Saturday, June 24, 2023

Navigators of Large Business

Interview from Nargiz magazine

Consulting is a relatively young economic phenomenon. But today it is a huge branch of business, without which, in the stormy sea of market competition, sometimes it is simply impossible to get by. We talked with Samir Valiyev, partner of Baker Tilly Azerbaijan (BTA) on the rules for a successful business, effective communication with clients, opportunities for artificial intelligence and connection of the balance sheet with life balance.

What do you invest in expression "company culture"?

First of all, basic values on which we base on our work, as atmosphere in a team, business results depend on them. They determine how the company should work. Specifics of consulting is such that moral, reputational capital is on a par with money, and one of our priority tasks is to develop this reputation and not to spoil in any case. I believe that culture and values of my company should reflect my personal ones: honesty, focus on maximum return, quality work and the best result. When creating a project and implementing my ideas to life, I never think about money, because I strongly believe: money will follow you, worth only create something useful and necessary, so it is better to think about the product, not about the profit. I grew up at a time when family values were the foundation of worldview, as they were priority. Over time I managed to lay them in the foundation company I created. After all, the family are relatives, people who love, respect and hear each other, who can always come to the rescue. And I think within the walls of Baker Tilly Azerbaijan, we succeeded such a community with a common philosophy for all employees without exception, determining the direction of development companies.

How has your company developed?

I created it during the economic period boom, when the mainstream of client queries were centered around incredibly expensive "big four." There were no middle management companies on the market that would offer services at reasonable rates. After leaving the Ministry of Taxes where I worked long enough, I realized that it was necessary to respond to growing demand and create a brand with high standards in an empty niche of the second echelon. The best conditions for cooperation were offered to me by Baker Tilly International. So first of all, I started hiring "big four" employees, with experience in audit, tax accounting and financial consulting - our core business areas. Today our team is one of the strongest in the market providing these services, which is confirmed by our competitors. Building a company with good corporate culture gave me opportunity to improve myself as a businessman, expand the network of business contacts, build relationships with foreigners with business interests in our country and to declare our competence widely. 

Who is your customer and what does he expect by contacting BTA?

Any company that needs in recommendations for solving some business problems. All Philosophy of consulting is to maximize the benefit to the client, regardless of tactics and strategies. First of all, we are interested in the success of the client. We try to evaluate their request and propose an implementation they need; for this we analyze the market, study processes within the company, we offer effective solutions on found problems and on fixing shortcomings.

What are the most difficult queries? Do you believe that the customer is always right?

Interaction with the client develops from a number of factors. Usually, we deal with legal entities with a specific management structure. Access in communication with a competent person with appropriate powers and mutual trust is essential. This can be likened strict compliance by the patient doctor's orders, possible only with doctor's competence. The customer is right when clearly knows his obligations and in a timely manner performs them, and can also analyze, whether its requirements are met by the relevant way. If the client does not specifically know what he expects from the consultant, it becomes the most difficult request. We, from our side, expend resources to bring to the client, what result is aimed at our cooperation. At the same time, it is important to understand that our services do not guarantee the client profit growth "automatically", so all points of cooperation should be clearly spelled out. 

In many professions, man is slowly but surely being replaced by artificial intelligence. Will this trend affect the consulting industry as well? abundantly including automated processes?

Of course, the introduction of technology reduces human participation in certain processes. But consulting is intellectual work, so human potential will be needed for a long time in order to process requests and wishes of clients. Another problem is a question of responsibility for a mistake that artificial intelligence will do. Until this and similar problems resolved, we are in demand. But in general, it's too early to talk about the total introduction of world technologies in Azerbaijani market. We do not have local accounting program, and we cannot buy expensive software security, that's why we use the program of the Russian production. I've been planning for a long time to create a new product to fill this annoying gap. During the last two years our professional team develops from scratch, its own platform, and currently the project already in the testing phase. This program will be able in a matter of minutes prepare the necessary declarations in government agencies, automatically collecting banking information; electronic waybills, comparing them with contracts and other data for creating reports. This is serious business product on the market, with a high utility factor, and I am very interested in it.

They say the crisis is the time opportunities. Do you agree with this? 

Crisis under certain conditions creates opportunities, but above all it signals a problem. Often at this time the priority is an urgent way out. A crisis can be called an opportunity when it creates a demand for something and new free niches, and ideas for improvement businesses finally find a fertile soil. 

But this is not always the case. Eg, pandemic-related crisis caused a number of problems, especially in health care. How to motivate employees in difficult time to motivate employee and get it done so that they want to support the company. 

In societies with different systems values different incentives are applied. The company must constantly develop personnel motivation system, including intangible forms, - because there is always someone who will offer and losing its personnel is undesirable for any company. We spend a lot of effort to improve skills of our employees, organize educational trainings for them, create personal training opportunities. We use the bonus system – it allows you to achieve relevant business results; 360° method, helping to reverse communication, identify development directions of individual employees or the whole team to detect problems. Our politics involves the study and analysis of employee wishes, motivation system is arranged according to their preferences. It should never be assumed that money is the only employee motivation. According to researches, about 50% of employees are willing to receive lower wages in exchange for the possibility of a flexible schedule, food and entertainment in the office. It is very important to understand the mood within the company, and it requires constant dialogue. There is the only way of achieving loyal attitude of the staff towards the company, allowing to support it in difficult period. In addition, I suggested to employees to become shareholders of BTA. That's how they keep interested in profitability and growth of the company.

Is stability a sign of mastery or degradation?

This is what most aspire to, and it's not just about financial well-being. Everyone wants to be have a continuous health, rest and devote time to the family, and, of course, live in abundance, having a constant source of income. Stability will not turn into stagnation with the risk of degradation if there is economic growth and constant development. It all depends on the person. If a person loves to work, create, he does it with love and in conditions of stability. One of my good friends is quite old, who leads a very active lifestyle and is engaged in mental activity, said to me: "The brain needs exercise as much as the muscles." And he's right. If a person is accustomed to benefiting society, he will do it in stable conditions.

To reach agreement with oneself we often lack some kind of balance. At the same time, this term is one of the key ones in Your business. What do you understand "balance"? How to reach it?

For me, the issue of achieving balance in life is very serious, and it is very interesting how the universal and accounting balances are intertwined. In accounting, by the way, there is another important term - double entry. That is, the accounting entry has a debit and a credit side, providing an overall balance. So it is in life: any acquisitions occur at the expense of something, and it is very important that the given resource is also in a positive value system. For example, getting an education cost me sleepless nights and self-restraint, but in return I gained knowledge that continues to help me in life. Assets accumulated in the course of communication with family, interesting people, reading, travelling, are formed from energy and time resources, which are then spent on new projects and creative ideas. It is important for me that the passive part of my balance does not consist of liabilities. And, the more academic and practical knowledge a person acquires, the more attractive and richer his balance looks.