other hand, are intelligent and dedicated, naturally when they have the right environment, of course.
The more time I spend in the business, the more I am convinced that management is a rather elementary job. However, you have to do it every day and every minute. Imagine a scale, usually a grocer, with one bowl on each side. On one hand, is what I generally call the "business environment" and this is where the working conditions, the quality of the clients, the team, the atmosphere in the office and whatever else comes to mind, and on the other hand are the salaries.
The good balance in this fictitious and imaginative scale is the good management. Be assured that this is how things work, but there must be a good balance on both sides. Just for a moment imagine that you provide your team with excellent working conditions, but irrelevant to the market pay, or just the opposite - very good salaries and terrible relationships in the team, and the office is locked in a small old-fashioned apartment. It can be difficult to move forward and succeed without clearly defined principles. In M3 Communications Group, Inc.’s office we even call them laws.
The laws of M3 Communications.
The first, most important and above all other laws, is professionalism. The business I work in - Public Relations - is probably the most dynamic in the world, and if we do not read every day what is happening in big companies, if we do not try quickly, today, to bring it to the office with the precision of surgeons, tomorrow it may all be old.
One of our laws is the transparency in everything
we do because that is what it guarantees
the ethics and morals in our business.
Twenty years ago, as Chairman of the Bulgarian Business Leaders Forum (BBLF), I wrote the first Business Ethics Standard in Bulgaria (and to this day we are giving it to the Forum’s new members, without changing a single comma). At this point, I was touring Bulgaria to promote it and the most common question they asked me everywhere was: "What is business ethics?" To this day, I still have the brilliant answer: "To make profits transparent." Very short and very clear: we are in the business to make profits, but when they are transparent, then ethics, honesty and morality are fully guaranteed. Therefore, any other laws or values can continue, but if they have not stepped on professionalism and transparency, the risk of falling dominoes will always be there in crisis, even in successful years.
Finally, and maybe at the beginning as well, it's the positivism that has become the drive to do your job at all costs at 100 percent and without a single note. I call every exception to this rule the '90 percent syndrome' and at least so far, I have not seen it anywhere but in Bulgaria. I work incessantly for this never to happen in my office. I advise you to do the same so that it does not enter your offices. There are as many incidents as you want. For example, a colleague completes one task at 90 percent and already thinks it's done... Well, there is still something small left, but the important thing is that it is completed in time, some ten percent or even less are not so fatal. On the contrary, every, even a small fraction of the percentage is important for the client, for his clients or partners, but especially for ourselves, for the people in a wonderful and interesting business such as PR.
The positivism of being able to do the job completely and perfectly is the most valuable part of the positive energy of an expert, employee or manager. I do not know a successful person, who is angry with himself in the morning, but in the afternoon angry with the others, someone who envies, scolds or hates... If there is - it will be accidental and just for a while.
The power of the PR profession.
Well, there have always been surprises in my business. One of my big surprises lately has been the speed at which the first edition in Bulgaria of my recent book, "The Global PR Revolution", was completely sold out in less than a month. Just a couple days before, the first US edition topped the world charts for Amazon's best-selling new book in the area of our business. This is the most accurate proof of the enormous interest in our business, which with the advent of social media is beginning to become more and more important and more crucial for the success of many other businesses.
We, the PR experts, from
"ordinary consultants" become being people
who are making decisions and are influencing huge
groups of people. I would say quite naturally,
because our business and
preparation was suggesting that a long time ago.
We already have (social) media in our hands, we know how to handle their content and we know how to create the messages that our customers want to send to their users. This already makes us influential people, and certainly, this is due to the huge success of the book, which has, among other things, the professional opinions of 100 PR leaders from 65 countries. This makes it a global tool for how this business is changing across the globe.
But most importantly: there are and always will be difficulties in every business. Just ignore them. Go your own way, keep your values, be positive and confident, but most importantly, never stop riding the bike if you want to get at time to the right place. Never.
*M3 Communications Group, Inc. is one of the first Bulgarian PR companies, founded in 1994 by the leading PR expert Maxim Behar. Since then, the company is a well-established leader and it is established as a benchmark for PR standards in the communication market in Eastern Europe. The company offers a wide range of communication services: PR, media relations, crisis management, social media services and more, and is an exclusive partner of the largest PR company in the world for Bulgaria - H + K Strategies, part of WPP Group PL. The agency can boast over 5,000 realized local and international projects and PR expertise in almost all business areas.
*Maxim Behar is a world-renowned PR expert, businessman, journalist, diplomat and President of the World PR Organization (ICCO) until 2017. He is a graduate of some of the most prestigious universities in the world such as Harvard Kennedy School, University of London, The Seattle Pacific Institute, Yokohama Kenshu Center, and Prague University of Economics.
Behar is the founder and CEO of Bulgaria's leading PR company M3 Communications Group, Inc., part of the worldwide Hill + Knowlton Strategies group. He has won dozens of international awards, including an audience vote in the prestigious "Manager of the Year". In 2017 he became the first Eastern European inducted into the World Hall of PR Fame in London. He is a member of the Board of the World PR Museum in New York. As a notable businessman, Maxim is also a member of the Board of the Bulgarian Business Leaders Forum, as well as the former Chairman for two terms. He teaches communications and leadership at dozens of universities around the world. Since 2019, he is the President of the World Communication Forum in Davos, Switzerland. He is the Honorary Consul General of the Republic of Seychelles in Bulgaria, as well as the honorary citizen of his hometown Shumen. His latest book, "The Global PR Revolution", published in the US at the end of 2019, became a worldwide bestseller, a month later it was published with great success in Bulgaria.
Maxim believes that one should never stop learning, one should always set high goals and dream big. His basic motto is that if your dreams do not scare you, then they are not big enough.