We pride ourselves with the diversity of the people joining our programs – they represent all industries, all verticals and company departments and all company sizes. But due to our classes taking place in a physical setting, in Bucharest, unfortunately, we don’t get to have an audience as wide spread geographically as we would have liked (though students frequently join us from Brașov and even Cluj-Napoca).
However, Oradea hasn’t been the most popular hub for EMBA students. In fact, Ovidiu Katai is one of the 2 students we’ve had from the city and he’s given us an insight into how welcoming and fun people from Ardeal are (not making any generalisations, but…maybe we are generalising a bit).
We’ve seen Ovidiu transition from a corporate role to an entrepreneur and from a dad of one to a dad of three in the years since he’s been a student in the RO10 EMBA cohort (the one that spent most of their study time in the pandemic). When he visited us recently to attend a community event, we caught up with him to see what impact the EMBA had on him, what has he done since and what are his future plans.
After 17 years in a corporate role and in the same company, you decided to make a switch towards entrepreneurship. What made you take that decision and what would you say scared you the most?
To be honest, after spending many years in a corporate role, I found myself at a crossroads. I had two options: either switch to a more dynamic domain away from corporate travel or embark on a new entrepreneurial project. The turning point came during the Covid-19 pandemic, which significantly impacted the business travel sector I was involved in, leading to an 80% drop in activity.
During the initial months of the pandemic, I was taking an online Strategy course as part of my MBA with Sergiu Negut. It was then that I realized my first strategic decision should be to leave my corporate role and pursue a new entrepreneurial venture. This decision was not without fear, considering it was my first entrepreneurial endeavour, having been an employee for many years, and being accustomed to the comfort of a stable environment.
What scared me the most was not finding people who believed in my idea. However, I was fortunate enough to share the same vision with my friend and co-founder, Paul Moca.
How is life as an entrepreneur compared to the corporate world? What are the pluses and minuses for you, in your current role?
It’s like choosing between a smooth and safe train ride or an exhilarating roller coaster journey.
The main reason that would make me choose this path again and again is that as an entrepreneur you have two extraordinary chances CREATION and IMPACT: one, you have the chance to create something unique, as you like, as you dream, with no corporate strings attached. Second, you can have a genuine impact on people’s lives through your innovative ideas and solutions.
Tell us a bit about FlatWhite Properties – how did this idea come to life?
Flatwhite Properties is a property management company. We handle properties on behalf of their owners for short and medium-term renting, taking care of both the properties and the people living in them. Currently, we manage 100+ properties, ranging from small studios to boutique-like buildings and complex groups of buildings in Oradea and nearby areas. Our team consists of 6 people, and we also work with approximately 20 contractors.
Before Flatwhite Properties, I primarily opted for hotels when it came to accommodation. However, a while back, I had the chance to rent a superb villa in Lagos, Portugal, through Airbnb, along with a group of friends. Although the experience was nearly idyllic, there were some housekeeping standards lacking from the guys operating the villa (they cleaned up the entire villa except for my bedrooms and they forgot some personal items in the villa).
This made me realize that combining beautiful properties with hotel-like operational standards could create something fantastic. While this concept has been around for decades in the US, there’s considerable potential for it in Romania and Eastern Europe as well. And so, Flatwhite Properties came to life, aiming to provide exceptional property management services.
Do you apply what you’ve learned in the Executive MBA?
After playing as a start-up for one or two years and achieving significant milestones, such as hiring our first employees and securing big contracts, I had a realization: I understood that I needed to reintegrate aspects I didn’t particularly enjoy in my previous corporate role, such as implementing processes, maintaining control, establishing efficient communication between departments, and handling finance and accounting matters. The knowledge and skills I gained during my EMBA journey proved to be immensely valuable, and I now apply them diligently in my work.
What was your favourite subject/teacher and why?
There are several exceptional teachers who have significantly impacted my learning experience, but I’ll narrow it down to three: Radu Atanasiu, who completely changed my thought process, and Sergiu Negut, who brilliantly transforms MBA learning into practical “business weapons” for the real world. A really special mention goes to Adrian Stanciu, whose remarkable ability to delve deeper into business and life subjects has helped me discover more about people and how we work as humans
I know you requested just one favorite teacher, and I mentioned two, but it’s impossible for me to condense my appreciation for these outstanding educators into just one or two choices. Each of them has left an indelible mark on my learning journey.
You’ve also become a dad during the MBA and this switch to entrepreneurship. How did you manage time in these multiple roles?
I was already a dad when I started the MBA, I became a dad a second time during my MBA, and a third time after finishing the MBA. It’s challenging, but it’s also 100 times more beautiful than I could have imagined
Running a company is not very different than being a dad to three children. You just have to do things in shorter times than usual, with fewer resources than usual, and still have your smile on at the end of the day. It’s simple if you love it!
Ovidiu is part of our 1,000+ alumni community. If you want to join it, check out our business programs. Plus, check out more about our alumni stories and find out about the next intake of our Executive MBA and Fast Track Management Program (mini MBA).