Maxim Behar: Whatever you do, do it to be happy

Maxim Behar speaks on communication in the UNWE podcast "The Institute." Hosted by Iskren Konstantinov.

Host(Iskren Konstantinov): Good day, Mr. Behar!

Maxim Behar: Good day!

Host: Thank you very much for taking the time to join us. The topic I want to discuss is extremely important. It is "the foundation of communication." Since you are the person who has the right to speak about communication, I want to start with a broad question, which is: What do you think about the way Bulgarians communicate – from daily interactions to how Bulgarian politicians communicate their ideas to the voters, to how businesses communicate with consumers? Is there a gap in the way we convey our thoughts?

Maxim: You say it's an important topic, but it is not only important but most important. There is no topic more important than communication today, in 2024. I wouldn't take the risk of characterizing or commenting on how exactly Bulgarians communicate because what has happened, especially after the advent of social media 20-25 years ago, is that it has homogenized the world in terms of communication and broken down all borders between countries, and probably even between people. What happens here in Bulgaria happens also in Germany, France, and anywhere else.

The world has changed because all 4 billion consumers on the planet suddenly became publishers. Why publishers? Because we own media, and that is the attribute of a publisher. Moreover, we have become editors. Why editors? Because we publish content. Someone gets up early in the morning, posts a picture on Instagram, and adds a caption – that's editorial work. Just 20 years ago, only newspapers, radio, and TV editors did that. Suddenly, now 4 billion people are doing it. Moreover, we have become reporters. Why reporters? Because we share the news. The word "reporter" comes from the English word "report," which means "to inform." And we all want to inform – whether it's taking a picture of our morning coffee, an interesting book, meeting an interesting person, or sending a message.

 And now, all these people who used to be called Homo sapiens are probably called Homo socialicus or something similar. We communicate without inhibitions and often make mistakes rather than communicate as we would like. We make many mistakes because even people who are professionally engaged in communication, even experienced communicators, "journalists," as we have all become, do not communicate in a way that we consider the person on the other side, try to step into their shoes and understand who they are.

How is it possible for you to know how every single user will see something when you write something on Facebook? It is not possible. Someone will be in a good mood; someone else has had two drinks, another is on beer, and a fourth hasn't drunk at all. These people have different educations and feelings; our information would reach them in different moods - some will be in a good mood, some won't. And suddenly, we write something, and this does not apply only to Bulgarians but to the whole world, and we expect everyone to like and understand it – this is not possible. And therefore, it seems to me that communication, especially in business relations, should be left to professionals.

Sometimes, clients come to our company and ask us to do professional PR. I respond that nowadays, without social media, we can't do anything. And still, very often, the answer to this is that the secretary manages their company's Facebook and Instagram pages, but that is for professionals. Soon, it will become a business or occupation of professionals who know where to put a word or a comma and which message reaches a target group. Especially in business, when you make messages and want to promote something, you first have to research the consumers very well, understand what they might be interested in, how they might be attracted to this product, and arrange your words as no journalist would have done 20 years ago because it is assumed that we are much better now.

We not only have media, but social media is not just that. First, they are the first interactive media in the world. In these media, you write something; a hundred others can write something else, refute you, be dissatisfied, or praise you. But that is interactivity – to enter and say your opinion, and then they say theirs.

Secondly, we have media thatcan be measured for the first time in history. At the beginning of our business, some clients were happy that news about their product was published in a newspaper and asked how many people read it. Back then, there was no method to measure how popular an article or news article was in the newspaper. But now, with accuracy to one person, we can say who read it, shared it, liked it, commented on it, saved it, etc. –  you can get a complete picture of the users at any time. That is a huge advantage of the media.

I say media because even traditional, outdated media like television have websites. They can measure their materials, which can't be measured from the screen, but from the website, they can. Newspapers and radios, too. And surely, we live in a better world today - a world of communication and people connecting. They need time to learn how. For example, when you drive a car, you have road signs indicating where to stop or overtake. It's the same with social media.

Very often, people on a drink or two go on social media and start writing whatever they want and think it is a free highway without signs, oncoming cars, or traffic, but it is exactly the opposite. There are many prohibitive signs on social media that we don't see now, but one day, we will see them.

