What were and are the objectives of the BBBA?
The British Bulgarian Business Association was established in 2015 in Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria. Its purpose is to bring together British and Bulgarian companies, organisations and individuals interested in doing business together and in both countries. The BBBA, although an independent and self-financing body, enjoys the full support of the British Embassy in Bulgaria and the Bulgarian Embassy in London.
Who can join the BBBA?
The BBBA is open to Bulgarian and British companies and individuals interested in bi-lateral business in both countries. Members ranges from individuals such as lawyers and translators to major international companies.
What advice are you currently giving anyone that wants to do business with the UK?
The UK is undergoing certain existential challenges at the moment in terms of its political, economic and even social future, but business and trade have always taken place and always will, whatever happens. The “Keep Calm and Carry On” slogan has never been more apt.
What about British Business looking to stay active in Bulgaria?
Nothing has changed or will change for British businesses who are active in Bulgaria. Bulgaria can only be an attractive market for UK businesses. It has the lowest corporate tax rate in Europe – 10%, the fastest internet and much greater penetration than in the UK. It is a member of the EU and NATO, so there’s no internal and external political stability to worry about. GDP growth rate is 4%. Labour costs are some of the lowest in Europe, and the labour force is one of the best educated. Language isn’t a problem either, there has been a mass campaign of English language learning amongst the younger, and even the older generation!
Do you see the role of the BBBA changing post Brexit?
The BBBA has always performed the role of a channel and bridge between Bulgarian and UK businesses, and in that function, nothing has really changed. Nevertheless, the association has been preparing itself for the new challenges and is currently undertaking an active “outreach” programme with British Chambers of Commerce and consolidating its connections and influence with a number of regional UK chambers. The BBBA is currently working closely with Essex, Thames Valley, Manchester, South Wales and Edinburgh Chambers, to organise and facilitate trade missions.
What are the most popular member activities / events?
The BBBA has a full calendar of training and social activities throughout the year. These include the monthly social gathering over a glass of beer in the British Embassy Underground Club, the “Meet the Members” events. There are also family sports days and golf days. A number of member companies also offer training days in such areas as taxation, legislation, personal coaching which might be of interest to other members.
Regardless of Brexit or not – what word of advice do you have for anyone doing business between the UK and Bulgaria?
In the current challenging climate of uncertainty, there is one certain thing – business and trade has always surmounted any kind of pressure. It’s what keeps the wheels turning and the world moving. The BBBA is here to help and a huge support network within the UK and Bulgaria. We are a first port of call for all business, small and large, wanting to work in the UK and Bulgaria. You don’t need to worry about anything, our network is here to support you.
Any funny anecdotes regarding cross cultural communication from your experience
There are many examples of the amusing, and sometimes not so amusing, instances of misunderstandings cause by cross-cultural communication. One in particular springs to mind, overheard while waiting at Sofia airport. A British businessman, clearly involved in building development, was passionately describing his frustration and anger during a recent planning meeting. He described how his Bulgarian counterpart had been shaking his head throughout the presentation in an apparent gesture of disapproval and negativity. The British developer vented his anger by throwing all the plans and documentation off the table onto the floor. Only later did he realize that Bulgarian shake and nod their heads in the opposite way to most of the rest of the world.