Breaking down the complexity for the EASE of DOING BUSINESS | Christo Popov | TBCY

Breaking down the complexity for the EASE of DOING BUSINESS | Christo Popov | TBCY

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Welcome to another episode of The Brand Called  You. A vodcast and podcast show that brings you   leadership lessons, knowledge, experience and  wisdom from hundreds of successful individuals   from around the world. I'm your host,  Ashutosh Garg and today I'm delighted to   welcome a very, very successful entrepreneur,  a fellow YPO member from Bulgaria, Mr.  

Christo Popov. Christo, welcome to the show. Good to be here. Thank you. Christo is the founder and CEO  of Fast track, which is one of the fastest  

growing consulting companies in the world.  He was earlier with Shell and SABMiller.   Interestingly, he has spent one year in India  to study Vedanta, Buddhism and Zen. He's had   numerous publications, to his credit, and as I  just mentioned, he's a fellow member of the YPO.   So Christo, let's start talking about  Fast Track. Tell me about this venture. Fast Track is a comparatively young company,  it's only seven years old. And the success and   growth of Fast Track actually is if I have  to be honest beyond my expectations. Now we  

operate in over 25 Different countries well,  but if I have to go back, it's a child   that has a number of fathers. And I've been  trying to conceptualize in my mind what led   to the Fast Track methodology. And there  are five or six contribution to this.   The first is my life under communism, believe  it or not, when I come from a communist country,   completely different social and economic system,  there was some interesting lessons about human   behavior. Part of it, I spent some time in  the army in Bulgaria, and in Russia, that   was also a fascinating experience. Then I had the  privilege to go to some of the best universities   in the world. I mean, I had the privilege to  interact with people like Michael Porter,   Peter Sanghi. And then like, most of us  do, we joined the big corporate world,  

I was the head of scenario planning in Shell,  I spent some time with McKinsey with SABMiller.   I was fed up with the corporate world, I left  the corporate world. And then we had a number   of startups over 25 different companies.  Some of them are spectacular failures.   We have been through two bankruptcies. Some of  them are decent success stories. And then like you   said, I spent one year in India, where I was  trying to understand Vedanta and Bhagavad Gita,   and Zen and Buddhism. And all this put together is actually what gave birth  

to Fast track. So when I was analyzing  this, I came to some interesting conclusions.   And maybe the first one is time,  is by far the most important asset.   It is true for us as individuals, and it is  true for corporations. And at the same time,  

I was fascinated how we tend to make everything  much more complex than it actually is.   You go to a traditional consulting  company, they will deliver 200 slides,   when you see the slides, I said, God,  what the hell is going on. So actually,   if you zoom out, the fundamentals are much, much,  much simpler. And when we analyzed all this,  

we realized that to create a strong  business, you need to master two things.   The first one is to create energy. And the second  one is to build character. And these were the two   fundamental blocks of building a business. So we  thought, how can we put this together and create a  

system to help companies to grow faster? So this  is how this idea of Fast Track came about. Okay. And Christo which are  the areas that you're consulting? We are industry agnostic. We are company size  agnostic. And we are geography agnostic.   We are ambition sensitive. We're not targeting  companies. We're targeting CEOs and  

targeting a very, very small group of CEOs who  are absolutely committed to fulfill the maximum   of their personal potential. Amazing. So this is  what we do. And our analysis   showed that there are three activities that guys  like this should master. The first one is energy,   the ability to create personal and mental energy. Because if you don't have energy, you have   nothing. The second one is the ability to act,  but actually acting has two separate elements.   The first one is to have the intellect to decide  what is the right action to take. And the second   one is to do it in the best possible way. Okay.  And the third element is actually learning.  

And what I find fascinating, Ashutosh is when  I say learning to people, most of the time,   they think about professors and schools and  podcasts. And actually, what we ignore is   that there are two different types of learning.  One is external learning, like we said,   from lectures and all this, but there is another source of learning. And when we are born,   we're all born with a coach, sitting on  our shoulder. This coach never leaves us.   It coaches with us for the rest of our lives  until we die. And this coach is always   right. Whatever this coach tells you, he is  absolutely spot on. The only problem with this  

coach, he only speaks to you when you act, this  coach is real life. So there are two sources of   learning. One is yes, go to universities, listen  to podcasts, professors, but the other one is,   stop, get on the balcony, and observe yourself  like a buck. And ask a simple question,   What did life teach me? And I can promise you  there is very, very profound learning in this. I know, I mean, from your comments,  I can almost hear the deep learning and   understanding you have over the Bhagavad Gita,  you know, which is amazing. But, you know,  

