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Maxim Behar: "The future depends on people who do business"

17.11.2020

Maxim Behar discusses with Krum Savov the changes in communications and business, caused by COVID-19. Behar shares his opinion on current issues such as non-transparent and one-way communication of the people in power, and the need of growing our business despite the crisis in order to save soiety's culture and development.


Host: As much as we have time and opportunity in the next 50 minutes, we give you the floor on the internet address krumsavovlive.sedemosmi.tv or on the QR code. We are modern people with such a person, although as far as I remember he has been in the public space in different forms, following the trends. Hello! Welcome, Maxim Behar, in all your roles and incarnations as a PR expert, specialist, agency owner, diplomat, entrepreneur, writer, fellow journalist.

Maxim Behar: Good evening!

Host: Today we sent a bright person from this field. He left us somehow unexpectedly and suddenly. Starting with President Rumen Radev and going through a whole galaxy of important figures of our country - everyone paid respect to the head of BTA, who left this world.

Maxim Behar: We all have a broken heart, because today I realize that I have known Maxim Minchev for 40 years. Apart from the fact that we are both from Shumen, we have worked in different redactions, and for the last two years life has brought us together living in the same neighborhood. I came to the conclusion that very rarely, when a person dies, you say to yourself, "he was a good person." Maxim was a professional, a precise journalist, an incredible traveler, a person for whom we have visited around 150 countries while reading his books. In the end, he was a good man, he did not quarrel with anyone, I did not hear a bad word from him – he was always smiling. You could easily recognize his artistic "r", among hundreds of other voices, the intonation, the smile, everything. It’s a pity. Too bad for many other people. You are right that our social media was a bit like modern obituaries. At the time, there were whole pages of such obituaries in the newspapers.

We need to understand what’s happening now and unite very well. We must fight this disease and follow all measures strictly. Maxim is gone, as well as Dr. Emil Iliev, the king of acupuncture and jazz festivals - also a great man. Putting all these things together, along with the crowded hospitals, the doctors, the police, the teachers, everyone who cares and is at the forefront. We, ordinary people, must really observe conservative measures, be careful, put on masks. In this regard, I believe that those people who hold positions of responsibility, bewaring of the words "govern the state", they must be very emphatic. First, we all know what the fine for pensioners who go shopping five minutes later or earlier is BGN 500.

Host: I wanted to get to these paradoxes with you.

Maxim Behar: Nobody knows what the fine is if you go without a mask.

Host:… and whether it will last in court, and whether it is really the best tool. Now there is a paradox, called "exclusively Madrid". In Madrid, they do not comply with restrictions, do not observe distance,  all measures have been lifted and at the same time there are the least infected. The Swedes also do not wear masks. There is no point in medically analyzing this dispute - for or against, but to constantly feel guilty and ready to be fined and punished for late measures of the government, is also not the way things can improve at the moment.

Maxim Behar: However, there should be very strict measures on those who do not wear masks, because one thing is certain - it protects. Yes, you may be uncomfortable. I had a flight to Switzerland two or three weeks ago, a one day trip  just to sign a document, and for 18 hours I was wearing a mask - on planes, at airports, everywhere.

Host: In Europe how do you see things in terms of the implementation of this measure.

Maxim Behar: In Zurich there was no one without a mask on the street and at 9 p.m. all restaurants close, without exception.

Host: Their social life usually ends in such hours.

Maxim Behar: It’s a fact. But in Frankfurt at the airport every three minutes they remind people they have to wear masks, because there’s a fine. We are not doctors, specialists in this field, not even some futurists who can say what will happen and how it will happen.
I read articles from the Wall Street Journal - two pages on the topic of "Failure of the Swedish model", then there are 5 more articles that talk about the success of the Swedish model. However, one thing is clear, we must be careful, take measures, and stop panicing. It is very important to be fanatically strict and I think that’s the way to cross and reach the other shore, because we all have to. On the one hand, we have the illness, our life and the lives of our friends and family. On the other hand, we have business - without business there will be no culture, no society development, and increase in unemployment. We need to keep the business alive.

Host: If you see the bigger picture, you would be left with the impression that the main business here is related to restaurants and clubs, and the rest is the pharmaceutical test business. At the moment, people are doing business with tests, and the lack of drugs that will now be procured through government procurement. Why did this happen? And for this they accuse the population of being guilty, when in fact there is a deficit. Definite lack of calls for donations, hospitals. Absolute collapse of the medical staff - they are gone, they get sick, they are old or abdicated.

Maxim Behar: You know in the last 1-2 months all the TV, radio and online news starts similarly. The first part is presenting how many sick and how many dead people there are and what is happening - this is rather the tragic, but also the realistic part. The second part is what each minister has to say, which is 99 percent “everything is fine, there are medicines”, there is this and that. The third part is when they show interviews with people who say the exact opposite. When you drive your car or stay at home and watch the news, or listen to these three parts on the radio, you say to yourself, "Wait, it can't be true, these are mutually exclusive things." What I don't like is that these people who are responsible, have one-way communication at the moment. They use social media, sometimes are guests at TV studios, where no one asks them anything different or interesting. They say just say what they want to say - this is one-way communication. By the way, Donald Trump was doing the same thing. Why did you use and continue to use Twitter?

