Value over profitability. We were working with a client for some time, with the end goal of bringing more meetings for him. And we were struggling to figure out how to obtain results. We needed time to do testing, but the client had a limited budget for that project. And I needed to deliver. So we put on the extra manhours while cutting our profits. That worked liked charm. We made significantly less profit on that particular project, but we came out with some great results and a loyal client glad to spread the word about our services.
As part of my series about the “How To Take Your Company From Good To Great”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dancho Dimkov, a growth enthusiast. He is inspired by growth. Growth in companies, people, relations, and businesses. By enabling and sharing his knowledge, energy, and curiosity in everything he puts himself into, he has had the opportunity to do just that throughout his career — make things grow. Helping organizations to grow with the right people and skills, entrepreneurs to build attractive places to work and employees to develop and improve their strengths. He always strives to see what’s around the next corner and believe it’s a sport to think and do things differently rather than a challenge.
As a certified management consultant and a serial entrepreneur, it’s not just his job to guide startups and businesses on the path to prosperity. It is his duty as the proud owner of BizzBee Solutions — a full-stack growth, from concept to market, solution provider. BizzBee combines multiple services into one robust solution, smoothing out the road to success.
Dancho is not all about work. He is also a family man — a proud father of a magnificent 3-year-old. His picture-perfect day is travelling with his family while enjoying a delicious meal. It’s all about growth, finding balance and being present. In all life areas.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
Hmmm, where to start ☺
I had a good job (at least when it comes to salary) — Product owner for a software and hardware company from the UK. I was recently engaged, so things were on the right track. In my home country — Macedonia — that is like hitting the jackpot.
The problem? I was not fulfilled. I wanted more from my life. In my spare time, I’ve started doing some freelance gigs, mostly in the market research and business planning area. And I loved it. I was able to help entrepreneurs and startups achieve their dreams. While I was stuck as an employee.
At one point, I’ve started earning more from my freelance gigs than from my full-time job. And that was the turning point — deciding to do management consulting as a full-time job. It was a tough decision (some might consider it mad even) to leave a stable job and pursue the unknown. I was determined to start as a digital nomad, working with my fiancée while travelling around the EU. And it was a fantastic experience.
But then I got sick — nothing serious, but enough to shake things up. We’ve realized that if we want stability, or even to start a family, we can’t be digital nomads forever. We need to start a business, where people would continue working, even if we need to take a temporary step back. And that is how the idea of BizzBee Solutions was born.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
Well, as a startup founder, I was supposed to recruit, train and mentor/manage the first set of 4 interns (we couldn’t afford experienced employees). In addition, I needed to take care of quality, finance, marketing, and still find time to talk to prospects and bring in new clients. I hardly think that this is a one-man job, and keeping focus was the only way to stay on top of things.
But I was not alone. My wife was the person that kept me motivated and worked alongside me. In all the ups and downs, she was full of understanding and was here to support me. When we started the business, the first 3–6 months, we were both working 18h per day, together. When I started my business, it was an emotional leap. I had no money in savings, a big apartment loan and a desire to have a kid. Succeeding was the only option — there was no plan B.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?
Not sure how funny it is, but it is a mistake. ☺ When I started my business, I continued my freelance mentality. I was looking at freelance platforms, applying for gigs, and once we sealed the deal, I was giving the job to my team. And for this kind of gigs, you don’t really need a brand, marketing, or social proof — as long as you have a strong profile, you can easily find a job.
It was 3 years after I started my business that I realized that if I wanted “normal” clients, I need to start investing in marketing, in promotion, in case studies and other digital marketing assets that any other company has. I felt silly, as for 3 years, I had zero marketing budget, and things were going rather well.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
I am sure every owner is proud of their company. I am proud of my team. Together we have managed to achieve fantastic results for our clients. And they are precisely the thing that makes my company stand out.
As I previously mentioned, we started BizzBee with interns. Back then, that was a necessity, but nowadays I see it as our thing, our key thing to success. Investing time and experience in young people. Everyone can work with professionals with years and years of experience. But it takes a true leader to craft the minds and skills of young people.
But it is well worth it. You get to shape their skillset for your specific needs, and you get a front-row seat on their transformation into professionals, into outreach experts. There is no bigger recognition than when the pupil surpasses the teacher.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
You have to love your job. It is the only way to be excited when a prospect calls, a client ask a question, or an employee needs help with a particular task. If you are in it just for the money, regardless of what business you are in, burnout is imminent.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
My wife. I don’t think anyone else would have handled better all the ups and downs we had with our business. There were times where I was ready to give up. But she was the one that encouraged me that we can do it. And even today, she is still involved in the business — always figuring out ways how to help me, or take some workload off my back.
Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. The title of this series is “How to take your company from good to great”. Let’s start with defining our terms. How would you define a “good” company, what does that look like? How would you define a “great” company, what does that look like?
I think there are several ways on how to look at a good and a great company. I would write about the material vs emotional company.
A good company is a company that has good financial results. Its main focus is on how to increase its profit margin — either by finding cheaper suppliers or increasing its prices. This culture is shared throughout the entire company. If an employee is not meeting his targets — he is simply replaced by someone else. New products/services are introduced based on the potential profit, rather than the market need. And in this scenario, the success of the company is expressed purely financially and materialistically.
A great company is still interested in profitability, but it’s not its core focus. Profitability is a result, a consequence of exceptional service to your market. The company culture is how to increase the value delivered to the client. New services are introduced based on the value it adds to the clients. Employees are valued based on how much they helped the client. And if the company successfully helps its market, profitability is just an end-result of a job well done.
Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to lead a company from Good to Great? Please share a story or an example for each.
- Trust brings long term relationships.
I signed a client that needed market research on locations best suitable for cryptocurrencies mining. As such, it involves looking at different countries, temperatures, prices of electricity and plenty of other variables. The project was expected to last 2–3 months, depending on the available web data. Within the first 5 hours, we found a third-party report that addressed all the questions the client needed. He was so confused when we told him that there was no need for 2–3 months of work and that the job is done. Since then, he trusts us entirely and has been a client since.
2. Value over profitability.
We were working with a client for some time, with the end goal of bringing more meetings for him. And we were struggling to figure out how to obtain results. We needed time to do testing, but the client had a limited budget for that project. And I needed to deliver. So we put on the extra manhours while cutting our profits. That worked liked charm. We made significantly less profit on that particular project, but we came out with some great results and a loyal client glad to spread the word about our services.
3. Risk brings profit.
I was in the Netherlands when the email hit my inbox. A Spanish client wanted to hire us for some quite challenging project. It involved 10 people working for 2 months. And we had a deadline of 2 weeks to start the project (and I was coming back after a week). My team consisted of 5 people at that time, and we were working with full capacities already.
Within one week, we’ve managed to find a new office, recruit 10 new people, buy desks, computers, and everything else, and even deliver some training to the new employees.
As it was a new client in question, I had no way of knowing if they will keep their end of the deal, or will disappear forever. It proved to be one of the most fruitful risks I’ve ever taken. 5 years forward, they are still our clients.
4. Take care of yourself and your employees.
It is quite easy to lose focus on what’s important when you are running a company, especially a bootstrapped one. When the time, budget, and resources are limited, we are often prone to burnout. I found a way that helps me stay on track — taking some time off with my family, being present and travelling. Often for weeks, at least before the pandemic hit. And I tend to take care of myself, so I can also take better care of the people I care about, and my employees, of course. Even when my schedule is hectic, I aim to dedicate at least 15 minutes to each. To see how they are doing, is there any way I can help them, or so we can work on our growth.
5. Re-evaluate your company at least twice a year.
It might sound weird, but every few months (6 at the most), I am assessing my company like it is not mine. I imagine that I am an external consultant, doing a review of BizzBee Solutions. And I question everything. “Why are we doing this?” — is one of the frequent questions that I ask to justify processes or to close them. I often learn that things that I thought were right and suitable 6 months ago, are no longer so. And that is why I take the role as an external consultant in my own business. Questioning everything and making the necessary business updates so it can be a great company.
Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. Can you help articulate for our readers a few reasons why a business should consider becoming a purpose driven business, or consider having a social impact angle?
I can elaborate on this topic based on my experience. We’ve started as a general consulting company. We were a man for hire — so we could potentially do anything that brings money. And I think clients can smell that attitude — you are after their money, not after actually helping them.
But then we evolved. We’ve specialized in B2B outreach and prospecting, targeting high-ticket service providers (startups and SME’s). Why? Because we are confident we can help them. I don’t see our business as sales support. I see our business as helping startups, and SMEs reach out to more companies and solve a particular problem of theirs. So it is a win-win-win: we get paid by helping our clients get new clients, and the prospects are having one less problem to care about.
What would you advise to a business leader who initially went through years of successive growth, but has now reached a standstill. From your experience do you have any general advice about how to boost growth and “restart their engines”?
Most businesses grow within predictable stages. That usually means intense growth, followed by a standstill. And each standstill is actually a milestone that they need to overcome in order to reach the next growth stage.
And the standstills are the point where the leads are changing directions (new service, changing market, modifying the existing service), that unlocks a new potential for growth, until it reaches the standstill, and then the circle is repeated, all over again.
Generating new business, increasing your profits, or at least maintaining your financial stability can be challenging during good times, even more so during turbulent times. Can you share some of the strategies you use to keep forging ahead and not lose growth traction during a difficult economy?
Like many other businesses, we were hit hard by the coronavirus crisis. But for us, it had a double impact on our business.
From a financial point of view, we were devastated. We’ve lost quite a lot of clients, as many of them were in the event industry, in the travel industry, and other industries that were directly or indirectly affected by the pandemic. In addition, we had several other projects waiting in line after March, which were all delayed. Companies are not interested in investments and growth during uncertain times.
And some of the upcoming projects were simply delayed until things get better.
From a business point of view, it helped us reflect on who we are and what we do. We didn’t want to be a general consulting company. And based on the market feedback, B2B companies were struggling to find new clients. And that was our calling. We focused on innovating in new services as well as specializing the company in B2B outreach and prospecting. This gave us focus — in our execution, marketing and sales. I believe that the first coronavirus wave made us stronger and more focused.
In your experience, which aspect of running a company tends to be most underestimated? Can you explain or give an example?
I’ve spent the last 10 years working with entrepreneurs and startups. And it is a pity how entrepreneurs think that running a business is a piece of cake. I mean, the general belief is that all you need is a good idea. Having an idea, you can simply start a company, put some small effort in marketing — and clients will come knocking. And you will get rich quickly. And they are so wrong, on so many levels.
The idea is just the starting point for the business. How you are going to execute the idea, and then how you are going to manage to monetize it, is something that is really underestimated.
As you know, “conversion” means to convert a visit into a sale. In your experience what are the best strategies a business should use to increase conversion rates?
I think that I’ve already mentioned the focus a few times, but I really think it is crucial. BizzBee is focused on B2B high-ticket service providers. Knowing our target helps us in creating more engaging copy on our website — relevant testimonials, relevant case studies, and relevant examples.
We’ve gone a step further, we even divided the high-ticket service providers into 3 categories — a) consultants, b) software providers, and c) agencies. We’ve then created a completely different home page for each target, giving even more specific case studies, testimonials, and showing what we can do specifically for them.
This improved our conversion exponentially.
Of course, the main way to increase conversion rates is to create a trusted and beloved brand. Can you share a few ways that a business can earn a reputation as a trusted and beloved brand?
I don’t think that there is a hack for getting a reputation as a trusted brand. It has to be earned — the hard way. So most of the activities we often believe are unnecessary, and can be easily skipped — those are usually the ones that actually increase your brand reputation.
