A Romanian Village Kid’s Rise to Business and Political-consulting in Africa
- June 18, 2019
When Tony Pisaroglu was growing up poor in a Romanian village, he had no idea that someday he would be rubbing shoulders with CEOs of global corporations and presidents of countries.
Sports gave him the opportunity. Becoming a professional athlete on Romania’s National Rugby 7 Team allowed him to meet important people at home and abroad.
The 35-year-old has parlayed a fondness for people, a savviness about the way things work, and an ability to get things done into a successful career as an international business executive and political consultant.
“Sports has played a key role in my success,” he said. “It taught me always to strive for excellence, the value of hard work, and the importance of determination, persistence and teamwork.”
Much of his team’s success has come in Eastern Europe and countries like the United States that are doing business in the region. A surprising source of success has been Africa, a continent he has fallen in love with.
Pisaroglu’s business activity has covered fields as diverse as security, information technology, e-government, corporate intelligence and risk management. In addition to helping clients with business development and attracting investors, he has become a partner in established companies and start-ups.
His political consulting team’s work has included presidential elections in Romania, Europe and Africa, campaigns for seats in the European Parliament, and local and regional elections in a number of countries.
“I want to be a force for change,” Pisaroglu said. “I meet some of the most interesting and dynamic people imaginable. With every new project, I learn something I didn’t know before. I also work with a great team of business and political-campaign experts.”
His business experience started two years after he graduated from Romania’s National Academy of Sport in 2003, when he became the chief of staff of one of South-eastern Europe’s most important business figures.
The political contacts he made in the job led him to add political consulting to his repertoire when he decided to try something new five years ago.
A conscious decision he made early-on was that every political campaign he helped direct would be positive.
“Unfortunately, the trend in political campaigns all over the world is negative, in-your-face, trash-your-opponent,” he said. “I wanted to create campaigns that would not only help our clients win or enlarge their voting base, but also that would convince people young and old that their vote counts and they should become part of the political process. Politics is about improving people’s lives.”
His political-consulting team’s positive focus helped elect a Romanian president and inspired young people to vote in numbers never seen before, he said.
His first trip to Africa came in 2012, when he opened a Nigeria office for a European Tech company whose solutions had been a hit in Europe. “We thought we could help Africa, which is known for bureaucracy, because the technology makes the interaction between the government and citizens faster and more efficient,” he said. The company’s sales there proved its intuition was right, he added.
In 2018 he opened a second office in Africa — in Dakar, Senegal.
Pisaroglu said he adores the vibrancy of African life and the genuineness of its people.
“If you want to see life in all of its dimensions, you need to go to Africa,” he said.
Sensing another opportunity in a continent whose politics has been changing rapidly from post-colonial rulers to a new generation of leaders, he started a political-consulting operation in Africa as well.
It offers the full range of services that the Bucharest-based European operation does —creating a campaign strategy, crafting messages tailored to appeal to different segments of voters, using the right mix of media and technology to disseminate messages, analyzing results, then making adjustments so that the next stage in the outreach is even more effective.
To add valuable context to the lessons he has learned on the job, Pisaroglu has taken executive-education courses in political science at Yale University and information security at the University of London.
But he’s convinced that a lesson he learned outside the classroom has been the most crucial to his success. It’s that “the basis of any business is human relations,” he said.
Whether in the corporate world, political consulting or any field, if you fail to earn the trust of those working with you, no amount of brainpower or technical expertise will suffice, he said.
Applying that lesson in all his dealings has been a key factor in his rise from poor village kid to advisor to business moguls and presidents.