Host: So that there is no feedback.

Maxim Behar: Yes, this is one-way communication. You have media, you have no one to ask you awkward questions. When asked something, he said, "You're CNN, you're a fake media, mind your own business."

Host: Our Prime Minister also limited himself to Facebook and the "jeep".

Maxim Behar: Even, first it comes the "jeep" and then Facebook - one-way communication.

Host: Media has spread information that he uses the services of a PR agency from Israel - do you have such information?

Maxim Behar: No, I don't have authentic information, I just read it.

Host: Does it seem logical to you observing the moves he is taking?

Maxim Behar: Absolutely.

Host: Do they seem correct to you, considered as advices and their execution?

Maxim Behar: No, because that's how you can survive - by hiding, by not calling, but these are 7 million Bulgarians who understand. Some of these are intelligent people who also read. Bulgaria is a super sick nation, full of young, intelligent, ambitious people who can enter any ministry tomorrow to govern and reap success as the London or Frankfurt offices are run.

Host: Did we just find these people or have the society just not seen them?

Maxim Behar: We didn't see many of these people at the protest either. We see them in the offices. A while ago I had to discuss the topic about the so-called "influencers" and now I am eager to write a book on the topic of "Bulgarian influencers". These are not just the girls in swimsuits who take selfies in the toilets or matchmakers. Influencers are people who make a million from IT businesses, people who run big businesses and offices, and people who achieve great success. In this sense, it seems to me that those people who are responsible should have two-way communication, be guests at studios like yours, like Slavi Trifonov's.

By the way, I brought my latest book The Morning After specially for Slavi and you. This is a book about business, about leadership, about how we should emerge in this situation, make quick decisions, support people, protect our teams and know that business is super important. And immediately after business comes culture, theaters, cinemas, actors.

Host: It is left behind again due to the expenses for plane designs and ships for a billion.

Maxim Behar: Maybe they are needed too. The point is that we need to have very transparent, open, clear and precise two-way communication. To have people asking and to have responsible politicians answering their questions. To have a vision. And for these people to have their dignity in order to meet TV hosts or other people on the streets without security guards and cars, and answer their questions, because we are at war now, as some say. I'm not so extreme, because there are still businesses that work, the shops are full of goods, food is still produced - we do not really have a crisis.

Host: There is no medical help and medicines.

Maxim Behar: And there is a crisis of trust. Politicians sell trust. They don’t do anything else. Yes, they spend taxpayers' money…

Host: It’s a bit exaggerated but how will they win this war, which is also worldwide?

Maxim Behar: We all have to win. In general, there is a crisis of leadership around the world. Unfortunately, social media and the opportunity for people to express themselves freely has led to the fact that politics is usually done by people who can't do anything else.

Host: This seems to be an old rule.

Maxim Behar: Yes, but now it is even more obvious. Imagine if Bill Gates was involved in politics or Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg or people who invented genious products that changed the world completely. These people are not politicians, they are doing business. And the future lies in those people who do business so that they can dictate their terms to politicians, be transparent, honest, fair, go out, meet people, talk to them and explain whatever they need to hear. This is what I call trust.

Host: What do Serbian people say about influencers and PR?

Maxim Behar: In fact, an influencer is an English word and it means a person who influences mainly through social media. But I read that in Serbian the meaning is a person who does various things on social media for money. This is a good comparison, but the influencers are the ones who are actually the leaders of the future, those people who have ideas. Yes, we call influencers both fitness boys and girls in swimsuits because they have many followers, but their messages stay for a day . They can sell you one or two products, and tell you which clothing is better. However, those influencers who create a product, without mentioning names - they are many and I will describe them in this new book, a man who created a university, a private high-tech university - 120,000 people have passed through there so far. My good friend - Svetlin Nakov, SoftUni. Isn't he an influencer? Our wonderful world-famous conductor Yordan Kamjalov, Vesko Eshkenazi - again a well-known concertmaster of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra.

Host: Spiritual, talented, successful…

Maxim Behar: Yes, who are also an example for all of us. How many singers and actors are there… for example Kamen Donev, who can fill the Arena Armeec hall for a single moment and around 15-20 thousand people come there to see the work he does.

Host: Why the book is called The Morning After? How much time is left?

Maxim Behar: We need to make quick decisions, to know that tomorrow is coming and that tomorrow requires new people.

Host: Isn't life today and now? Not yesterday, not tomorrow.

Maxim Behar: Life is today, but tomorrow will inevitably come. We have a very short time to change, to realize what is different, because we are entering a new life and the old one will never return. Never!