Being active on social media — providing value-based posts and comments is one way to go. After a while, people will start turning to you for specific problems.
Publishing content on the subject — I’ve also experienced a significant boost when we published 6 eBooks on B2B outreach and prospecting. It boosted our credibility and trust.
I also know what I should BE doing intensively (but I don’t). I am trying to finish a book on B2B prospecting which will significantly improve our brand credibility. In addition, I want to start a podcast, interviews, and other channels where I will discuss our experiences and build brand awareness and credibility.
Great customer service and great customer experience are essential to build a beloved brand and essential to be successful in general. In your experience what are a few of the most important things a business leader should know in order to create a Wow! Customer Experience?
I made a big mistake when it comes to this that I want to share. I had a sales team and an execution team, both managed by their managers. So when we got a new client — our salespeople tell the sales manager. The sales manager works with the project manager, who then works with the employee who does the execution. And if the employee has a question, it follows the same route back and forward. I thought that having a clear hierarchical structure, will help — but I was so wrong.
Our next stage was adding some focus. The sales team just to focus on closing clients, and then the project manager to take over the customer management and experience. This has quadrupled the results, as the project manager had far more project knowledge and relevant questions than the sales team.
The last stage was to take out the management completely. Now when the sales team get a new client, I as a CEO am responsible for the project kick-off, in order to make sure all the expectations are set. Afterwards, the ones that are working the project have direct communication with the clients throughout the whole process. This saved a lot of time and miscommunication. On the one hand, employees have direct communication, so they can ask questions and provide project recommendations. But on the other hand, they are far more engaged and feet that they own the project.
What are your thoughts about how a company should be engaged on Social Media? For example, the advisory firm EisnerAmper conducted 6 yearly surveys of United States corporate boards, and directors reported that one of their most pressing concerns was reputational risk as a result of social media. Do you share this concern? We’d love to hear your thoughts about this.
The reputation is not at risk because of social media. The social media just expedites the market feedback — regardless if positive or negative.
If a company has bad working practices, or angry clients — of course, they will express their feelings on social media. But also, on the other hand, a company can have clients that are so happy that they become brand ambassadors — talking about the positive experience through social media.
So, social media is just a medium, not the reason for a positive or negative reputation.
What are the most common mistakes you have seen CEOs & founders make when they start a business? What can be done to avoid those errors?
I have seen a lot of mistakes. But I really believe that expectations for a first-time founder are sky-high. They have never run a business before and think that it is quite easy to run it — to handle people, clients, marketing, sales, etc.
Ideally, there should be a way entrepreneurs can have a trial. Starting a figurative business, that if it fails, they won’t suffer the consequences. And if it succeeds, they’ve just got market validation, and can just go ahead and register the company. And this trial, will open their eyes, and show all their flaws — before they actually start the business and go all in.
Alternatively, business incubators are a great place to start a business. You are surrounded with other entrepreneurs and startups, where you can share ideas, experiences and solutions to obstacles. Business incubators usually also offer mentorship, which can help in avoiding some of the most common errors and increase the chance for success.
Thank you for all of that. We are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I have a thing that I plan on doing in the foreseeable future. Hoping that it would become a movement. Or at least contribute and give a bit back to the environment.
Our whole branding is bee-related, and I even have some experience with bees. I’m really fascinated by those small buzzers and their importance. How something that small, a mere insect, can have such a huge impact on the whole planet and on so many different species.
My idea is that each long term client of ours receives a dedicated beehive. This way, we are not only helping our clients, but we are encouraging altruism and contributing to the wellbeing of the bees, hence the whole planet.
How can our readers further follow you online?
Well, LinkedIn is always my go-to platform, so they can always find me at — https://www.linkedin.com/in/dancodimkov/. They can find me on Facebook as well — https://www.facebook.com/dancho.dimkov.98. If you want to keep up with my great company (pun intended) check out our website — https://www.bizzbeesolutions.com/.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!