Dana Denis-Smith: “Having the strength to overcome difficulties, this is what life means!”
In 2010 she became the first woman entrepreneur born in Romania included in “35 business women under 35”, a top produced by Management Today, the most respected magazine for Great Britain`s managers. In 2011, she had launched a worldwide innovative start-up about which she says it is possible to grow up to 50 million pounds until 2020.
Despite the fact that she is a successful Romanian entrepreneur, Dana Denis-Smith is better known abroad than in Romania. I first “met” Dana during a discussion about the exceptional professors who are included in the YoungLeadersClub project and I found it extraordinary that a Romanian woman had the courage to go beyondall the theories that are there on work & life balance, and to attempt transforming the labor market within an extremely competitive market and economy – the legal services, in the United Kingdom – for herself and for hundreds of people with whom she collaborates.
I send her an email but I was convinced she would never reply, thinking that certainly she wouldn`t have the time to do so; but, I was deeply surprised that, not only she replied and complied to the very short deadline, but she also responded to my request during an extremely sad period of her life.
Therefore, if I were to make Dana`s moral portrait, I would first and foremost include reliability, sincerity and honesty. I have invited her to discuss the path she travelled from Agnita, the city of 8.000 inhabitants located 60 km from Sibiu, her birthplace, to the heart of London`s business environment, and from a beginner journalist working for a local newspaper to the entrepreneur who has 800 collaborators.
“I started working in journalism immediately after I graduated from high school, first it was for a local newspaper in Sibiu, and afterwards I moved to London where I worked with various media organizations”, Dana recalls and she starts mentioning some names, but she does it simply, without any pompousness, despite the fact that these are media giants: Reuters, BBC World, The Economist Group. She says that “journalism and writing in general, do remain her calling” and she always gladly responds to the invitations she receives to write articles for various blogs.
In Dana`s opinion, journalism and law are quite connected to each other because they both focus on the art of the word and this could be one of the reasons for which, after her career in the British press, Dana Denis Smith joined the world of lawyers. She believes that journalism comes together with another very important quality for everyone: adaptability, a feature that translates into the ability of writing on many subjects, but not necessarily with much depth. So she could be able to focus on more profound matters, Dana chose to give up her career as a journalist and she became a lawyer.
“I have decided to become a lawyer inorder to create an expertise, to have a deeper focus on a certain matter”. She worked as a lawyer for ten years and had some good performances in the London and Amsterdam teams of the Linklaters company. “I was a lawyer ten years ago. My day would not have a beginning or an end; I would work without any stop.”
In the year 2007, she took the decision of starting her own business, and the expertise she gained as a lawyer – but aslo as a journalist for The Economist Group – where she collaborated with EIU, the economical analysis and forecasts department of the group – had convinced her to move towards investments consulting for the emergent countries. Three years after opening the consulting company Marker Global, Dana Denis Smith was the first Romanian women entrepreneur included in the “Top 35 business women under 35 years old”, made by the best known managers` magazine in the United Kingdom – Management Today.
“The top itself means recognition for the leader of a business. It is a stepping stone that can help on the path to success, but at the end of the day, what matters is that words must be followed by actions. The recognition can be fully enjoyed only if it is based on the reality of a successful company”, explains Dana.
The business that offers free time for lawyers
In the same year, Dana decided to start another business. Most probably, if this business had existed during her time as a lawyer, it would have offered her some free time. Obelisk Support provides legal consulting services to legal departments or lawyer firms that are in need for larger teams for their projects.
“The idea came to me in 2010, while I was in India; back then, there was a popular trend for multinational companies to transfer their administrative operations to India or other countries that paid lower salaries. At that time, they started discussing about labor transfer in the legal field. So, I decided that one method that would reduce employment costs would be using lawyers that want a more flexible schedule, so they can have time for their families.
After founding the company, I became a mother myself, therefore during the first year of activity things moved a bit slower”. The growth of this business came in the second year. Practically speaking,”the annual growth up to now was 200%, and the plan is to continue this growth, so that, by 2020, we shall reach an income of 40 million pounds and a global presence on other services segments, such as accounting for example.
In four years, we gathered over 800 collaborators,” Dana says. This new start-up allows Dana and her collaborators to have time also for their families. If ten years ago her work day would only begin, but it would never end, now things have radically changed. “Now, I begin my day together with my little girl, I prepare her for school in as many mornings as possible. My work day is actually a combination between teamwork and meeting with the clients. In the evening, I try to get home at 6 pm so I can be with my family”.
She doesn’t believe in failure
Dana says she doesn`t believe in failure and this is why she did not think of a plan B for her new business. “If I knock on the wrong door, I try to find the good one. But, I regularly ask myself why do I do the things I do? I ask myself whether I continue to be passionate and interested in them and whether the direction I follow is the one I desire. It is immature to think that you can control all the results, because very often there results are not entirely up to you. There is no plan B if the market doesn`t accept the services you have to offer. When you are an entrepreneur, there is the risk that a product will be unsuccessful. I believe in learning from my mistakes and continuously improving the things I do. That is why I have never dealt with failure. I have been through some rough moments and I had to overcome them, this is what life means”.