Social media should be as personal as possible, so no people hide behind nicknames, try to harm someone, or, on the contrary, praise someone or make them feel great without saying their name or sharing photos. This will no longer happen because what we communicate on social media will be exclusively personal, with our photos, names, and authority. Then the world will become even better. But it is already better than 20 years ago in terms of communication.

Host: Many people are on these social media sites – we are all part of them. It is assumed, perhaps, that since we all publish daily, on the one hand, one might say that this should make us better at communication because we practice it every day. On the other hand, however, these media seem to be developed with algorithms that aim to put you in an environment suitable for you and isolate you from environments where you would feel uncomfortable. Perhaps my question is, does this make us better communicators, or does it limit us to a group of people, one way of communication, one thematic viewpoint?

Maxim: It makes us better communicators. Looking back at our previous life – we had our social group, neighbors, fellow students, and friends, which was our limited circle. We can have this circle on social media but with hundreds or thousands of people. Of course, some algorithms limit us to people with the same or similar interests. This is very positive because if you are interested in heavy metal music, it is logical for a social media platform to prioritize recommendations of people who listen to heavy metal. Or if you play golf, it makes sense that when you post pictures from golf courses, any social media will try to limit the circle to those who are into golf.

Again – we communicate much better because we communicate with many people quickly. We are getting better, and it seems to me that the Homo sapiens now have entirely new qualities. Our brains are probably operating at a much higher speed than before, proving they can absorb information and generate new ideas.This is happening thanks to social media.

Just before COVID, in 2019, I published my book in America called "The Global PR Revolution," based on the theory that social media changed the world. I claim it is so, and each year, this idea increasingly becomes a fundamental part of our daily lives. This is truly a revolution. This is not an evolution from newspapers, as in Gutenberg's time, the first printing presses, radio, and television. Yes, all these were media, but they were not interactive. In social media, we can communicate boundlessly to every point in the world, share opinions, and translate in seconds.

One of the things that consumers need to learn better is the difference in the languages of different social media. We write a certain way on Facebook but in a completely different way in our emails, which are long and detailed. We write differently on Instagram because the visual part is the focus there. After creating our visual, we can explain it in a caption of a sentence or two.

We write in a completely different language on what used to be Twitter, now called X. There is no longer a 140-character limit, but I still stick to it. And within those 140 characters, I have to do what, as a journalist, I did on an entire newspaper page. And this is the hardest social media to write on, in my opinion. I think this is the highest level of skill – a news message in 140 characters. I usually write long sentences and remove words. I put the verb at the beginning to give it more weight and remove nouns, prefixes, suffixes, etc. until it reaches 140 characters. Then, I read it 3-4 times and assess whether people will understand it.

The difference in languages is extremely important. For example, many newspapers, if not all, have their websites because it has become clear that you can't sell printed media without having an online one. Mainly because of the speed with which online media sparks readers' interest. They buy the print edition if they want to read more or like the newspaper. This still happens, though less frequently.

I have spoken with many journalist colleagues from the newspaper business, and some heard me when I said that it is a big mistake to publish online what you publish in printed media because the language is different. Printed media is for when a person opens the newspaper, puts their feet up on the table, pours themselves a drink, and can read that newspaper all afternoon if they want, depending on their interest and the number of pages.

In online media, you have time to read only the headline and the first paragraph. And if you write in journalism one way, then on the newspaper's website or social media, you have to write in a completely different way – much more synthesized, dynamic, impactful. The first sentence must say everything. All these four "Ws" we know from journalism school must be in the first sentence – who, when, where, what, and how. And that is the difference in languages – each medium has its own language.

Ultimately, and I have shared this in my book on the PR revolution, I see practically that the whole world will speak one language one day. Once, there was a language called Esperanto. In my school years, it was very romantic to learn Esperanto because one day, we would all understand each other in it. That language no longer exists and is forgotten.

The language we all speak globally is only called "broken English." Everyone speaks some English, including in America, and no one can say which is the correct English. When someone from Britain speaks to you in British English, you don't understand them. And that makes our lives much more interesting, interactive, and knowledgeable.

Many people say they waste time on Facebook and stay on Instagram or TikTok all day. This is not a waste of time; it is gathering knowledge. To stay on social media, browse, read, and comment occasionally. Thisis not wasted time. This is knowledge because we all learn new and interesting things. Maybe we don't realize it in the first few hours, days, or even months, but this is accumulated knowledge that will one day help us make better decisions, write better, and know more. That's why I am a big fan of social media and believe that everyone's life will go through social media in the future.

