Ejub Kučuk: Ideal brand manager for BiH
The owner of MITA Group felt the weight and charm of business creation as a young man, and he was barely 30 when he became successful internationally
Interviewed by: Elma Zećo
Ejub compares the road to creating business success today with Njegoš’s words from The Mountain Wreath: “A glass of honey is never consumed, without being embittered by a glass of bile”, because dedicating oneself to work in full, which is a prerequisite for great results, means that a person starts to miss out on a lot in their private life.
He recalls: “While my friends were studying, going out till late in the evening, having fun, I was building a career, having children and developing my own business. While others were sleeping, I was worrying about how to increase business, profit, salaries, how to survive till the next job. While my eldest daughter and son were growing up, for the first seven years of their lives I wasn’t at home, I didn’t see them take their first steps, I didn’t hear their first words, nor did I feel their first teeth coming in. At that time, there were no smartphones with quality cameras for my wife to record and send me some of these joys across some network, they are moments forever lost in the past. My private life and my dream are my greatest sacrifices, and my greatest support is my family, which always understood and justified my absences. Luckily, I became successful as a young man, and was then able to use my free time to be with my family.”
A good reputation spreads quickly
How did you form your key partnerships?
– Firstly, I had to work a lot, sell, talk people into buying any of our services, and then I – with a lot more dedication than anyone else – delivered a lot more than what we were payed for. Deadlines were always sacred, as well as the delivery of the promised quality and then you have a clear conscience! Later on, people hear of you, the positive reputation is spread, people recommend you, and you create more and more business relationships that way, as well as getting to know more people. It’s the so-called networking effect, as they call it in America.
How did you beat the competition?
– By investing in knowledge, with creativity, following trends, dedicated work and generating ideas which would better the position of our client’s brands on the market with a constant growth of sales. MITA Group was a pioneer in many fields of advertising in BiH, we’ve been around the world following various conferences and seminars where we adopted the necessary skills, and we spend a lot of time also analysing the effectiveness of campaigns sold to clients, in order to improve them additionally.
What do you see as your biggest success?
– My biggest success is a united and successful family, where we find time for each other, travel, go out, laugh and cry together. Four wonderful children of varying ages – 20, 17, 12 and 7, 22 years of marriage, many A’s at school. My biggest professional success is that, after 20 years on the market, we have managed to remain as one of the leaders of the B&H advertising industry. We have a lot of leading cadre who have been at the agency for ten or more years, we laugh, have fun, enjoy and socialise while we work. We always adhered to professional, moral and human norms, fulfilled our commitments towards the state regularly, took care of our employees, encouraged young people to get married, took care of women who became pregnant and took maternity leave. We trained and raised the leading experts in the industry. Today they are successful publishers, marketing and corporate communications directors, successful entrepreneurs and designers.
What is your lower limit when it comes to compromise?
– Compromises are very dangerous if you don’t set limits, because it’s very easy to get lost when you start giving in. I never say “yes” to things that are against religious, legal, moral or human principles. My reputation is not for sale. I never cross the boundaries of good taste, I never speak of competitors as enemies. I don’t allow for us to be treated with disrespect, because, if someone doesn’t respect you, there’s no need to work or share the same dreams with people like that.
BiH is loved the most
You have been in marketing and PR for years. How would you brand BiH?
– I would tell the truth about BiH: that it’s one of the most beautiful countries in the world; a country of warm, witty and wonderful people who greet each guest as they would a member of their family; a country of beautiful mountains, sea and wonderful rivers; a country of rich history, phenomenal gastronomy and great opportunities. I would also say that it’s a country that you fall in love with at first glance, that you remember with melancholy and where you return with the biggest smile. It’s loved the most.
What do you see as the matrix of your success?
– As we are a small and underdeveloped market, we have the opportunity to make a quick and simple upheaval without a lot of risk. World consultants can help us make an education system which could produce cadres for jobs of the future and offer many people retraining, as their education and professions are now outdated. By investing in the construction of an IT ecosystem thousands, maybe even tens of thousands young people would be employed as part of outsourcing business. We can tax uncultivated land and stimulate people without a secondary education to go back to the country and be farmers; we can protect our waters, reduce the outflow of foreign currency from importing bottled water; increase the number of overnight stays and tourists if we manage our natural resources, rivers, lakes and mountains correctly; mountains which don’t exist just around Sarajevo, where one can also ski, mountaineer, spend summers and winters. Changes have to be quick, but then results are also felt quicker.
Today you work less than before, actually, it seems that you are travelling more. What kind of places attract you?
– I still work a lot, and it often takes me outside of BiH, so when I link it with the rare holidays that I take, people think that I travel a lot privately (laughter). I like warm, picturesque places with a rich history, narrow and clean streets full of cafes and restaurants where we can make our palates, eyes, and sense of smell happy; places where the people are warm, smiling, polite; countries and cities where people know how to enjoy themselves. Cities I return to whenever I can are Paris, Udine, Milan, Amsterdam, San Francisco, Split, I could definitely live in any of them if I ever decided to leave BiH.
You travel and without planning to most often end up in Italy or France. Do you have an explanation for why you stop in these countries specifically?
– Smiling people, phenomenal fashion that both the young and the old care about, tasty dishes, exceptional architecture, rich history, great coffee, beautiful streets and cafes where you could live. People really know how to live there and we’re never bored.
You have four children. Are you met with challenges where you don’t always have the answers?
– I am, often, but I’ve learned that conversation, proper upbringing in the early years, an open attitude and the attention we give our children, play the most important role. It’s a long process, and a different approach is required for each child.
Where would you like your children to build their careers?
– BiH, Sarajevo and full stop (laughter). I think in any other case we would all move, or my heart would break. But, we dream, and dear God determines what will happen, so I pray to Him that they are happy, decent people and that they make my wife and I proud, wherever they live and whatever they do.
What is the best way to coax youth into not even thinking of leaving the country, is it worth it to stay and struggle?
– With a personal example and positive attitude. Children must watch and learn how to succeed from us every day. You have to tell them about the positive examples a lot more and a lot louder than those who say that there’s no life and success here. Based on the laws of probability, if you’re good at something, you’re more likely to succeed faster and easier somewhere where there aren’t a lot of people like that.
Encouraging each other
“Business-wise what would make me happiest right now is if my team conquered the world with BTLBook.com, an advanced IT solution which was created wholly in BiH. I think that kind of success would encourage many young people to start similar projects themselves; it would encourage entrepreneurship and the creation of an IT ecosystem as an accelerator of profitable business.”
A country for all of us
“The economic development of BiH can only be led by entrepreneurs, successful and passionate people, who have proved themselves across the world in a real economy. The directors of state-run firms who hold key positions in power don’t mean much, if they don’t know how international business works. These have to be people with phenomenal analytical abilities and strategic thinking skills, including young people who quickly recognise trends and the direction that the world economy is moving towards, and people who also think about all children as their own, building an environment where each and every one of them could live a life of dignity.”