you said this is a young business, and it is one  of the fastest growing companies in the world.   So what have been some of your challenges and  your learnings as you've built Fast track? It's interesting, I mean, Fast Track is built  around five principles. The first one is 80-20, 20% of everything, we do determinate a percent of  the outcome, we call it the ultimate efficiency   hack. And in my experience, companies are getting  slow not because they are doing things slowly,   is because they are not doing the right thing.  So the first principle is 80-20. The second one   is simplicity. Simplicity is the ability to  take out everything that is not necessary to   go down to the fundamentals. And I will challenge  you, you must 80-20 simplicity, you can't help  

but have a better business. The first  principle is something that is maybe a little   bit more intellectually challenging if we're  thinking from the first principle. Okay. Going   back to your question, the challenges they come  from principle number four, and number five, is,   number four is brutal honesty. Okay. Brutal  honesty is the ability to speak your mind   without the worry how the  other person will respond,   the ability to speak your mind without  trying to be politically correct.   And we work with companies in India and in  Vietnam, and in Bangladesh and in Saudi Arabia.  

And what I have discovered is lack of brutal  honesty, the biggest drain of human capital.   And you're asking me, what is the challenge?  This is one of the biggest challenges. Yes,   of course, we have our problem, building  a team, building the product, but that's for   every business. Yeah. What I find extremely  interesting is when we work with companies,  

how difficult it is to implement new concepts  and change. And because we work with CEOs who   99% extremely smart people, they get the concept.   Intellectually, they grasp it, or 20 goes down  to implementation, they face the burden of   legacy thinking, they face burden of  local cultures. Actually changing this is by far   the biggest challenge that we're facing. Incredible, incredible. So you know, when I was   reading about you and reading about  all the things that you have on the internet,   I've picked up a few interesting  lessons that you speak about.   The first one is if you risk nothing, you risk  more. You can see only the whole valley from  

the edge of the cliff. Help me understand  each of these and there are five of them.   Help me understand  these with some examples. It's a mind game. What is a risk? A risk  is a decision with an uncertain outcome.   Any decision is something about the  future. Anything about the future is with an   uncertain outcome. And why I think not  taking risk is the biggest risk you can take.   I mean, the world is such an  absolutely fascinating place.  

And if you always live within your comfort  zone, you're cutting out 99.999999%   of what the world can offer to you. Correct. And  I think this is the most severe sentence we   can put on ourselves to operate with our own feel  of comfort. That's why we believe taking risk is   basically making life richer. Well said. And you know,   you just spoke about brutal honesty in a  leader or an organization, but you also say,   the biggest asset for a leader is self  confidence, intellectual humility,   and ability to listen, learn and change.  Love to get your perspective on this.

For me, self confidence is the  confidence to know that you can change,   that self confidence. And for me, the most  beautiful word in the world is the word, yet.   I cannot do this, yet. I don't know this,  yet. Wow. Okay. One of the biggest science   of this humility is asking questions. Actually,  questions are more powerful than answers. People make progress because of the questions  they ask not because of the answers, they find.  

Answers only follow questions. So what is  self confidence? Self confidence is the ability   to change, the ability to change comes from  observing opinions that are different to yours.   If I have a fighter view,  an intellectual fight. And if I agree with your   opinion, people will say, Ashutosh won. The  discussion, we think is the other way around.   The person who changes his mind  leads the discussion about the person   So we are constantly striving   for this brutal honesty. And if you go to business  schools, they teach people how to give feedback.   Actually, we teach people how to receive feedback.  And we think any feedback is a sign of respect.  

I'm not saying to you, listen, this is bad.  I'm saying I believe you can do better.   And we try to strip the format from the  content. It doesn't matter how you talk to me,   I'm desperately trying to search for something in  what you say that can make me a better person,   a better father, a better leader, whatever. And  this is extremely difficult. Let me give an example. Yeah. India, big company,  run by two brothers, billion dollar company,   one brother, they suggesting a marketing campaign.  And for any person who can analyze it properly,  

the marketing campaign is horrible. But  he's the boss. Everybody stays quiet.   The presentation is over. Everybody says yes.  Yes, yes. Yes. Go ahead. And after the meeting,   I go to the younger brother say, What do you  think? We're gonna lose millions. Why didn't   you tell him? I can't. He's my senior brother.  Now, what is happening here? The guy has an idea.   He has 10 amazingly smart people in the room. But they couldn't speak up. Why? Because it's culturally  

