FROM CHAOS TO STABILITY
Miha Matlievski is a mentor for successful entrepreneurs who want to improve their business and reduce their working hours from 60+ to 4-6 hours per week, while improving their financial performance. He helps them achieve this through setting up effective systems.
Miha turned his own massive business failure into learnings, through which he found ways to overcome basic mistakes in running a business and setting up company structures. This resulted in him having nine companies in various industries with revenues from €1 million to €100 million.
Miha has successfully collaborated with over 4,000 entrepreneurs and improved over 150 small and medium-sized enterprises.
He specialises in rapid business growth and development – he reached over €10 million in revenue within a year in his last business.
The NS Drafter company provides construction shop drawing services – creating rebar detailing, formwork plans and 3D models of various types of buildings for clients from across Europe and the rest of the world.
It was founded in 2018 by six young construction enthusiasts, Aleksandra, Aljosa, Milan, Milos, Nikola, and Ognjen, with the initial idea to work on freelance projects together. They now have over 30 employees and over 20 external associates.
They have achieved high levels of service through a rigorous and detailed quality control process, thus gaining long-term trust from their customers.
So far, they have collaborated with over 60 clients and completed over 400 projects.
COOPERATION BETWEEN MIHA AND ‘THE DRAFTERS’
NS Drafter initially faced many challenges that are typical for most emerging companies. In the first two years of running the business, their development was rapid, but also volatile; the successes and volume of work were inconsistent, and financials were unstable. Despite the great desire, energy and efforts they invested, they lacked experience in running a business and having efficient organisation and systematisation of work, which led to perpetual problems.
Ognjen, Milos and Nikola from NS Drafter talk about what the cooperation with Miha was like and how increased productivity brought them not only significant business success, but more free time and satisfaction as well.
In March 2020, NS Drafter decided to start cooperation with Miha Matlievski. Miha identified the underlying problems and helped them to introduce structure and order, through clearly defined roles and responsibilities. Establishing new business processes has led to steady sales and continuous growth.
In less than a year of cooperation, in the first quarter of 2021, NS Drafter doubled its revenues compared to the same quarter in 2020, while maintaining the same number of employees. The second quarter of 2021 saw a 235% increase in revenue compared to the first quarter of 2020 and the growth trend is expected to continue in the following quarters.
POST-ESTABLISHMENT PERIOD – LACK OF STRUCTURE
One of the company’s founders, Nikola Markovic, who later became Chief Executive Officer (CEO), describes the period before working with Miha as chaotic.
– We were totally disorganised. We were feeling our way through; we didn’t know what a company was. We thought that pure effort was enough, especially if we work 18 hours a day. We tried and we did our best, however due to our inexperience and excessive desire to progress, we made some mistakes that could have cost us dearly. Everything was volatile and in peaks, sometimes very good, and sometimes very bad, however we were unable to create stability – claims Nikola.
Since their company was a start-up, they financed it from personal funds. They grew quickly, nevertheless that growth, they say, could have quickly overwhelmed them.
Ognjen Mihajlovic, another founder of the company, is now the Chief Technical Officer (CTO). This future civil engineer says that it was only with Miha’s help that they understood what company management and roles and responsibilities really meant.
– We can say that we were a group of people who were pretending to run a company. We started as six freelancers sitting and working together in a shared space. No structure existed. We dug through Upwork, and in March 2018, we started our first joint project. Within three months, we managed to gather enough business and clients from various countries, so we started to expand and hire employees. In June, we started a company, filled with desire to have as many clients as possible and for our work to be of highest quality – says Ognjen.
Another co-founder, Milos Markovic, now the Chief Sales Officer (CSO), points out that they did not know what was necessary to run a company
– We had an immature approach, as we didn’t know any better. Each of us knew our jobs, yet no one had the knowledge of running a company. We thought that everything could be resolved democratically, however democracy only works in peace, that is, when you are financially stable – says Milos.
Their business expanded quickly through freelance platforms. At the very beginning, they also created a website through which a significant number of clients contacted them. In the first year, certain roles began to differentiate, so one of the guys turned to marketing, another to finance, while the other four continued to work in technical sector. In addition, Ognjen stood out as the future CTO. Although it seemed idyllic at first glance, the founders soon noticed some problems.