Host: You work with many companies. We mentioned that the flow of information now is enormous, and everyone is a media. Is your job in PR more difficult? Given this entire flow it has to compete with, is it more challenging for a company's message to reach the consumer?

Maxim: It is much easier nowadays. I've been in the PR business for 30 years. It's incomparably easier because we now manage our customers' media. Just 20 years ago, a PR expert's role was to bridge the client and the media. Clients would present their products to us and ask us to create engaging messages, press releases, press conferences, or something else to attract the media to publish something about the product. That was our creative work.

Now, the same people come to us, and they already have their media. They want us to write something appropriate in their media to interest the consumers. And this is now our creative workhow to write the text, photograph the product, present it, and everything else. In other words, everything is in our hands now. This makes us much more responsible and fundamentally changes our business because we, the PR experts, have gone from consultants to decision-makers.

If an international client of ours has a crisis, i.e., someone wrote against them or their product on social media, how can we wait to contact the local office of the customer, then the European office, then the global office – it will take 4-5 hours. This one social media post can become a monstrous loss for our client during this time. So, we must immediately decide on the spot. This decision can only be made with a lot of knowledge and a good understanding of how social media works, of the client and their customers, and products.

Naturally, the demands on PR experts are much higher now. We have to do much more interesting things, learn, make simulations to draw conclusions, and conduct very good research. However, ultimately, our business is much more responsible. That's why I started by telling you that communications are not just important; they are the most important now because we are all exposed to crises.

A shopkeeper in a small village is exposed to a potential crisis if a fellow villager writes something against them, and they don't know how to respond. I'm speaking metaphorically because business is far different. However, when someone writes about you, and it is not true, or even if it is not against you, potentially this message can reach 4 billion people. That's how many Facebook users there are. But suppose it multiplies on Instagram, TikTok, and elsewhere. In that case, it can reach many people who can translate it with one click and understand it.

That is why everyone in our company, and I suppose all colleagues worldwide, works very hard. Artificial intelligence is coming in, which creates new tasks for us. We have to master something we haven't even considered before.

Host: Is this more of a competition for you or a tool?

Maxim: No. On the contrary – it's a facilitation. I wouldn't even call it a tool. It's a source of knowledge, analysis, and information. There are extensive discussions, and we are in the dawn of widespread artificial intelligence.

I emailed my colleagues and told them not to worry because artificial intelligence will not take their jobs. However, their future colleagues, PR experts who know how to work with it, will take their jobs. We all need to understand how artificial intelligence functions and verify our information 2-3 times. This is just the beginning, but having a second source will probably always be necessary.

Artificial intelligence gathers information from 7-8 different sources. One might be false, but how will AI or the software know it's unreliable? They collect, analyze, and deliver it. This means that we will need to check at least one more source in the next few years.

But it is a massive relief in my business and personal life because I can turn to an advisor who consolidates information from many different sources in seconds in the fastest possible way. Time and speed of decision-making are the most important things we have in the world right now.

Host: Is this what needs to be known when controlling and managing a crisis?

Maxim: Before "The Global PR Revolution," I wrote another book, which was first published via Facebook posts – "111 Rules." It was later published in many languages worldwide. This was 2008, during the first real financial crisis in post-communist Bulgaria. There was hyperinflation; salaries were rising, and clients were withdrawing. Then, I wrote rule number one: the worst decision is better than no decision. I wanted to motivate my colleagues to make quick decisions.

You might make mistakes, but it is much worse if you don't make a decision, especially during a crisis or difficult times. And with this, I wanted to demonstrate how important timing is. This is even more important because it will certainly not be better if we don't make quick decisions during a crisis or even in normal managerial processes and just let things happen. Timing is most important for everything.

Now, when we use artificial intelligence, it literally gives us analysis or a summary of information in seconds, whereas a year ago, we used to need several hours or days to gather it. This is great and very helpful. I will verify the information from 2-3 places to see if it is accurate. For some of them, of course, when you have much knowledge, you immediately see what is true and what is not. I'm curious to see the next stage of artificial intelligence. ChatGPT 4.0 can already be managed by speech, a huge convenience.

