ATG Interviews Pinar Erzin, Founder and President, Accucoms
ATG Inter views Pinar Erzin, Founder and President, Accucoms
Founder and President, Accucoms
ATG: Pinar, your parent company Swets
was declared bankrupt in September 2014 and
along with it Accucoms. Did you have any
indication that Swets, and hence Accucoms,
were in such serious trouble?
PE: Absolutely not! We were working hard to finalize the sale of former Swets
Information Services (SIS), including all
its subsidiaries. As the deal we thought
was almost signed fell apart, we heard the
news. Accucoms had actually no financial
trouble, however since SIS acquired 100% of
Accucoms’ shares in August 2011, we were
automatically pushed towards bankruptcy.
When your parent company dies, it pulls you along, unfortunately. Or maybe I should say fortunately…
ATG: There was a period for about two
months after the bankruptcy where things
were fairly uncertain for Accucoms. What
was that time like for you and your staff?
What were your biggest fears and challenges?
How did you overcome them?
PE: From the moment that I received the
internal email on 22 September 2014 until the
rebirth of Accucoms on 6 November 2014, I
found myself in the biggest fight of my business
life. We were in boot camp. Multiple things
happened during those weeks: Accucoms
was also declared bankrupt, our employment
agreements were terminated, obviously and
rightfully my team was very concerned about
their future. I have always tried
communicating progress with staff as openly as possible.
We had regular calls so they knew what was
going on. I told them to seek and find jobs, that
I would personally contact their future employ
ers and help find good spots for each of them.
They are all very well trained and skilled
professionals with excellent multilingual capacity
as well as fantastic personalities/attitude. This
was my number one priority: Help team move
further in life with minimum damage. At the
same time, I was in talks with the Trustee, as
well as many respected companies,
competitors, and investors about a potential acquisition
of Accucoms. What really happened is this:
We didn’t sleep, didn’t go out or socialize... We calculated, talked, forecasted, thought “yes” and then thought “no,” negotiated, made a decision, and acted on it.
ATG: How did your customers react? How did you allay their fears and concerns?
PE: Just like with my team, I remained
very transparent about the situation and what
we were trying to achieve with our customers.
I received nothing but support! I can fully
confirm that honesty and transparency always
pays back, often in multitudes. What we went
through is the proof of this. Since we no
longer had any company money to spend, we had
to cancel our annual customer day ACCUfest
2014, but decided to go to Frankfurt Book
Fair and bring the beer for the traditional
BEERfest with our own resources. It was
the smartest decision ever! The moment I
stepped on the fairground, I knew we were
going to make it! We met publishers,
librarians, consortia leaders, competitors, and
several companies. All conversations were
positive. I knew that one way or the other
my company would survive this crisis. If not,
it would be my failure with so much support
we received from everyone. You see, most
of our customers saw me setup this business
from scratch. They were part of our history
and they wouldn’t want us to disappear. The
message I received was clear: “We don’t care
about the name of the company or the color
of the brand. We are with you as long as you
have your team and the quality you provided
us with until now.” See, the keyword here is
“the team!” Without them there is nothing:
no customers, no business, nothing.
ATG: Fortunately, you and the other
stakeholders were able to buy back and restart
Accucoms. Can you tell us about that? How
did you make that deal happen? Who are
the major stakeholders of the newly formed
PE: At the very beginning of the crisis, I
involved my Management Team (MT) in the
conversations and the “making of” the
acquisition. During the three years when we were
under the SIS flag, if I did one thing really well,
it was investing in a strong MT which consists
of three highly successful professionals in our
industry: Egon Menardi, Simon Boisseau,
and Rakesh Malik. The MT, along with the
rest of our team, is the core of our business.
How we made the deal happen? That’s a
difficult question. Let me see. I explained
the situation and possibilities to staff and
customers. We evaluated all external acquisition
approaches. We made millions of calculations.
We did a lot of soul searching about full, shared
or non-ownership. Additional to this, we knew
everything about the company, so it was very
clear that we could make the best offer to buy
the company. We decided that independence
would be the best choice for customers, team,
and ourselves and went for it. I should add
“luck” as an element too. I felt very lucky
with everyone’s trust, dedication, and support
during this highly challenging and educational
ATG: What specific representation,
telemarketing, and business intelligence services
do you provide to publishers? Has anything
changed now that you are a stand-alone
PE: After the crisis and rebirth, we decided
to focus on continuation of core services to
build a stronger base for our renewed existence.
All our services help publishers maintain, grow
their current business and discover new
revenue lines, while building an understanding of
different markets. These are: global telesales/
telemarketing services, full representation in
multiple territories including sales, marketing,
and customer services. We have always been
a hands-on organization with ability to take
decisions quickly. So if anything changed, it
is the speed by which we grow, now that we
ATG: Are there new market realities that have required adjustment? If so, what strategies are you using to make those adjustments?
