The fourth Interregional policy learning meeting of the STOB regions project took place on 21st and 22nd of March 2018 in Plovdiv, Bulgaria.

The first day was dedicated to introducing the participants to the focus of the workshop: Different target groups of potential buyers. The aim of the workshop was to increase inter regional learning on the specific target groups unique to each region, such as female buyers, migrants and employee buy-outs. The partners discussed experiences, different strategies and methods on how to address the groups, in the quest to secure and foster an extended buyer base in business transfer cases.

The inaugural speech and introduction to the day's proceedings was delivered by Mrs. Evelina Apostolova, Regional Vice Governor of Plovdiv Region. The first of the two thematic lectures followed with Prof. Iordanka Aleksieva  PhD, Vice Rector for International Integration and Qualification Improvement, Plovdiv University of Food Technology presenting the topic "Universities and business transfer". The second lecture entitled "Basic legal and psychological problems of business succession", by Dr. Dobrina Prodanova PhD, Chairwoman of the Board, Chamber of Commerce and Industry Plovdiv, presented the barriers and potential solutions of legal and emotional aspects with focus on family succession cases. 

Following on from the thematic lectures, each of the STOB regions partners presented their contributions towards the workshop focusing on the topic from the perspective of their own region. The topic generated alternative viewpoints and concepts to differentiate the various buyer groups beyond those pre-submitted for exploration.

After the partners' contribution, the interactive workshop was initiated by the scientific advisory partner, the participants began working collectively on the focused topic of different target groups of potential buyers and presented their findings, classifications and recommendations to finalize day one of the event.

Day two began with a walkshop, presenting regional good practices related to theme of succession and business transfer. The two highlights were "House of distillation" and "Hotel-restaurant Odeon". Case Restaurant Odeon tells of a tale of a succession whereby the son was originally not planning to take over the family business, and instead embarked on an academic path. However the son reignited his love for the culinary art and after some time deepening his craft in Europe and America, returned to Plovdiv and where the transfer of the restaurant component of the business was finalized. He now plays a pivotal role in one of Plovdiv's most recognized and acclaimed restaurants. 

Following the morning session, an introduction of the regional situation from Communication Manager RDA BSC SMEs Plovdiv, Mr. Aleksander Tonkov introducing the Good practice and National Statistical Institute's project " Family Business Statistics in Bulgaria".

In quick succession where two introductions to the regional situation in Plovdiv, the first Mrs. Toni Simidchieva, Chairwoman representative of the Regional Craft Chamber with an overview of "Business Organizations in Bulgaria and Business Transfer". The second overview explained "The Promotion and Support SME Tools" , by Mr. Vladimir Penov, Senior Expert in Communication and SME competitiveness at the Executive Agency of SMEs.

A lively panel discussion followed with participation from all project partners and experts from the earlier proceedings. Key messages from the panel discussion in the form of recommendations include a deepened cooperation base between research and business in addition, and of urgent importance to establish a centralized or first-level contact point for business transfers.

A regional SWOT analysis rounded of the second day and finalized the event, whereby each partner provided their unique and external understanding of the Plovdiv region and situation of business transfer .

Key strengths apparent for the Plovdiv Region and in relation to its business transfer situation includes a centralized tool: a compilation of good practice examples of Family Business in Bulgaria, as well as the size and diversity of the Plovdiv region. However key weaknesses discussed include the cohesive growth based on apparent fragmentation. Opportunities provided during the session include leveraging upon the cultural heritage of the region, and the development of return programs to bolster not only the labor market but to also expand the buyer base.

The fourth workshop once again deepened the knowledge transfer between the project partners and explored in great detail the theme of Different target groups of potential buyers and developed new ideas and recommendations for policy learning. The fifth installment of the STOB regions inter regional workshop is to be held in Southern Denmark, on 26th and 27th June 2018. More info here.