I think that future social media will be real-time media.And maybeour public relations business will no longer be called that. When it emerged 120 years ago, 98% of the business in American corporations was non-public. At some point, managers decided to make something public so that people could understand that the company was good for workers and that the products were better.

Then, a business called public relations emerged. Now, 100% of the business is public. To say public relations is like saying water is wet. In other words, it is nonsense. Because 100% of the world is public now, maybe one day our business will be called real-time relations or something similar. Everything that is related or refers to real-time – while something is ongoing.

Soon, our mobile phone screens will be built into the glasses' lenses. This will be a great boom for all opticians because people will walk around with glasses to have built-in monitors for their mobile phones and computers and be able to control them with gestures. Nokia made such a timid attempt 20 years ago, and it was a big hit. This will happen very soon. I see that Google is experimenting with its Google Glass. We will become even more connected and have to make even faster decisions, but it will be easier because we will know more and not stare at screens.

We don't get out of bed in the morning before checking what is happening on social media. We are different people. These two years of the pandemic changed us tremendously. We have now somehow come out, thank God, happy from this, because the people who are alive now suddenly maybe forgot what it was like—the masks, the empty streets. We stayed at home and did not dare to go out.

But we have changed a lot – we have become much more pragmatic, started making much faster decisions, and become much more impatient and nervous. All these factors accumulate, and we have two wars close to our border – in Ukraine and the Middle East; we don't feel it because it happens gradually. But we are different people; we know more and are more sensitive than before. In my opinion, future social media will allow us to be even more open and transparent, just as we are.

Host: In what sense do you think we are more sensitive? Are we more empathetic?

Maxim: We get angry and irritated much more easily; more factors influence us. Life used to be so boring and closed. You come home, and the TV tells you everything. Then, we had satellite dishes and started learning about what was happening worldwide.

Now, every 30 seconds, we have a factor that affects our mood. Whether it improves or worsens, it irritates us much more often because we browse or scroll through social media all day, seeing what everyone is doing, what they are boasting about, andwhat photos they post. In other words, a million more factors can irritate us today, probably just as many that can make us happy.

However, we are much more sensitive to the first type, and we take the ones that make us happy for granted because we want to be happy. In our old life, we were happy about different things. But again, this is not a bad thing.This is reality, after all. I know many people who, 20 years ago, said that social media would have no future and Facebook would eventually die. They found it impossible to absorb so much information in such a short time.

When the inventor of the modern car, Henry Ford, presented the prototype a hundred years ago, he called it the gasoline cart because people were riding in carts and carriages. He called it that because it was like a carriage but with gasoline. There was no video or TV at the time, but there were many witnesses. They believed this could not last because they did not understand how they would cope if a tire burst or the engine broke down, for example. They said the gasoline cart had no future.

Yes, but now we all drive cars, not carts or horse carriages. Social media platforms need to develop their rules, just as there are rules on the streets where we drive our cars. We need to know those and have some hygiene in communication.

Host: Do you imagine these rules being imposed by the platforms' owners, or do people, using and learning, start to impose rules themselves?

Maxim: Both directions are essential. I believe that prohibitive rules – against violence, terrorism, pedophilia, extreme rudeness, extreme political messages – are more than clear from day one because they apply to all public places. If you go to the central square and start shouting nonsense, the police will take you away. The same applies to social media, but you have a much larger audience there.

On the one hand, the people who own or manage the respective social media platform should introduce these rules, and gradually, they do so. On the other hand, we, the users and participants, must have communication hygiene. The same that applies when we get on the bus or tram or walk down the street.

How come, in social media, we often see people attacking others whom they do not know, sometimes unreasonably? Someone writes something about a political party or person. Suddenly, people start attacking and name-calling them – this cannot happen on the street. At the very least, you will get slapped, or no one will pay attention. They may tell you to mind your own business, or you may be arrested if you are too rude.

 The same attitude we have at home, on the street, and in public places we should have on social media. How can you go to the theater and start shouting in the middle of the play? They will stop the performance and immediately throw you out. But you think on a social media profile, you can't be thrown out.

We will impose rules ourselves because we will understand that we need to be much more polite on any social media, with our photos and name, and probably even greater publicity in the future. This process has been developing and cultivating very intensively in recent years.

