Eftim Eftimov ('08, EMBA '18) on Juggling Work, Free Time and Giving Back
Eftim Eftimov is a busy professional with a hectic schedule. As his colleague, Diana Mihaylova, says, he works on several fronts. Currently, Eftimov manages the Bulgarian office of Montway, an auto transportation company. As a founder of 1% Change, an NGO which helps people and animals, and Property Club, an online real estate crowdfunding platform, Eftimov also devotes some of his time to these organizations. Despite being very busy, he took some time to talk to me online from his office.
Eftimov graduated from the American University in Bulgaria (AUBG) in 2008. When he started his first year in 2004, the university attempted to establish a bachelor's program for Business Administration in Sofia. Eftimov, together with around 25 students, was part of the program. During his freshman year, he stayed in his hometown Sofia and went to classes in the Elieff Center. “The faculty traveled from Blagoevgrad to Sofia to deliver the classes,” he says.
After Eftimov’s first year in Sofia, the administration asked the whole class to move to Blagoevgrad. “I often say that I took three years of the full AUBG experience, and I also missed my freshman year at AUBG in Blagoevgrad.” The class of 25 students which started in Sofia is distinguished for one more reason. “We are the only graduates of AUBG that graduated with a different diploma than everybody else, which is a BBA – Bachelors of Business Administration,” he says smilingly.
In 2017, nine years after graduation, Eftimov joined AUBG’s Executive MBA (EMBA) program in Sofia. “I knew I would do an EMBA one day, but I didn’t want to go for it immediately after graduation,” he says. First, he wanted to gain some experience in an international company. He decided to take the EMBA because the scope of his responsibilities expands, including Human Resources and Marketing. “My role started to shift from execution to management,” Eftimov says. Before going for an EMBA, he had been occupied in the real estate sphere.
Eftimov managed to secure his first job a few months before finishing his undergrad through a friend who worked for Colliers International, a real estate consultancy company. Eftimov started his first job on the very next day after the commencement ceremony. “I didn’t have a single day to notice what is going on,” he says. The knowledge and skills he had received at AUBG helped him do financial modeling at Colliers. “We were doing valuation models for large real estate properties,” he says. Eftimov had a lot of opportunities to learn and work with big customers. “These three years that I spent there were another university after the university,” he says.
After Colliers, he ended up working in the banking sector for four years. He was at Raiffeisen Bank for one year and at Alpha Bank from 2012 to 2015. In both of the places, Eftimov was dealing with the real estate within the corporation. “I was responsible for the entire real estate portfolio of [Alpha Bank] – 1.5 billion in assets,” he says. While working there, he started managing a team for the first time. “It was funny because most of the people in the bank were older than me, but overall it worked,” he says.
Eftimov did not like the banking culture because decisions were taken fairly slowly. “I didn’t feel that the bank environment is my environment and I had to do something drastic,” he says as his voice goes up. Seven years after graduation he applied for a secondary role for the AUBG Musical “All Shook Up.” After the audition, they offered him the lead. “It was an amazing experience because I was living in Sofia, working at the bank, and having my corporate suit and tie life. Every weekend I traveled back to Blagoevgrad for rehearsals,” Eftimov says. At around that time, he decided to quit the bank and try something new. He took a few months off to recharge and decided to go on an entrepreneurial journey.
In December 2015, Eftimov founded his first start-up company Property Club. It is an online platform that allows people to invest in a project and take a share of the profit after the property is sold. Property Club is the first real estate crowdfunding platform in South-Eastern Europe. He came up with the idea by looking for new concept ideas and innovations in the real estate space. “I have read an article that crowdfunding started to become something big in the U.S.,” Eftimov says. “I thought that it would be the trend worldwide and decided to start it in Bulgaria. The timing was also good because the prices of real estate were rising.”
During his time off work in 2015, Eftimov read “How to change the world,” a book that inspired him to establish the 1% Change NGO together with a close friend. It has created a community of people who are willing to do social good by sharing one percent of their monthly income with people in need. With the money collected, they do different causes – helping kids, the elderly, talented students, and animal shelters. “AUBG played a big role in the development of 1% Change because it is much easier to convey the idea to open-minded people, willing to help,” Eftimov says. The organization donates 150,000 BGN annually. “We are now classified among the large players in this field,” he says.
Although Eftimov still continues to maintain and run Property Club and 1% Change, his professional responsibilities are mainly related to Montway. It is a U.S.-based logistics company for auto transport which he joined four years ago. Eftimov manages the Bulgarian office and works closely with U.S. management on everything which is finance and strategy related. “It is a mixture of people management and business development,” he shares when talking about his job responsibilities. His co-worker, Mihaylova, says that since his first day at Montway, he has grown as a professional. “Only for two-three years, he managed to get into the details of the business,” she says. “He was never afraid of taking responsibilities.” Mihaylova describes him as ambitious, a great professional, and a fast learner. “I haven’t met another person like him,” she says. “He is successful in everything he does.” Moreover, Eftimov is always open to help. “He is benevolent and communicative with all,” Mihaylova says. “There is no difference between him, as part of the management team, and the rest of the employees.”
Eftimov also finds time to give back to society not only through 1% Change, but also by being a member of the AUBG Council. He is part of the Finance and Property Committee and Development Committee. “We help the executive people within AUBG to find donors for the university and work with stakeholders.”
To recharge Eftimov tries not to think about work-related stuff after he has left the office. “I manage to achieve this by being super busy with something else,” he says smilingly. “That’s what I call active relaxation.” In his spare time, he hikes, plays football and tennis, watches movies, or goes out with friends. He has climbed several of the mid-high peaks around the world. While talking about his interests, he says energetically: “If this is a true profile of myself, then it is important to mention that I am a huge Liverpool supporter.” Eftimov watches the English Primer League with a lot of interest. He also plays tennis almost every morning before work. “This gives me a physical boost and charges me for the working day,” he says. Eftimov believes it is important to have habits and routines both in his work and spare time.
His future goals include setting up another NGO which will be dealing with plastic recycling. He also aims to become better at what he does. “Currently what I am mostly focused on is developing and growing organizations, meaning the people within the organizations. I want to see a positive impact on people around me, people developing and growing in their professional lives,” he says.
This story is part of a series of alumni profiles by current students for professor Laura Kelly's Advanced Writing for Media class.