– We were wasting a lot of time. Each internal meeting lasted too long, for three, four hours, whether we were deciding to buy office supplies, or go to a conference, or accept a new client … We didn’t know who should decide what, so decisions were made very slowly. We thought that, as founders, we were all equal, so we had to make decisions together – Ognjen describes this period.
BUSINESS CRISES AND THE FIRST MEETING WITH MIHA
In late 2018, they experienced their first crisis. Until then, 80% of their revenue came from a single client, which they realised was a mistake, as at that time that client did not have enough projects to sustain them. There were already 18 employees in the company, for whom suddenly there was not enough work. Logically, they focused on rapidly looking for new clients, however they realised how difficult it was to find them quickly. Another mistake was that they were all looking for new clients as they did not have a single person in charge of sales. Their results were disappointing and they had to reduce the number of employees to 13 and cut the working hours in half. Seeing that they were at a standstill, they decided to connect with people from the wider business world to gather knowledge about managing a company.
– We started attending all possible conferences, seminars, meet-ups. It was at the workshop “How to build the right team” that we first met Miha Matlievski. Listening to our story, he said that he saw potential in us, but that we were “rough diamonds” and that a lot of work was needed. He recognised our passion, energy, will and desire, but also that we did not really know what we were doing. He offered to help us, however we didn’t consider this seriously at first – Ognjen explains
In early 2019, the company once again managed to acquire a lot of projects and everyone returned to their responsibilities. Over the following year they did the best that they could, however they faced a new decline in the business by the end of the year. For the first time that they did not have enough funds to pay salaries, so they paid them out of their personal savings. They did not have focus, nor did they know how to separate the good from the bad. All this was a significant burden.
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THE BEGINNING OF COOPERATION AND FIRST RESULTS
It was in that period that Miha reappeared with an invitation to a new workshop that the three of them attended every Monday. Listening to Miha’s advice at the “Entrepreneurial Freedom” workshops, they very quickly started to realise and correct their previous mistakes. In March 2020, regardless of the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Drafters began a serious cooperation with him.
Right at the beginning, Miha told them that six people cannot decide on everything jointly and that they must determine dedicated roles. He advised them which roles they should create and gave them guidelines on determining who would be the best for which role.
The Drafters soon got to work and formed a structure. They determined who would be the CEO, the CTO, and CSO through several meetings. Then project managers, a marketing manager and a financial manager were also appointed.
– Miha told us that everything must be precisely defined, that sectors must be determined and that sales must operate 24/7, and not only when we lack clients. Until that point, we were doing the opposite – when there was no work, we all chased clients and stopped doing our jobs. It was only when we started working with him that we realised all those omissions. I remember that he told us that he is preparing us to be a much bigger company and that we need strong foundations for that to happen – describes Milos.
Once they had laid those foundations by introducing appropriate structures, a significant change followed very quickly, in all aspects of the business. With clear assignment of roles, they had fewer unnecessary meetings, shorter meetings and faster decision-making, in other words – they saved their time. After only five months of intensive work with Miha, the Drafters have an abundance of projects, because one person could exclusively dedicate their time to making sales. Every project since then has been done properly, showing that the changes made in this period were the right ones. They already have projects lined up for the next year and beyond. All that, as they say, brings great feelings of security and relief.
As Nikola sees it, the assigned roles also brought changes in terms of a sense of responsibility.
– When you do something for which no one is accountable, you subconsciously think that someone else will fix it if you make a mistake. When you know that you are responsible for something, then you have to complete it – explains Nikola.
In addition, Miha insisted on creating procedures and systematisation, so the Drafters followed his advice and are working on defining processes for each job role, most of which have already been completed.
FINANCIAL GROWTH AND FAST DEVELOPMENT THROUGH MENTORING
Now changes are happening extremely fast. The company is growing the number of employees again and are in a new restructuring phase. There are now 33 of them, which is low compared to the amount of work they have, however that is made possible by improved work distribution. From a financial standpoint, in 2021, the revenue in the first quarter has doubled, where in the second quarter has more than tripled, in comparison to the first quarter of 2020.
Another crucial piece of advice from Miha was not having to constantly hire new people for the increasing volume of work. He encouraged them to seek help outside the company, and they enrolled a company to do work for them, plus a dozen part-time, external associates. In this way, he saw a significant opportunity to expand quickly, without increasing the number of employees. The team’s productivity has increased by about 30%. The only sensible way to progress was to turn to outsourcing and effectively have a company made up of project managers, quality control and sales, while drafting itself is outsourced to associates.