Host: You are well acquainted with Anglo-Saxon culture and have visited England multiple times, including meeting King Charles III. There is a culture of debate – from universities, we debate the heaviest topics until we disagree agreeably. We discuss, are not afraid of others' opinions, and do not become aggressive because of them. Considering the current situation in Bulgaria, where for a relatively long period, we have not been able to reach a consensus in society and among those in power, is there something from that culture you wish we could adopt in Bulgaria in debating and communicating our ideas with each other?

Maxim: Elements of culture are not adopted in a week or a month. We all know the famous story of Vute and the Englishman who mows his lawn. The garden has become beautiful because the English have been doing this for 200 years. You can mow your lawn for a month, and it will not turn out like the Englishman's.

In other words, this culture of debate and exchange of different opinions, which in the Anglo-Saxon world is becoming increasingly aggressive and less tolerant nowadays, is cultivated over generations. It is more about upbringing and culture.

I am not a big supporter of endless debates and discussions in management because when you run a company, you have to make decisions. If you discuss an issue with 30 people, of whom 20 have no relation to it but are in the company, and you want to hear them, this is meaningless and a waste of time. We need input from people who understand the subject, project, business, and what they are doing.

A French company announced a competition to develop their PR strategy some time ago, and we were rejected. When I asked for the reasons, they said that after consulting all 110 people in the office, which of the three companies shortlisted to choose, they chose another company. I was amazed when I learned they had even asked the janitors and plumbers. How is it possible to ask everyone, even those who do not understand, about PR? I say this with the greatest respect for janitors and plumbers because I have swept the streets for many years. But in business, one must make decisions; the same goes for politics.

You probably refer to Bulgarian politics, as we went to elections six times in two years and could not choose our leaders, direction, or people to govern us. Sometimes, too much debate leads to a waste of time. I refer back to the importance of speed and timing. Sometimes, enormous public, human, and business resources are lost, and interesting opportunities are missed due to excessive debating.

Life, fierce competition, and the need to develop technologically have made people more pragmatic in America. These people are no longer big supporters of debates and discussions but make decisions immediately because they know they will miss the opportunity otherwise.

There may be a strong political debate in England, but the tone is not very polite or respectful. Some people argue although they do not insult each other grossly. It seems to me that in the Bulgarian parliament, with all its unproductiveness and enormous waste of time and energy, we maintain a better tone than in the British one.

Society needs to debate. However, the 2024 era has brought us tough decisions and a situation from which no one sees a way out. And this is the situation—the political system does not work. If we go back, democracy has existed for two and a half centuries. Roughly in this form, now we are trying to create a modern society, policies, and rapid development to conquer new heights with a system created two centuries ago. This is complete nonsense.

The political system does not work because, first, there are no leaders. Their charisma has drastically decreased because business has allowed many people to express themselves in their business directions and earn much more than in politics.

I return to the revolution caused by social media – just 20-30 years ago, to succeed in any project or life, you had to go through politics to become famous. Otherwise, there was no way for your views, perspectives, and ambitions to be heard or understood. Now, we have social media and business. Many people attracted to politics before are doing business, which becomes successful. They are public because they have social media. They earn 100 times more than they would if they were involved in politics.

Who remains in politics? To a large extent, people who cannot succeed anywhere else. They go there and talk about things and try to change something, successfully or not. While in business, if you fail, you are out immediately. We all entrust the MPs and wait four years for them to fail or succeed. They often fail because there is no agreement or a good platform for ideas to be implemented. In a large corporation, if the board of directors appoints a CEO and by the seventh or eighth month, he is clearly not fit for that, they release him and put a new one in his place.

In politics, this is not possiblebecause you must ask the 4 million voters in Bulgaria.Such a change cannot happen without elections. However, what can happen is control of political promises. For example, a politician promises to raise pensions or salaries in the public sector. Everyone promises the same thing, and populism is very strong in Europe right now. In the world, conservatism is gaining ground.

Control of these promises can be done electronically. Everything is input into a system, and if the candidate promises to increase pensions by the end of the sixth month but has not done so by that time, they won't be able to enter the Council of Ministers.The electronic system will block access because the promise has not been fulfilled.This is metaphorically speaking, but it can happen. There can be public control with the help of electronic systems. What we call e-government did not happen in Bulgaria; it happened in the Baltic states and many other countries. It can be used to control promises.

