WITH A HELP FROM A FRIEND

by Bozhidara Georgieva

The requirements for European funding or of a new market make you dizzy? Look for a professional consultant

Confusion. No matter how great your business ideas are, how bright are your company's perspectives on a foreign market or how tempting look the opportunities for European funding. If you lack significant experience in the field, the clash with administration can become a source of frustration and even of losses for your business, if this discourages you from applying or entering a new market.

Difficulties, however, should not discourage you. For such cases there is an effective and reliable solution, which is good for your business and won't add more work and responsibilities to you.
The help of a consulting company, when asked for in time and received by an established company with experience and the highest standards, guarantees that you won't feel completely lost when you decide to step on a foreign market or formulate a project proposal for funding from some of the EU programmes.

"It is advisable for each company entering a foreign market to have a local partner," says Stoyan Stavrev, manager of Bulgarian Consultancy Organisation (www.bco.bg) and co-chairman of the European Funds and Programmes Committee at the Confederation of Employers and Industrialists in Bulgaria. "Each country has its own specific legislation and its national business etiquette. Particularly in the field of consultancy services, when managing projects that are relatively short term, spanning from six months to two years, foreign companies don't have neither the time, nor the economic benefits to invest resources in research and detailed familiarisation with the specifics. A partnership between local and foreign company provides the perfect mix of specific experience and knowledge about the realities in the country and foreign experience and good practices," Stoyan Stavrev adds.

Consultancy services are invaluable for companies and organisations applying for European funding. Whatever the eurosceptics say, the EU has significant resources, which it invests via the five funds of the Europe 2020 programme in regional and urban development, employment and social inclusion, agriculture and development of rural regions, maritime and fisheries, science and innovation, humanitarian aid. The cycle in the European administration begins with the call for project proposals, and include the development of one by the candidates, the selection of the proposals, signing of contracts, the implementation and monitoring of the approved projects, and their evaluation. The candidates should objectively analyse if their project proposals meet the evaluation criteria that are published in advance, and should be aware that their chance for approval is higher if the proposal meets the so-called horizontal priorities of the EU. These include gender equality, innovation, protection of the environment, energy efficiency and renewable sources of energy.

The preparation is complicated and can take a lot of time, while the language of bureaucracy is clumsy and people who are not accustomed to it often feel powerless and confused.

That is why it is important for you to have a professional consultant by your side. The professional consultant is not only fluent in the field's lingo, but also follows up what is new, and knows which programmes are open and which are yet to open for project proposals. He will estimate the potential and need of your company and project proposal, and will direct you to the best programme for you. When you project proposal is approved, he will help you to manage the process: the EU has strict requirements on the spendings, the activities allowed and the achieved results by the funded projects.

According to Borislav Igov, a CEO of the consulting company Raven Consulting Group (www.ravenbg.com), in order an for organisation to be sure in its successful application for an EU grant, it should do the following: "Select a suitable consultant. Make sure that he knows in details both your activity and the goals you have set for fulfilment through the project. Ask from him to explain in full each detail of the work, the justification and the defence of the activities, the budget, the target groups, the schedules, etc. This will allow you to bring in good ideas on the project application, after all, you know your company best. And in the end: wish yourself good luck!".

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