Name: Julieta Sofranova
Location: Sofia, Bulgaria
Julieta Sofranova started her company Apex Consult OOD, a franchise of Antal International, in December 2005 and just six months later, business kicked off with just one young enthusiast (back from New Zealand) and her. They opened their office in a nice central location in Sofia, Bulgaria, their ideas and energy gave them quickly the opportunity to find a stable position in this new small niche as they focus on Finance roles worldwide in different positions like accounting, finance, banking, insurance and investment. The market was ready to absorb newcomers at that time, Julieta’s office grew rapidly to 4 consultants managed by Julieta and they grew to a good team that was very successful for more than 7 years.
Even during the crisis that peaked in 2010, that saw tough competition and a shrunken market, Julieta’s office enjoyed several very good years in a row. Antal helped many professionals and companies in their need of career growth and exceptional results.
As she celebrates her 13 years at Antal, Julieta kindly agreed to answer a few questions about her journey with Antal:
Tell us a bit about yourself and what you were doing prior to buying a franchise business?
I was a successful international professional manager for more than 20 years in the banking, insurance and investment service sectors before I decided to start my own business in a totally different world but closely linked to the people that I used to work with, where I had gained a lot of experience and whom enjoyed working with.
Why did you go down the franchise route? What made you choose your industry? And why did you choose your franchise?
Having spent quite some time with international financial service companies (Unicredit, ING, Societe General, AIG – now Metlife) I tried to figure out where to go next. I had reached the top management level in Bulgaria and sincerely felt that I needed something new at that time. People management came into my focus, a dear friend of mine noticed an online ad placed by a partner of Antal from Australia (maybe New Zealand) for a Franchise option.
The idea appealed to me since I had no spare money and needed a stable partner with international expertise, market and vision about the future. I took a loan and signed with Antal after two years.
How do you find the training and support you receive from Antal?
My induction course was the best time of learning after the MBA courses in Exeter. I travelled to London and met friends, partners and collaborators at that time.
I had to learn not only the specificity of recruitment but also how to manage my own business, my people, my future.
Later, when operative, the real training came with my everyday challenges.
What is a typical day for you as a franchisee?
Exiting, busy, challenging, tough and full of rewards, that is the typical workday at Antal. There are not two situations, tasks, meetings, faces, outcomes that are alike. You talk to different people from HQ, Antal colleagues, company representatives on the market and professionals every single day. You manage the staff, the business, and the operations – 24 hours a day. But one thing you do for sure: you grow and excel
What challenges have you faced?
In the last 13 years, we have met many challenges but the toughest one was when in 2015 -2016, as a result of the very deep crises we experienced, my staff all of a sudden decided to go their own way. One went to a top IT company as an international recruiter, the other joined a family business and the best one became a competitor of mine as he bought a franchise from another multinational recruiter.
In the everyday engagements we experiences different situations and managed to get out of them stronger, with more confidence, strength and enthusiasm.
We had happy days in spending time together visiting SPA destinations, monasteries, organic farms, mountains, ski resorts, ancient tombs, caves and craft work locations. We learned together and lived as a family.
What ‘highs’ have you experienced running your own business?
What I recognize as “highs” are the smiley happy faces of our candidates and the thank you letters from companies. But most of all we cherish the clients and our candidates coming back to us after years.
The other success is that I gave to the market several persons that will add value wherever they step in. I am really proud of the staff that worked in the office, of the candidates we placed and the companies that we built relations with.
What is the most invaluable piece of advice you could give someone looking to buy their first franchise?
Examine the business, talk to people that have been there for some time, meet your managers and try to find in them the same motivation as you have, the same drive and sparkling eyes that make people friends. Friendship, support, understanding, together with the clear vision for the future together will make you take the right decision. All the rest might be learned, experienced, added.
Would you do it again?
Sure, I find my journey with Antal exciting, rewarding and challenging. Now I know what it is and will be full of good feelings, expecting ever greater experience and perfect moments.
I REALLY ENJOY MY TIME WITH ANTAL AND EVERY PERSON I HAVE DEALT WITH MAKES ME PROUD I CAME TO KNOW AND JOINED THIS GREAT TEAM.