Host: Isn't this an abdication of our responsibility to control? If the promise is not fulfilled, we will not vote for that person in the next elections.

Maxim: Yes, but first of all, elections are every four years. In modern life, we cannot wait four years. And second, why not use modern means or electronics? This is like wanting letters on paper instead of emails.

Host: Doesn't this create a premise where a person's momentary and emotional state can lead to frequent changes in the leadership, which manage complex social systems that need to keep functioning?

Maxim: Politicians are not responsible for running these complex systems. They run on their own. After 5-6 governments, the systems did not stop running. Unfortunately, they did not move forward, but if they work well, these systems should be driven regardless of who the minister or director is.

If there is control over promises, the people who make them will be much more reserved, have much greater responsibility, and have far more realistic strategies and visions. How can you promise your wife that you will buy her a house next week, but you have nothing to say the following week?This is what's happening in our society. I am trying to illustrate the connection metaphorically and in a micro-explanatory way.

In the last iconic elections, no one was short on promises – to get Bulgaria out of NATO and the EU. How will this happen? It is not possible. However, these things are political and should be discussed extensively in a different setting. We cannot wait four years and consult with everyone. Instead, we must utilize modern ways of control. Whether it is called e-government or digital control, it does not matter. I gave you an example of letters and emails – there are modern ways of communication and management.

We already have widespread artificial intelligence. Such a system can be managed with all its risks and the need to develop it by artificial intelligence, which will remind them of the promise at the end of the sixth month or whenever the minister promised. It gives them a month's notice, and then this minister either resigns or is blocked from entering his office.

For example, the most promised things are related to the state finances: the budget deficit will not exceed 1%, but we will not tighten our belts. At one point, the budget deficit becomes 7%, and the finance minister won't be able to enter his office, or he will receive an automatic notification by email that he is relieved of his position. The latter is even more pragmatic because he won't have to go to the ministry. Some emergencies can be included in this program as exceptions – earthquakes, floods, war – because more money must be produced, and the budget deficit becomes higher. But these are simple things.

One day, they will be done, probably somewhere in the Anglo-Saxon world, because the technologies are hyper-developed. They might take more risks there. Or they can be done in smaller countries like Bulgaria first because IT education here is relatively high. Many people master it, and it is also easier to experiment in small countries. But someone has to do it because we cannot try to develop with this current system. It's the same if you put a black and white TV on a Moskvitch and think it will have a screen like a Tesla. It will not be a Tesla.

Host: There are severe discrepancies in the perceptions of leading businesspeople and politicians. Recently, there was a meeting between Rishi Sunak and Elon Musk. When you look at them, Elon Musk seems like the one in power. And I think that 100 years ago, the politician standing next to the businessperson would probably have had a different attitude there. Do you believe that people who develop technologies are now perceived by society as those in power and the ones who, through their decisions, lead to changes that directly affect us, whereas politicians are viewed as more incapable?

Maxim: Both of those people you mentioned are businessmen. Sunak is new to politics and will likely return to business one day. He is very wealthy, more so than King Charles III. What Musk has is not just money.

Can you imagine 300 or 500 billion? Just 20 years ago, companies like Coca-Cola or other giants couldn't think of more than 4-5 billion. I'm not even talking about personal wealth. People like Warren Buffett and Bill Gates, in the very beginning, had 4-5 billion, and we all said they were billionaires. Now, they have hundreds of billions, but it's not about money or even owning technology. It's about the visions that businesspeople can have.

Returning to the previous topic – politicians cannot have such a long horizon for their visions. Their horizon is the next election if they don't fall sooner. Regardless of what it is, businesspeople can think 15-20 years ahead because they know what they want and how to get from point A to point B. It is harder to predict now because we do not know where technologies will develop. They know where point B is, and they will make their way. The more you create this path yourself, the more successful you become in business. If you follow the traditional route, you will earn some money and reach B, but much slower, and you will be tired by then.

At the same time, politicians cannot chart this. They are blocked by the political system, elections, and people, and don't have that many tools. With people of the rank of Musk or Bill Gates, 99% depends on them. Not on the decisions they make daily but on their vision of where point B is and whether they know the shortest and most successful path to it.

26-27 years ago, I went to America for a month and almost didn't know what PR was. I took loans to sponsor my trip, had many meetings, and traveled west to east and back.