This presented them with some new challenges, however as it enabled them to achieve rapid growth without logistical challenges, the need to expand the office space or purchase expensive software, this proved to be the more cost-effective option overall.
– We used to be reluctant to entrusting our work to someone outside of the company, so we ruled that option out entirely. We thought that this option would be detrimental to the business due to loss of control and that we could only maintain the high quality if work was to remain in-house. Miha opened our minds to outsourcing and now we see that it can be an excellent option – Nikola is convinced.
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MENTOR AS SUPPORT IN EVERY SITUATION
Still, whenever they have a dilemma, the Drafters consult with their mentor. Through countless examples, his direction has proved to be extremely valuable.
When they had the idea to target major projects, Miha warned them that it was a significant risk for the company, as they could find themselves in a difficult situation if that one big project, in which they invested all of their efforts, came to a stop. He advised them to stick to medium-sized projects for now, which they can have more of, so there would be no large impact if something was to happen to one of them.
As far as selecting clients are concerned, the Drafters used to solely use their intuition, however that has changed. They completed market research to see if the markets they were targeting were appropriate for them, since they did not do this at the very beginning, when it is usually done. He taught them what their “ideal client” was and why it was important to know their characteristics. The volume of work continues to increase, so the Drafters are constantly looking for new associates.
– The company is unrecognisable from a year ago: financial growth, long-term stability in terms of business and clearly defined responsibilities for everyone. At first, we saw Miha once a week, then we reduced it to once a month, yet he still guides and advises us in our work – adds Ognjen.
Miha’s knowledge of psychology also helped the Drafters to introduce valuable changes in their relationships with others. He taught them how to choose the right people for the company, advised them to set and write the company values and clearly define their mission and vision.
Milos adds that Miha’s straightforward approach meant a lot to him personally
– His firmness helped me a lot. He is frank, direct and clear, without ambiguity. He does not embellish the situation; everything he tells us is concise and precise. I think that he has also helped us grow as people; he taught us there is no space for ego in business – Milos explains.
Nikola claims that Miha’s mentoring program and continual communication with them changed their overall view on life, because he taught them that a person must be personally fulfilled first, in order for his business to survive. He encouraged them to have hobbies, so now they play football regularly.
STRIVING FOR FREEDOM
The others confirm that Miha’s influence is also visible in other aspects of their lives. That is why they continue to cooperate with him, and they cannot imagine what would have happened if Miha had not helped them at that crucial moment. The common goal that these hardworking construction experts strive for is to have fair and genuine relationships with everyone, both employees and associates, and to solve problems that stand in the way of their business success.
Nikola also emphasises something fundamental to which Miha drew their attention and which they had neglected until then.
– Our ultimate goal is freedom. Money certainly brings freedom, however apart from money, everyone has their own definition of freedom. For some, freedom is to be able to go on holiday five times a year, for others it is to buy an expensive car, for some to be able to dedicate time to their family … Everyone’s dreams are different. The common idea is to have more time for activities outside of work and that working hours are no more than eight hours a day, or even less … – Nikola thinks.
There is still a lot of work to be done for the Drafters, as they need to adequately address the challenges ahead of them. However, the important thing is that, with Miha’s help, they have excellent direction and have paved their own way. At a time when many companies have closed down or are on the brink of collapse due to the challenges brought on by the pandemic, they have grown their business. Not only did they overcome the difficulties they faced before, they managed to prosper in the midst of the global crisis caused by the COVID-19 virus.
– The most important thing for us is the clarity of the structure we now have and the constant reminder of the foundations we have built. We finally know what to strive for. Now we can look at the bigger picture and move towards not accepting every client at any cost, but striving to cooperate with the ideal client, which Miha frequently reminds us of – Milos notes.
From a company where everyone was doing every job, and no one knew anything about running the business, where there was a significant waste of time and a risk of shutting down, after Miha’s mentoring program, they grew into a serious company in which all the roles are clearly defined. The mission, vision and values are set, the work processes are defined, the number of projects and external associates is growing, and the business is expanding. Recently, they moved into a 300m2 (3200 square feet) office space, from the 135m2 (1400 square feet) which they occupied previously.
Regardless of how much they have progressed and how successful their company is today, these young entrepreneurs are aware of the importance of having someone to advise and support them, and that is why they are sticking with Miha. They believe that together they will achieve much greater levels of success and accomplish themselves in both business and personal lives