Host: I will respect one of our viewers and read you his question.
Dimitar Stanev: "All of Western Europeans wear masks, they have been closed for 8 months, observe strict measures. Okay, but the situation is the same, even worse than countries like Sweden and Bulgaria. By the way, the manual of a gas mask says "99% protection". Compare this rag in front of your mouth with a gas mask and you will understand what an absurdity we live in.

Well, yes, there are even collages to build a fence to protect against mosquitoes in the middle of the street. It's the same with the mask, to protect you from millions of microns, which determines the virus. I'm not arguing with you about the masks. I am talking about the fact that the situation is absurd we constantly feel guilty, because Milen Tsvetkov who also…

Maxim Behar:… and his diplomatic phrase that we wear masks to make us speechless. This is a personal opinion. I’m not a specialist in medicine and I cannot say if the mask protects, but I wear it everywhere. I carry it in my office, even on the street outside, because the other option is to throw it away. There is no problem, however…

Host: Are you constantly changing and washing your mask? Today I learned how important this is, even every two hours.

Maxim Behar: Of course. Always.

Host: And how did so many medics get infected then, Maxim? There are hospitals where 50% of the staff is ill.

Maxim Behar: They not only breathe, but also touch. Physical contact there is tragic. No matter how much they disinfect their office, even though there are disinfectants in every two meters and people clean their hands and wear masks… Again, the other option is to throw them away, but what will we gain from this?

Host: Sorry, check out what a nice question.
Adrian Iliev: "Hello, Mr. Savov. I have a question to which I cannot find an answer. Why COVID-19 is not so scary for the rich and famous and they recover in 2-3 days. It may sound a bit conspiratorial, but isn't it a PR game? ”

Maxim Behar: I have no idea. Some of them may say to themselves, “I’ll hide a little, and I will raise my self-confidence afterwards.” We all know that 2-3 weeks before the election, President Trump tested positive for coronavirus. Then I went to talk in different TV studios again. I don't know if he made it up, you can expect everything from him, but I think he wanted to beat someone. I think the rich and famous people, as our viewer says, want to be heros. Trump wanted to say to the masses, "Yes, I have a positive test," and after three or four days, "I killed this coronavirus because my body is strong, and I know how to do it. "

Host: Our Prime-Minister also killed it in two hours. In the morning he was positive when he had to meet with Zoran Zaev, and two hours later he gave two negative tests.

Maxim Behar: Maybe there are such medical technologies. I have no idea. However, it is true that this virus took away a lot of famous and rich, loved people, rock singers…

Host: Including Maxim Minchev.

Maxim Behar:… including Maxim and Dr. Iliev, and more. The director Bedo Manukyan - when I read about him, I just couldn't believe it. We had dinner with him a week before. These are people who can afford everything. It's not just about money, it's not just about getting medicine from somewhere, but obviously there are a lot of people who took it easy and a lot of people who unfortunately couldn’t and died. But we can't discuss this topic with you at all, because we're not experts at it either. Communication is important to me. It is important for me that 7 million Bulgarians know what the Bulgarian government is doing, what the President is doing, and whether it is right to convene this notorious advisory council and consult many people. On March and April, we had this headquarters on television every morning. Every morning we all trembled and almost took notes, and we didn't dare go out anywhere. Now suddenly no one is there. From time to time someone appears to say, "There are so many sick people today."

I expect accurate and clear communication. This is already part of my business. There is no such communication. I think that what is said in fragments, piece by piece, from time to time, what is good, what is not good, there is medicine, there is no medicine, we have doctors, we have no doctors, there are hospital beds, and then suddenly reports say that there are no free beds at all. There must be very clear and precise communication, even a spokesman who can provide clear and accurate information every day, without scaring and obliging people. He should let them know that we are strong, and the human body is strong. First we need to know how to fight and secondly how the business can survive. How will the business survive? It will not survive with lower VAT for sure. I have many friends in the restaurant and hotel industry, where tax payability is much in doubt. We will survive only when there is a clear and precise vision of which business needs to be supported and how that can be done. Maybe somewhere in the software business, which brings great added value in Bulgaria, there is a need for help, not only in the restaurant business, maybe somewhere in the industries, such as Madara factory in my hometown Shumen.

Host: Do you want me to read one last question from a viewer, but we won't answer because I have to run commercials?

Maxim Behar: Good.

Host:
Bozhidar: "Sorry, besides me there are other Bulgarians in Zurich who are watching you. Please tell your guest that here the masks are only indoors, and outside the masks are not worn by more than 20% of the people. I really hope you don't spare him this comment. "

Maxim Behar: I was there 2-3 weeks ago and maybe things have already relaxed. I'm sorry. So masks in Switzerland are worn only indoors. Hopefully in Bulgaria we can also wear masks only indoors, but anyway - everyone should wear them.

Host: Thank you. This was Maxim Behar.

 

Watch the interview here.

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