Then I returned to my company, which was ten people at the time, and we bought a flip chart. I started writing down what I wanted to achieve, and in general, it is what I have today in the company. That was point B for me, and it is not fully achieved; there is still more to develop. However, it happened much faster thanks to technologies, social media, and different ways of communication, as well as having much more educated and capable people.

This cannot happen in politics. A left-wing party may plan something, but they know that whatever they do, the right-wing party will come to power in the next elections. After that, the liberal party will come to power. There is no way politicians could be more limited and reserved in their visions and goals.

I regress to electronic control and the possibility of controlling promises. If politicians know that there will be control over these promises, they won't make them, or their promises will be reasonable and achievable. This would lead to pragmatism in politics, which is what we need.

I believe that today's politics should be business, not in a way that a politician takes the money but gives business a chance to develop. To open doors for it and invite investors to Bulgaria. For example, they could lend land for 100 years for free to foreign investors to build something, make a profit, and give Bulgarian people jobs. Everything is business nowadays. Even wars will end one day. Maybe these ongoing wars are also connected to some businesses.

I am talking about people like me, who want to do good business and earn good money. Because if we earn well, we pay good salaries to our employees, they are calm and happy, and we pay good taxes. When more people pay good taxes, the state becomes stronger and develops better. Therefore, our whole life becomes better.This is simple, but politicians must have this business-thinking mentality and look at what is best for the state.

In the last 20 years, Bulgarian politicians have been very conservative regarding investments and business, which need to develop in Bulgaria. Preference should be given to Bulgarian businesspeople, as Bulgarian businesses need a lot of support. It should be prioritized equally to foreign investors and have good competition.

If there are two equal investorsa Bulgarian and a foreign one, I would prefer the Bulgarian to give them a chance. However, I am not sure that a large international company and a small Bulgarian one can ultimately have the same result under equal conditions. Because the international company can invest long-term, bring new technologies, and most importantly, bring new discipline and a better way of doing business.

There should be fair competition for Bulgarian companies. When there is, everything works out on the market. The stateour politicians and MPsmust create excellent conditions for everyone to develop their business and earn. Then, things will start to change in Bulgaria, and voters will believe in politicians who give a chance to business and can explain it to their voters with charisma and good communication.

Host: As you are the chairman of the Board of Trustees of the University of National and World Economy - UNWE, I would like to ask you something related to the university. What brought you to UNWE? Why did you decide to get involved in this position?

Maxim: I started my education at UNWE, and later, my parents moved to Prague, in what was then Czechoslovakia. I continued at the Prague University of Economics and Business. While studying for three semesters at UNWE, I was the editor-in-chief of the newspaper "Economist," which I'm not sure still exists. But at that time, UNWE published a newspaper once a month. I had a huge attachment and ambition to develop in journalism, which has stayed with me today. I have great feelings for the university. I believe it is one of the best educational institutions in Bulgaria, certainly, and in many other places worldwide.

I took a lengthy training course in America about ten years ago. I ended up in the same group as Professor Dimitar Dimitrov, the current Rector of UNWE. We had many opportunities to have dinner together and exchange opinions. When Professor Dimitrov became Rector, he called and invited me, as a business representative, to help the Board of Trustees of UNWE. It seemed very noble and interesting to me to get involved in education and students. In the meantime, since I've been in business, I go to various educational institutions every month, including UNWE, to give lectures and meet students.

I'm not a professional scholar and don't have titles. But meetings and conversations with students inspire and motivate me a lot. I accepted the Rector's proposal, and for four years, I was a member of the board of trustees with my colleagues, and we did a lot of work.

In my second year, I was elected to the supervisory board of a European university, "Engage EU," of which UNWE is a co-founder, along with ten other universities from all over Europe. I had the opportunity at our six-month meetings to visit different universities with the Rector and his management team as a member of the advisory board of "Engage EU." I saw many other universities and was able to compare, gain experience, and meet many professors and exciting people.

When the Rector was re-elected, at the first meeting of the Board of Trustees, he proposed that I become the head of it. I did not hesitate because I have rich managerial experience in organizations, some of which I still manage. I was the first European president outside the UK of the International Communications Consultancy Organization (ICCO). I continue to be president of the World Communications Forum in Davos, Switzerland. There, I have several thousand members and an extensive board worldwide. I have an executive committee with five people – one from each continent. Managing all these people is a challenging task. At the same time, it is a great experience in managing organizations that do not necessarily generate business and profits.

