How do you think Czech companies generally approach innovation?
The greatest flaw of many Czech companies is that they do not sufficiently appreciate the importance of innovation and if they do, they approach it without a long-term strategy or system. It often is simply a one-shot reaction to initiatives inside the company or from the competition. Corporate innovation can, for example, be seen in a more comprehensive and wider framework, from the very beginning of a company’s existence. It is important to realise how companies work with the initial idea, how they actually grasp it, how they develop it and introduce the result to the market. It is necessary to set up a suitable strategy from the perspective of the innovation of products and services. It is important to properly assess the organisational structure of such a company, the number of dedicated employees, the business partners, the connection of individual internal departments as part of the development of new products, but also whether to include external partners in such a process. An innovative culture is oriented on the company and employees, including middle management, being prepared and the management of innovation from its gestation: how open the company is to uncommon ideas and whether there is an enthusiasm for innovation in its own ranks. From our perspective, it is the most important process by which a company succeeds or fails in fulfilling the original idea.
You also work as a consultant for companies in the area of innovation and you also act as a mentor in the StartUpYard accelerator. What would you advise young businesses just getting off the ground?
Precisely an accelerator like StartUpYard can significantly help such companies when they are beginning, especially if they are technologically oriented. Everyone who establishes a start-up has a relatively clear vision of how to make it possible and running from a technical prospective, but they tend to have issues implementing their product and business model without the support of experienced mentors and, above all, investors to finance their projects. Some ideas that seemed promising at the beginning can be seen, after some time, to be unrealisable for any number of reasons. Thus if a company joins StartUpYard, more than thirty mentors start working with it in a very short time in order to determine as quickly as possible if the company’s vision makes sense and, if not, to fine tune to adjust their plan accordingly. If they determine that it does, then they try to make that start-up “investable”. Most of these projects are not able to support themselves after three months. Thus we help these companies to get customers and feedback from the market and ultimately to search for an investor that would finance the company’s continuing operations.
Your company has been consulting in the area of start-up development for a long time and throughout the world. What are the trends in this area?
Sharing the innovation of our company’s DNA, whereas in all 77 of the countries in which we operate our ambition is to become a trendsetter in innovation, especially in the services sector. In this context we have already launched a non-commercial project called Mazars’ LAB in many countries. Its goal is to create a functioning ecosystem for beginning companies in three phases of development – start, growth and development. The added value of Mazars Lab is to support such companies with expert knowledge in the field in which they do business, consultation in the area of financing and aid with searching for the financing of their companies’ launch and operations. On the other hand, we also help investors and banks to look for suitable projects for financing. From the very beginning of this project we have cooperated with more than 100 successful start-ups all over the world, many of which have become our clients after leaving the accelerator.
Could you please describe your activities, what you do in MazarsLab, more specifically?
MazarsLab’s ambitions are to increase the creation of value for Mazars’ clients via Open Innovation, i.e. by co-developing new services with external partners (including start-ups). This includes mutual activities in the areas of research & development and business development with external partners, and this therefore obviously impacts Mazar’s Culture, even if MazarsLab has little leverage on this side of things. Also, in some cases, the new services may include a modernisation of our current processes. For example “Visa Mazars” with the StartUp Particeep which is incubated in Paris. Thus, in complement of project teams directly working on the future of audit and accounting services, MazarsLab aims at enhancing these core services with new offerings.
What business activities does Mazars have in the Czech Republic?
Cooperation with StartUpYard, the largest accelerator in the Central European region, is of key importance for us. We are a strategic partner of the project and act in the role of a mentor. Mentoring is an absolutely key matter for start-ups. It is important for an expert to take a detached look at the idea, to formulate it into some kind of meaningful vision, to recalculate it, to check if their interesting idea is not meant for a market that is in decline, and so on. Our task is primarily consultation for these companies in decisions that are related to their financing and bringing solutions to make their business activities compliant with laws and regulations.
What do you think is the most important for the success of a start-up?
It is always the founders and their approach. We, in the position of mentors, are not only considering the entrepreneurial vision, but primarily the entrepreneurs themselves. For us it is always important what kind of background that person has, if he is an expert in the given area, how he reacts to a concrete situation, etc. In general only a very few people are capable of implementing their plan and following it through to the end. We in the position of consultants believe that a capable team cam change an average idea into an above-average business. Our second task is for the time to be as short as possible. In the second phase of the start-up it is important to concentrate on the development of such a business. If a company reaches a certain size and turnover, then it cannot be done without focusing on its core businesses and letting external partners deal with its support activities such as accounting, IT, human resources, etc.
What would you advise entrepreneurs that want to develop their own business?
It is important to keep your feet on the ground and to take into account the economic aspects of the project, it is not a “let’s dream together” exercise. My advice is: look around you and try to change that, which you don’t like. If a person takes a close look around himself, he can get ideas about doing business, and if he understands them, then the plans could be successful. Another important step is to determine if there are other people on the market who see the problem in a similar way. If ten of them say it is a good idea, then it is worthwhile continuing. On the other hand, the worst thing to do is to work secretly during the evenings on something “unique” that eventually nobody buys. So in the end you should not be afraid to share your idea with external views and make sure you have the right people around you.
Publikováno na serveru czechmarketplace.cz, 6.6.2016.