Meet our Board of Directors: An Interview with Rozalia Nistor

Rozalia Nistor, the founder and CEO of technology company Centrico Selir, and a Board Member at Endeavor Romania strikes you as someone who fully embraced her leadership persona. She is passionate about empowering others to succeed and intentional about transferring her knowledge and experience. She is on a path of lifelong learning and is determined to grow her surrounding ecosystem.

Her company is rooted in the technological revolutions led by Sella Group in the banking and financial sector. Centrico Selir specializes in delivering integrated IT solutions to institutions and companies operating in the financial world. Back in 1995, when the company launched, IT was a new and dynamic sector in Romania. Rozalia quickly identified the capacity of Romanian developers to adapt to new information technologies and programming languages.

In over 30 years of activity, Rozalia accumulated relevant experience leading global business projects, as well as transferring her knowledge through teaching. In addition to managing a company, she is an Associate Professor in the Department of Business Administration at the “Dunărea de Jos” University of Galati.

Next, she shares more about how she built a global IT company in Romania, why she joined Endeavor Romania’s Board of Directors, and what her number one advice is to entrepreneurs looking to scale their businesses.

What was your vision for Selir when you started as a CEO? How did it evolve over the years?

I considered the formation of Selir in 1995 to be one of the multiple business cases that I resolved when I was a master’s student at Bocconi University in Milan. At that time, IT was the newest and most dynamic area of activity in Romania, which had some of the most qualified top programmers worldwide. I was fascinated by this area. I believed in the Romanian programmers’ capacity to adapt quickly to new technologies and programming languages in their rush to get knowledge.

Benefiting from the contact network built in my years abroad, I found a sales market for IT. In the spring of 1995, together with my brother, we built a group of 6 programmers, which operated in a 40 square meters rented space in Galati, on the Danube banks. We were doing simple interventions on COBOL programs, which were running on a mainframe – Bull, in the property of our main client.

The structure became Sella Informatica Romania after the name of our main client and sponsor. It was involved with excellent results in ambitious projects for Sella: the 2000 millennium bug, the introduction of the Euro currency, and the creation of one of the first platforms for internet banking on the Italian market.

My brothers and I are economists. After the success with IT services, we gained confidence that we can achieve great results if we approach our economic area. There were no structures such as Endeavor at that time, which could have helped you along the way, so I used my intuition. We longed for diversification, as a way to increase the company’s sustainability, knowing that Selir belongs to the future. The IT part was rewarding, helping us to self-finance our future development, like adding back-office services, contact center assistance, and administrative credit support services. We were also lucky to meet and recruit talented professionals in our already big Selir family.

Geographically, we were isolated in Galati. We did not have easy access to information in our sector, technologies, and the network of local entrepreneurs. I tackled this shortage by participating in conferences and doing working visits abroad, where I met other Romanians doing the same thing. After such a visit, I entered the area of RPA services using the coverage of a famous Romanian brand to create software robots.

The realm of IT fascinated me because of the depth and speed at which it changes our existence and its capacity to breed new business opportunities. For Selir, technology represents the tip of the spear, what propels us into new markets and services that we can afterwards complete with our administrative ones.

Alongside technology, the management of contact with our final client, which is unique in specificity and type of management, and requires a human approach at 360 degrees, remains an important activity, which we must develop in the future. In the middle, we have activities with high value-added that will differentiate us from the competition and help us consolidate our current position.

What were your biggest challenges growing the company, and how did you overcome them?

One of the most difficult projects was the creation of the Contact Center Structure in 2006 in Romania. We aimed to offer assistance and support to the final customers of our clients – Italian banking institutions. Our operators experienced difficulties communicating with our clients, mainly due to cultural differences, such as language barriers. Clients were also resistant to the fact that we were responding from a non-EU country. To deal with this resistance, determined firstly by cultural differences, we arrived at the following reasoning: “It is important to resolve our clients’ problems independently from foreign language inflexibility, and the clients will be grateful”. We turned this conviction into a cultural value.

Why did you decide to join the Board of Directors of Endeavor Romania?

The years dedicated to business were years of challenges, sometimes hard years because of the new business elements, which came all together with resistance from the Romanian reference medium in which we operate. I consider my duty to transfer my accumulated experience in these not-so-easy decades, to the new generations of entrepreneurs. I am already doing this by sharing my experience with students of the Economy and Business Administration University, same as other professors that planted in me the idea of entrepreneurship. I consider that the entrepreneurial atmosphere must be helped by all others that, like myself, have something to share. The transfer of competency, knowledge and experience is done smoothly in a structure like Endeavor, in which the objective is the promotion of local entrepreneurship and helping it find the best way to grow and scale in the areas it operates.

In your opinion, what is still missing in the Romanian entrepreneurial ecosystem, and what are the next steps that need to be taken for the community to reach the next level?

Starting from the 8 pillars of an entrepreneurial system, I would say that Romania is still lagging on the availability of an educated workforce. As we know, the development of an entrepreneurial startup requires various forms of knowledge, be it practical, analytical or creative, which increases the chances for success. Without the capacity to filter and fully digest massive amounts of knowledge and data, a business will not be able to grow beyond the initial enthusiasm of its founders.

In the short term, I see universities as potential catalysts, building programs alongside local companies, providing practical training for their students, and inviting local investors or CEOs who could provide valuable models to continuously encourage the entrepreneurial mindset of each generation.

In the medium and long run, there must be a strong emphasis at the government level on education in schools and colleges to promote positive attitudes towards entrepreneurship. I would also suggest the creation of entrepreneurial campuses to support current and recent students to start businesses. Without a systematic, national policy, future development will be fragmented and a lot of ideas and human capital will be left unused.

What would be your number one advice for entrepreneurs looking to scale their businesses?

Build a great team – this is my number one advice. Being successful, especially when it comes to scaling, means relying on high-performance teams that include members with a balanced set of skills. Not every individual must possess superlative technical and social skills, but overall the team needs a healthy dose of both. Scaling means setting goals, preparing, implementing and developing; therefore, having diversity in terms of knowledge, views, and perspectives will help companies be more creative and avoid setbacks.

How would you measure your success moving forward, both personally and as part of Endeavor Romania?

During my academic career, I learned that the level of success for a professor is measured first and foremost through the overall results of their students. Their research resulting in either published books or articles comes second.

Symmetrically, we could measure our success as Endeavor members by the results of the local entrepreneurs that we support: their development and scaling at a global level would be the most rewarding aspect for our team. So, in the future, alongside the good results of Selir, I will also consider the success of local entrepreneurs and members of the Endeavor network as benchmarks of my professional career.