I decided that I could bring all this international experience to the Board of Trustees at UNWE. I have wonderful members on the board. Almost everyone is a businessperson; we have a representative from the Ministry of Education, and we get along very well.

 We have a program that, with the help of my colleagues, I made for the next four years. Previously, there was never such a program on the board of trustees. We know each month which event will take place, whom we will invite, and what the result and benefit will be. That is why I agreed to help the Rector and his management team, and I feel indebted to UNWE. In this way, in a sense, I am repaying my debt for having received so much knowledge and friends at this university.

Host: You mentioned that you love meeting young people. I'm curious: What are some of the main advice you can give a young person regarding their communication? How to communicate with a future employer? How to express oneself better to be perceived correctly?

Maxim: Over these 30 years in business, I have done thousands of interviews with candidates. There are two questions I never ask during an interviewwhere you are from and what you have graduated. I believe asking someone from a small village could make them uncomfortable, even though they might be ten times more capable than someone from a big city. I want to spare them that discomfort.

The question about education can also cause discomfort because someone might have graduated in medicine or law and be applying to our PR company. I can make a PR expert out of a doctor in 5-6 months. I cannot make a doctor out of a PR expert.

I have had one condition for all candidates over all these years, and it's the same to this day. It's simple and straightforward – the sparkle in their eyes and nothing more. If I see a sparkle in a candidate's eyes, it means desire for development, motivation, and interest. In old Bulgarian, it is called "liveliness" – to see that this person is lively and responds adequately to your question.

It isn't necessary to be an expert and have all the experience in the world to work in PR.Our business develops at the speed of light, so no one can come to an interview fully prepared.They may have valuable and helpful experience but cannot come fully prepared.

I can give an example from a few years ago. There was an interview in one of the conference rooms, and when I went in to get my jacket, I saw a girl standing there and looking at me. I asked one of the managers what the girl was waiting for. It turned out she was an intern waiting for an interview. I said she was ready and to hire her straight away. Three years later, she became a manager. It is a matter of seconds to see a person who has an interest, a smile on their face and is not tense. They come to work with pleasure, in this company or any other.

I find it hard to advise because people are different. But they must have the desire for success. Success is not necessarily money. The other day, I was in Plovdiv with 250 seventh graders from the "Alexander I" middle school. There were many questions from the students: What is success for me? When am I happy? What do I do to succeed from now on? I asked them to raise their hands if they did not have TikTok and saw only two hands. All of them were on social media and had Facebook. These people know a lot.

One of the children asked me what success is for me. But before I told him, I asked him what it meant for him. He said it was to live well, and I told him it's exactly thatto be happy. It is essential for people who want to do anything in their lives, whether it is to sweep the streets or drive a taxithey must be happy. You cannot grumble in business, be angry, or be nervous.

Today's life allows you to work whenever you want. I don't know when my colleagues come to work and when they leave. I want them to leave earlier, but sometimes we have many projects and stay until late at night. The next day, we can catch up on sleep. You can work from home, and many of my colleagues do.

Today's life provides many more opportunities to be happy, and we should have that goal. That should be point B for everyone. What makes you happy may be sleeping all day, and that's okay, but you need to make money because life is commercial. Everything goes through what you have worked for, what you have, and what you have made because that's what you do for a living. No one will judge or criticize you for not doing anything if you have money. However, you will not be able to develop as much as if you went to work for a company, take risks, do projects, interact with colleagues, and work in a team.

I have always said I can make a professional out of an amateur in six months, and I have done it hundreds of times. But I cannot make a lazy person work hard or a team player out of an intriguer. I cannot change human characteristics, culture, and upbringing. It can happen easily if you have a good upbringing and want to succeed. If you are hardworking, there is no problem – you sit, learn, and everything depends on the candidate. That's why I am cautious when I have to give advice. My advice is, "Do whatever you want, but do it to be happy."

Host: Thank you very much, Mr. Behar.

Maxim: Thank you, and I wish you and UNWE success. I wish UNWE to be an even more active "Engage EU" member and for "Engage EU" to grow and include universities from all European countries.


Watch the full interview here.

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