Tell me honestly: what do you think of when you hear about a business (a2t.ro) with a turnover of 9 million euros?
One answer would be: they must have gotten there because of the people they know.
Or: Probably they’ve had a serious initial capital when they started.
Personally, I didn’t even think about the answer from the above perspective, but I imagined an interesting scenario that I would have had to deal with when I arrived at AtuTech for the interview:
Luxury. Business people in expensive suits who share a cigar. Yes, I’m laughing out loud now too, especially as I talk to more and more entrepreneurs, and especially those who have managed to build a business from scratch into a giant. I realize that in order to be successful, you have to stay grounded.
What should you know about a2t.ro?
Sorin and Marius started AtuTech (a2t.ro) out of a desire to offer something totally different from what was on the market at the time.
Did they succeed?
Was it easy?
No. And they didn’t rely on relationships, and the initial capital was built up with loans.
Sounds unreal, right?
Let me tell you what actually happened. I walked into an office where no one was sitting around. Like a well-thought-out system, where everyone has their role and knows exactly what to do.
I met Sorin, who impressed me with his honesty, modesty, and his openness with which he told me about what they had managed to set up over 9 years.
AtuTech (a2t.ro) is a giant that sells surveillance systems. You can find the latest security solutions right on their website and the type of service you get is at another level. But today, we’re not talking about the business, we’re talking about the people behind it. The people who swam against the tide and succeeded.
Let’s get to the interview!
What do you say: did we have other topics of discussion than expensive vacations, fancy cars, or what high up people they know? Clearly not.
Manu: How did you decide to start this business?
Sorin: I have worked in all the fields I had the opportunity to, in multinationals and in small companies. That’s why I often say that I’m the sum of the experiences I’ve had so far. Along the way, I met Marius, who is also my daughter’s godfather. We complete each other in many ways. We have the same principles, we pursue the same goals and we trust each other.
The security systems market was very rigid and had a certain structure. By 2011, when we came up, others in the market didn’t take notice of us, because the online world was not yet powerful. But as time went on, we kept increasing our market share, and…we got to where we are today. We’ve always moved forward. We tried to break out of the mold, not to do things like everyone else. A common misconception that a lot of people have about entrepreneurs is that once you have a business, you’re rich, which means you don’t hang around the office, but you sit with your laptop on the beach.
That’s certainly not the case with us. We’re a team and we work together to take the company to the next level. We’ve been fortunate to have good people by our side, at the right time, who have been our colleagues for years. AtuTech is not about walls, logo, products, online store – it’s the sum of all the efforts of 40 hardworking people working together as a whole.
M: Did you ever think about giving up?
S: No. Honestly. I’m not the type. There were many difficult moments, but I haven’t even considered that option. I’ve never thought about it like that, but I’ve looked for ways to make everything better. That’s for sure! And every day, I think of solutions that could make our work easier.
M: What is the biggest challenge you face, as an entrepreneur, in your field?
S: People. And customers and employees. The human resource is very important in all aspects. We can’t find specialized resources in our field and the learning time is very long. We have a specific niche and to know and deepen the field, takes work and dedication. The challenge is that a small proportion of those we hire are not willing to learn, others learn and decide to leave.
I always tell them anyway that I would keep them here until they retire, but we don’t stand in the way of their happiness if they think they want something else. And, on the customer side, there is always pressure, because the level of expectations is constantly different. There’s a saying: “if the employees are happy, the customers are happy”. That’s what we live by.
M: What do you do on days when you can’t find the motivation for the work you have to do (to keep your business afloat and help it grow)?
S: I’m looking for motivation (laughs). When I feel things are going the way I want them to, I always look for reasons, examples, who did better, what was the secret. I read anything I find from interviews to books, to find an idea – to try something else, to start something else. I never stop.
M: What is the most valuable lesson you have learned since you started your own business?
S: I had a lot of faith in people. I always have and in some situations, my trust was deceived, so I’ve learned to be more careful. I’ve talked to every single colleague I work with here when they’ve been hired. As we work together, I give them more and more trust. We end up being like a family. It’s best to be honest, no matter what. From my point of view, if you have something, you better come and tell me, because if you have a problem, it’s 99% up to me to find a solution. 1% is stuff that’s not up to me or you.
M: What do you consider to be the most notable difference between being an employee or an entrepreneur?
S: Responsibility. For the people you work with, starting with their safety to making sure they’re happy with what you offer. As an entrepreneur, I’m tougher on myself than my boss would be (if I had one). I have to make sure everything runs as smoothly as possible. As an employee, your liability is limited, even if you’re in a management position – and you can change jobs at any time.
M: How would you characterize your business – a2t.ro, in a word (except “quality”)?
M: What would you advise an entrepreneur who is just starting out?
S: Don’t do it for the money, especially in the first part of your future “child’s” life, make some mistakes, spend some money. Be prepared to face harder times and don’t give up.
MY CONCLUSION – Support Small Businesses
After talking with Sorin, I realized that you can start a business with a partner and take it to the heights of success, but only if you believe in your vision, do a lot of research, take examples from others (whether we’re talking about something you’d like to apply to yourself or a mistake you can avoid) and have a different approach. What differentiates your business from your competitors?
Find out the answer and then, with hard work, patience, and passion for what you do, you’ll get where you want to be. It’s your work – your result. There is no easy path, but the good thing is that the road you walk, however hard it is, will bring you obstacles, but also rewards that you won’t find anywhere else. The chances to find a business that’s profitable from the start – are pretty slim. You need to work extraordinarily hard, to go further, to try something different.
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