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IBS International Business School Ljubljana

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2012 > Letnik 2, št. 1


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On the 7th March, the day before International Women's Day, some students joined me to visit a special business facility in Ljubljana. Why special?

Because it is a chocolate facility and the owner comes from England. He was kind enough to accept us although it was almost 5 p.m. when his shop and production site close. What was supposed to be an educational visit to business premises with the aim of improving our business English listening skills, turned out to be a friendly chat with someone who has a wide range of business experience and was more than willing to give us first-hand information about some important aspects of running a business.

Sam Osmanchevich, the owner of the company Čokoladnica Rajska ptica, left Slovenia at the age of 16 and went to England where he completed his catering education. He worked in some top London establishments such as Cafe Rouge. He was general manager of the internationally renowned restaurant Planet Hollywood, in London, with 200 employees. Sam and his partner, Cindi Watts, also owned a restaurant/coffee house in England. In 2004, they decided to move from England to start their own chocolate business, now based in Ljubljana. They produce exquisite artisan chocolates hand made by Master Chocolatier Sam Osmanchevich and his dedicated team of Slovenian chocolatiers. Each chocolate is a work of art, genuinely handcrafted using all natural ingredients. They have carefully developed their own recipes and original flavour combinations.

Sam is an extremely warm and open person. He immediately invited us to engage in the conversation with him, and shared some of his business experiences with us. In a relaxing atmosphere we indulged our taste buds and eyes with his delicious chocolate treats, and started a really inspiring conversation about how to run and how not to run a business, how to use mystery shopping strategies to increase sales, how to improve customer satisfaction, how to reduce sick leave... We also talked about the most essential qualities a real manager should have. Not surprisingly, the first topic we tackled was that of his passion, the thing he is really into. What else could it be if not chocolate? We were all too delighted to hear that you can even lose weight if you eat dark chocolate; besides, it makes you happy.

We then talked about committed and loyal employees and how to evaluate and reward their loyalty. As a savvy businessman, he knows how to select a perfect candidate when conducting a job interview. He told us what methods he uses to recruit people, and what personality traits are the most important for him. Job interviews can make a powerful first impression. The eye contact and a big smile are essential to him. He posed a question: "What kind of relationship will a candidate who avoids eye contact and has no smile on his/her face have with customers, co-workers, subordinates and superiors?" One of his favourite surprise questions for candidates is "Tell me a joke". This is not the kind of question for which candidates can prepare in advance, and they usually do not anticipate questions like this. Such a question is intended to show him how quickly and well candidates react under some stress and pressure.

Continuing on the topic of loyalty, Sam gave us some great tips how to be a good manager of an effective and loyal team, and what his priorities are. Positive relationships with his staff and customers are key values to him. He pointed out that positivity breeds positivity. He is convinced that a good manager needs to create a good team atmosphere, see the positives in staff and their work to achieve bigger goals. It is demoralizing for staff to have someone only see what they have done wrong, or to have a manager who is constantly in bad mood. Genuine and meaningful praise and a big smile go a long way. Greeting the staff with a smile every morning helps to make them enjoy their workplace. He believes it is essential to respect the staff, inspire them, reward them, recognise their loyalty, and let them know that you see the good work they do.

Sam makes sure that any problems are tackled promptly, and that he communicates openly with his employees, keeping them informed about the state of the company. "People should know what is going on, be it good times or bad times," he says.

Another interesting point of our discussion was feedback. Sam has the habit of noting down positive as well as negative things he notices about how his employees work. Once a month, he gives them honest feedback on their performance - what they are doing well, what they could improve on and what they could start doing that they are not currently doing.

To sum up, he believes that understanding, recognition, feedback, honesty and financial transparency all contribute to good relationships and, consequently, to a successful company.

We closed the conversation by talking about one of women's favourite topics - the food. We got a few pieces of culinary advice from a professional chef. Sam told us how to make a delicious chocolate sauce and serve it with meat.

When we said goodbye, Sam looked at us one more time with his big smile on his face. I must admit that I truly enjoyed the visit to Čokoladnica Rajska ptica and the conversation with Sam. I hope that all the students agree that such visits can boost our personal and professional development, and are definitely something we would like to experience more often.