not accepted. What is happening in this room? He's  not tapping, intellectual potential these people.   So we have challenged ourselves, can we create  a system that actually breaks this barrier?   Everybody can speak his mind to everybody else.  And when I talk to you, I would like to give you   the respect and the confidence that you can take  whatever you need, and the rest you can. This  

is the principle of brutal honesty. Fascinating, absolutely fascinating.   And you know, what you're saying culturally is so  true, not just in India, but large parts of Asia.   I often say people down  the line don't have the courage,   or the ability to say no, you know, I think  that's an important factor. But thank you. So, you're asking for challenges. We fail  90% of the time, especially in your part   of the world we implement it, but the few  companies where we have succeeded.  

Communication goes like that, quality  of decisions goes like that, number of   mistakes go down. One of the ways to prevent a  leader from making mistakes is to give him up   and it is absolutely critical. Interesting. So moving on.   You also say that the ultimate measure of man  is not where he stands in moments of comfort,   but where he stands in times  of challenge and controversy.   Are you talking of internal  resilience or something else? We only grow when we experience difficult period.  When you're in your comfort zone, you don't grow.  

If you go to the gym and always do the same thing,  you don't grow. If you always read the same book,   you don't grow mentally. So when you  experience challenges is the moment of truth.   And that's why we say, if you have a fast success,  it builds your ego. If you have a slow success,   it builds your character. Wow. Okay. I  believe putting people through difficulties   is extremely rewarding for the ones who  want to grow as people. So this is

the fundamental of this thought. Very amazing. And my last point,   from your learning, before I move to some more  questions, is you also say it's a Mind's game. Help me understand this. 100% minds game,

think about it. Every second, our brain is  attacked by 1 million bits of information.   1 million, and you can only absorb 40,000 less  than 1%. So everything else is a blind spot, it   is your decision. Which parts of the environment  to consider and what to make out of it?   There is no reality. Everybody, and you know  the famous thing everybody was accusing Steve   Jobs of distorting reality. At the end of the  day, he showed that his reality is right one.   And all his critics reality is the wrong one.  So it is absolutely mind's game. And I think the  

ability to open your mind and to connect  as many dots as possible, is fascinating.   And one thing is reading books. I'm  absolutely fascinated by people who don't read.   If, you know, you have written books, to  write a good book takes you two years,   a lot of editing, a lot of research,  a lot of talking to people,   and you give me this piece of knowledge in my  hand. And I can read your book for four hours.   Just imagine for four hours, I'm tapping into the  condensed knowledge that somebody has put for two   years, and maybe for the rest of your life. Four  hours, I can see the world from through the eyes   of Leonardo da Vinci or Michelangelo, Steve Jobs.  So accumulating all these different points of  

views makes your perception bigger. So it puts  more dots in your mind that you can connect.   That's why we say it's a mind game. Very interesting. So let me   go back to something you mentioned  right in the beginning,   about you coming from a communist environment,  and you're having served in the army.   How has the army and the environment you grew up  in help you formulate such incredible thoughts   about business? It's accumulation of experiences.   I think it's not the army. But the army  just I think it helps you to understand the second  

order of consequences. That what you do in the  moment is irrelevant, why you did it. And what   happens in the long run is critical. And you can  find benefits in every situation you are in. It   can build physical, can do character, you can  build knowledge, you can accumulate patience, an   army is a beautiful place to build your character.  And if you zoom out from  

the day to day activities that are physically  extremely demanding. You can really understand   a lot about yourself. You know, when you're in  love, you're the person who would like to be when   you are in war, you see the person actually who  you are. Okay. So that's why we think when you   put yourself in such difficult situation, then you  can have a better understanding of the self. Fascinating. Fascinating. So one more question. Just put it in context, one of the   techniques I use here in our company, I  deliberately try to take people out of   their comfort zone. And I very carefully observe  their reactions. And there are different ways you  

can take, it could be intellectually, it  could be even challenge their values. It could   be physically and observing the reactions of  people when they're out of their comfort zone   tells you a lot about the person. And we've  tried to implement this also in the companies we   work. That's why our slogan is I'm not here to  be nice to you. I'm here to make you better. So one more question relating fast track and then  I'll have a couple of questions on your time in   India. Christo for someone who's leading such  an amazing organization, for someone who's hired   over 10,000 people over the years for someone  who, as you just said, likes to put people out   of their comfort zone, what  would you say is Christo's leadership style? I cannot comment on my leadership style. And if  you asked the people who work with me,   they'll say it's extremely, extremely damn  extremely difficult person to work with. Okay.  

But over the years, I have learned to believe  that it's almost impossible to change people.   And characters may be the most important  thing. And you know, the vasanas, I'm putting a lot of efforts trying to  understand the strengths of people and their   natural inclinations, and just try to create  the right environment for them to operate.  

We managers have the wrong belief that it is our  job to motivate people, it isn't. Our job is to   find people who are already motivated & create  the best environment for these people to flourish.   So basically, our job is to  pick up the right character,   and create the environment. That's it. Very, very interesting. You know, pick up  

motivated people rather than try and find ways  to motivate people. Fantastic. So Christo, I have   time for a couple of more questions. And I thought  since I am in India, I'm going to   talk to you a little bit about India. You spent  one year in India to study the Vedanta, Buddhism,   Zen. Couple of questions, What  motivated you to come to India? It's a combination of couple of things. I was at a crossroads in my life, I was  

a bit disillusioned with big corporations. I reached a stage where I   became a very senior person at a very young  age. And I found this extremely dangerous,   because you start taking yourself too seriously.  Correct. And I was also worried what's happening   outside me, I couldn't figure it out. We  are the most comfortable generation ever.   In the history of the planet, and we are the  most complaining generation ever. You talk to  

these young guys, they have everything. And if  their Instagram doesn't load for three seconds,   they start complaining. And two weeks down  down the road, they are mentally depressed. So   I was trying to put all these things together  and try to make sense of it. And I came across   an Indian teacher called Swami Parthasarathy, who  shared with me some of the fundamentals in Vedanta.   And I loved it. I mean, he said Vedanta is unlike  other religious there. It is teaching us  

that intellect is the guiding factor. Don't trust  what I say, use your intellect to assess what is   and I loved it. And I just wanted to go deeper and  deeper and deeper. And if something has survived   for 5000 years, and has impacted the lives of  billions of people, they should be merit in it.   So all this prompted me to go and dive deep into this. And I really, really loved it. And I'm   fascinated, you go to India, you see extremely  poor people. But if you look into the eyes,   somehow you see peace, you see Shanti  and you go to some other countries,   you see rich people and in the eyes there is hatred. I was just keen to understand  

what is behind it. Oh, fascinating. You seem to pick up the pulse   of a large Indian population, especially  about the peace in people's minds, you know.   But my last question to you now is, how  are you using your learnings from Vedanta in Fast Track? Fast track is not a job for me. Fast Track  is not a company, Fast Track is who we are.   And basically, I'm trying to apply my personal  values in what we do. My personal  

definition of success, my personal definition  of how to spend your days how to take decisions,   how to spend your life,  so Vedanta had a huge   impact in what we do. And if you come here to the  office, it has an impact on everybody around us.   A lot of people don't like it. Some  people like it, but it is what it is.   And a lot of people believe success is what  you have achieved, but this is a static   definition of success. We prefer to have  a more dynamic understanding of success.  

And for me, it all boils down to do you enjoy what  you do every second of the day? If you call the time 9-5 job, you're not a happy  person. So we are trying to go to love   Mondays as much as we love Friday, you  have a more dynamic definition of success. And at   the end of it is, I think we need to have crystal  clarity of where you want to go. You cannot just  

have this clarity if you don't know yourself. So  at the end of the day, it's about authenticity.   And it takes a lot of time to distill this  to observe yourself and to find your true   self. And then it takes a lot of courage not  to give in to social pressure to change. Amazing, amazing. Christo on that note, thank you so  much. It's been such a privilege speaking to you.   Thank you for talking to me about Fast Track,  about the amazing things that you're doing.   Thank you for speaking to me about your learnings,  what your philosophies. And thank you for speaking   to me about your incredible experience that  you said you had in India, and how it's   relating back to you and all the people  around you. Thank you again and good luck.

Thank you. Thank you. It was a privilege. Thank you.   Thank you for listening to The Brand Called You,  videocast and podcast. A platform that brings you   knowledge, experience and wisdom of hundreds of  successful individuals from around the world.   Do visit our website,  to watch and listen to the stories of

many more individuals. You can also follow us on  YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Just   search for The Brand Called You

2022-02-01 13:22

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