PE: There are new market realities which
we are working on currently. We are looking
into partnerships in some territories, while we
look to build a bigger telesales organization
to run a specific territory. We also look into
developing new business lines. I am not able
to go into much detail, as this is part of our
growth strategy for 2016 and beyond.
ATG: Why should prospective clients have
confidence in the new Accucoms? What do
you tell them about the future of Accucoms?
PE: I guess we can now say we are a
mature company, after 11 years, since its
incorporation. We have been a proud
trendsetter in establishing a new way to service
and represent publishers. The three years
under SIS flagship were highly beneficial. It
allowed me to delegate all of the administrative
management side of the business and focus
on growth. The bankruptcy was a crisis with
a great opportunity. We were able to become
independent again to grow faster, to focus
continued on page 44
Interview — Pinar Erzin
from page 42
on the areas we believe we can be useful for
our customers, and move away from what we
think is no longer important for them. We are
a debt-free company, which makes profit and
reinvests even after such a crisis, thanks to our
team and customers. We are careful in
promising something to a publisher and dedicated to
fulfill it once we made a promise. This is what
I tell prospective clients. Actually, I mostly,
don’t tell much anymore. I let my team talk to
prospects. This is how we win new customers
and keep our current relationships. My team
does it. They are the experts in their fields.
ATG: Who are your main competitors? What is different about Accucoms? What advantages do you bring to the table?
PE: Interestingly, we create, develop, and
grow the list and the type of competitors, as we
grow our business. Our typical competitors are
companies/sales agents which represent
publishers in different territories. I think PCG is
our only one-on-one global competitor; a very
successful company with a great reputation.
There are different local companies we com
pete with in different countries and territories.
Sometimes we compete with large subscription
agents, consultancy firms, and even
aggregators. I personally don’t like the word
competitor. In my own filing system there is a folder
I call “partners.” This is also where I file all
info about my competitors. I believe that all
competitors are potential partners. There are
countries or business areas in which we could
do better if we worked together. There are
times we are best at competing for the goodwill
of our companies, as well as our customers. It
is a balance and that’s my vision.
ATG We noticed that you have announced several new agreements over the last couple of months. Can you tell us about them and what they say about your future direction?
PE: On 6 November 2014 we acquired
Accucoms, and on the same day we entered
a new “positive” storm as we were
re-establishing ourselves. We stayed focused and
were able to shift very quickly to business as
usual. We were 38 people in November 2014,
and we are 60 people now. We have several
new contracts and we entered new territories.
We have grown some of our relationships
with large publishers in managing part of
their business. We have gained several new
agreements with large university presses and
our global telesales activities are growing. I
think the fact that we were able to protect most
our current agreements, as well as gaining new
types of publisher agreements, is a proof that
Publishing Industry is pleased with the way we run the company now. It also shows their trust in our future strategy.
ATG: All of these fast breaking changes must take a lot of time and energy. How do you recharge your batteries? What fun things do you do to unwind?
against the grain
n Born and lived: Born and lived in Ankara, Turkey until after graduation from university,
i lived in Amsterdam, the Netherlands after university until recently. Currently residing in
z Turkey, traveling globally mainly for business.
how/where do i see the industry in five years: More consolidation in publishing
and services. Growth of small companies with better/more flexible services. Change in
aggregation business (less big deals/more focused packages). Technology companies to
reinvent themselves including services to their offering. Different alternatives for smaller
publishers to be supported by (not just large publishers and/or aggregators). Societies
spending more time in their membership businesses to readjust/strengthen their relations
with their members.
PE: For about ten months, recharging was
out of the question. It was automatic pilot.
However, I believe I made most of the quieter
summer months by travelling less, spending a
lot of time with family and friends, living much
healthier, and doing lots and lots of sports. I
love running for mental clarity, I lift weights to
get rid of any negative energy, I enjoy yoga to
breath better, and I am just discovering
meditation, and that is a miracle on its own. I think
I am ready for the new season with renewed energy. I am, in fact, very excited about our planned strategy for 2016!
ATG: Thank you so much for taking time from what is obviously a hectic schedule to talk to us.
PE: I am sincerely honored that you have
asked me to share my experience and thoughts.
Thank you very much for this opportunity.
Please note that Charleston has a very
special place in our professional lives, as the
2003 conference was where the first step for
Accucoms was taken!
early life: 1981-1987 - French high school . 1987-1992 - BA degree in American E Culture and Literature.
professional career: 1992 -1999 - Several international jobs in Amsterdam 1999-2000 - Sales Representative for Turkey at Swets Subscription Services 2000 -2001 - Publisher Relations Manager at Swets Blackwell 2001-2004 - General Manager Extenza Marketing Solutions 2004 -2014 - Co-founder and Managing Director Accucoms BV 2014-Present - Founder and President, Accucoms International BV (rebirth) f amily: Parents, sister, one niece, and one nephew who all live in Ankara Turkey .