Business Review has launched a new campaign called #makeithappen. Every day, for a month, we will present 30 inspirational entrepreneurial stories of Romanians who turned passion, hobbies and knowledge into successful businesses. We will present the stories of entrepreneurial initiatives of all sizes in all economic fields, underlining the diversity and creativity of the local business environment. Through this campaign, Business Review is strengthening its commitment to be the go-to source for inspiring stories of Romanian entrepreneurship.
Today’s story is about Proumin, a company in Satu Mare specialized in projection, machinery and mining, founded in 1990 by Lucian Zima, with the support of his father. Over time, as they better understood the market demands, Proumin developed towards a wide range of structures and industrial metallic items, including industrial halls, transport carriers, elevators, etc., as well as assembly for hydraulic, pneumatic or electric installations. The company has over 5,000 sqm of production space, divided into four production units.
Lucian Zima says he and his father decided to open the business out of their ambition to create something sustainable and of high quality. “It’s a family business – the vision is mostly mine, but my father supported me throughout and believed in my potential,” he explains.
Before Proumin, Lucian worked as a production manager in several companies in the field. “I learned something from every company I worked in, but I got into this field thanks to my father, who inspired me ever since my childhood.” He doesn’t have children yet, but he says he would love to pass on his knowledge and skills to someone like his father did with him.
“The first two or three years in the business were relatively easy to manage, but we knew that it was the result of a favourable economic context and that we wouldn’t always be able to do so well in the future,” Lucian says.
Read another #Makeithappen story here: One-IT, the Romanian company using augmented reality to get global business
The initial investment into Proumin was EUR 35,000, but they have invested more than EUR 5 million over the years, mostly through EU funding.
“At first, getting EU funds was extremely difficult. We were close to giving up a few times and there were times when we were pressured to pay fees to certain people in the system to get our projects approved. Now it’s much better, but things still aren’t working as well as they could be,” Lucian says. “We’ve had various issues with bureaucracy, and still do, especially at the local level, but we’ve learned to overcome them.”
Proumin’s main clients are large equipment producers in the metallurgical sector (mainly in Sweden), the mining industry in France and the auto industry in Europe. The company currently has about 70 employees, including young people who they trained from scratch.
“Since 1990, many large companies have disappeared or are barely surviving due to bad management – most of them have gone through political takeovers. There are a few small or mid-sized companies in the sector, but Romania has lost a lot of know-how and it’s almost insignificant compared to the rest of Europe,” Lucian explains.
Lucian recounts the 2009 economic crisis as one of the hardest periods the company went through: “On December 31, 2009, we were at a bank and couldn’t decide whether to take out a EUR 700,000 loan for an investment. All the doors we were knocking on in Europe were closing and everything was collapsing. We had many sleepless nights, but we were lucky to have some financial liquidities available and we managed to keep our employees for small projects that didn’t make any profit, but at least kept us above the surface. It was a hard time, but we made the investment and it led to a good business opportunity.”
As for future plans, Lucian says an expansion of the company through hiring more people is difficult due to the limitations of the available workforce. “We’re currently trying to partner up with other small firms in order to be able to work on larger projects, while we continue to expand our own capacities. The next step will probably be to take over smaller company in order to develop further,” he says.
Proumin is also trying to keep up with technology by purchasing the latest equipment and software. However, Lucian says the main challenge right now is recruiting new people: “The Romanian educational system is far from what the market needs. The solution is probably to open private schools. I’ve also looked at the option of hiring foreign workers, but I’m not sure it would work so well in all industries, including in ours.” Other issues faced by companies like Proumin, he says, are the lack of vision and the very few investments made on the internal market.
Read other stories in our #Makeithappen series: