An interview with Iliya Zogovic, CEO of ONEtoONE Corporate Finance USA.
Can you tell us how you came to be in your current position?
Iliya Zogovic: I don’t have what you would call the “traditional” investment banking background! I started my career working for a marketing company based out of Mexico City, where I got first-hand experience on finance and operations at a very early age, and later on, I started a credit business, where I learned that financial services are not as complicated as we make them sound!
I eventually exited both businesses, and I was ready for a new adventure with a bag full of tools and skills acquired but nowhere to put them to use. Life works in mysterious ways, and this time it put Enrique Quemada (ONEtoONE Corporate Finance Chairman) and me in the same path: Enrique was looking to crack into the U.S. market and I was looking for a new adventure, so it was a perfect match. Building an investment bank from scratch in the USA would sound like a crazy idea to most people, but not for him. I guess the day he saw me come back from a 30k run in the middle of a polar storm – there was an official alert not to go outside, but I I had to do that according to my training plan – he knew that I was the right person to take on the challenge.
What do you like about ONEtoONE?
Iliya Zogovic: What I like the most about ONEtoONE is that we really help business owners. We are not making the ultra rich richer or helping raise money for crazy ideas that we don’t know if will work or not. We work to help business owners realize their life work and create a future for their families. We work for the business owners – not for the transaction – and that is very important to me.
Moreover, the interactive structure of ONEtoONE is unique, and I love the idea of being part of a team that works together and leverages each other’s strengths while we support all of our weaknesses. We will always be better as a sum than as individuals; that is why we came up with the idea of a collaborative matrix while building the USA team.
How do you build a relationship based on trust with entrepreneurs along the process of helping them sell their business?
Iliya Zogovic: Trust is only built with honesty and by listening! We always lead with honesty admitting what we know and what we don’t know, and we build on that by listening to entrepreneurs and learning from them. A common investment banker mistake is to try to show that he knows it all; that is why we start by recognizing that the client knows his industry better than we ever will, and by recognizing that, we immediately open the door for him to recognize that we know more about corporate finance than he ever will. A symbiotic relationship is immediately formed.
Do you have any hobbies that you feel have added value to you as an M&A professional?
Iliya Zogovic: I think that my passion for endurance sports and skiing is very transferable to M&A, especially because in both cases you need to create a strong foundation before you can be good. And just like in an M&A deal, the finish line is not near the start, but that makes crossing it that much sweeter. Also, just as in M&A, you will want to quit many times during the race, but that is exactly where you get stronger, better, and separate yourself from the rest.