Ciprian Marica is tackling the business world with poise and prowess and with a leader’s attitude. In an interview with Business Arena, the former Romania international who won 71 caps during an 11-year international career, speaks about his transition from football to business, his experiences and objectives in his new role.
How did you make the transition from a career in sport to the world of business, and how does your sport experience help you in your new endeavors?
I have always known how to find my motivation in everything I do. In sport, I grew through sacrifice, through a rigorous routine based on hard work and discipline from a very early age. Last but not least, I wanted to achieve top performance, and I managed to accomplish my goal because I was willing to give up other things.
My sport experience has helped me enormously. I traveled a lot, I did high-level networking, I benefited from publicity. Sport gave me a special perspective, motivated me financially, formed my values through discipline, responsibility, perseverance, and taught me what teamwork really means. But most importantly, sport taught me how to manage failures.
After acquiring those skills, the transition from one field to another was organic and easy. I had been exposed to the idea of business since childhood, and my later studies (an MBA degree in Sports Management and Administration from the University of St. Gallen in Switzerland) gave me the edge in making that transition. I was aware that a sporting career is short, and I tried to see beyond the moment when I would have to hang up my boots, as they say.
When you play for major clubs, it’s tempting to live in the moment and not make long-term plans. Once I realized that, I tried to come up with solutions that I could apply in my private life, to build a safe business environment in which I could develop independently from my sporting career. That’s how I started working on the foundations of my business, which includes various projects in different industries, but whose management and way of work are similar.
I am always anchored in reality and, more than words, I believe in concrete, clear things, in results that generate a positive impact, adding value both to my business partners and collaborators and to my business.
What business models inspire you and what qualities should a leader possess to become a successful one?
I don’t have a specific model that I follow. Of course, there are people whom I admire for their vision and success in business. At the same time, I identify easily with the model of a relaxed but rigorous entrepreneur.
Everything has changed after the challenging events of the last two years, and while the changes came out of necessity, I am glad that they have generated a trend that somehow drives the business community to evolve. We are talking about a think-bigger-and-faster type of leadership, because the pandemic has shown that we are capable of things we would have never thought possible.
I think there is a shift in what a real leader means in 2022, especially if we do a little forecasting on how the work environment is going to change taking into account the pandemic period, but also the new generations of employees.
I believe that agility and adaptability are vital in a world that changes at the speed of light socially, technologically, and economically, directly affecting the business environment. You must be able to consider multiple scenarios, with solutions applicable to each of them. Creativity in finding solutions is again an extremely valuable skill these days, but also a promoter of innovation. I believe that resilience, an open communication with the team, and critical thinking are the values that lead to an authentic and healthy business in the long run.
What are the business areas in which you have been involved so far, and what are biggest challenges in the life of a business person/ investor?
I haven’t stuck to a single business sector, I like diversity, I like challenges. I ‘inherited’ the taste for the real estate world from my father. I invest in real estate, it’s a business sector that has grown a lot in recent years, and it’s been going well.
I am open to new things, I am interested in classic projects, but also in startups. I like taking risks, if I see passion, dedication, and enthusiasm. Sport gave me so much, so I feel that I should give something back to sport, and to the community in which I grew up.
Right after I finished my footballing career, I chose to study at UEFA, with the Spanish and Swiss Federations, and in Germany, where I did my internship at Schalke. I wanted to do things right, by the book, so I could deepen my sport management skills.
After refining my working method and enhancing my expertise in this field, I invested in an important brand, namely Farul Constanța, a club that was in difficulty at the time. Shortly after, with the involvement of Gică Hagi and Gică Popescu, the club reached the top flight of the Romanian football.
At the same time, I took over Voința, a run down sports venue, in which I invested a lot and had it renovated to international standards. Now, it is the home of “Nastase & Marica Sports Club”. One million euro was invested in infrastructure, 1.5 million euro – in the “Ilie Nastase” tennis courts, and 1.5 million euro – in a football stadium with 1,500 seats and two indoor mini football fields.
We have football fields, tennis courts, which have been rebuilt using modern technologies from the best international suppliers. So, I tried to move things forward in a neglected field in Romania, even though it has brought us so much joy.
As for challenges, I must say that I’ve faced many hurdles over the years. But I accepted that Romania is a special business environment, which lacks the predictability needed for long-term investments, and comes with many legislative changes. At the same time, there are many business opportunities in the country, and I think this is obvious, considering the large number of companies that have grown profitably, and foreign investors who have seen their businesses flourish here. The Romanian business environment challenges you to find solutions. In times of crisis, people’s character and organizational principles and values come to light. Change is good and I’ve always tried not to let old systems get in my way. My business DNA is built to evolve and always look for long-term efficiency and sustainability.
What are your professional goals for 2023?
I want to successfully complete the projects that I am involved in now. In a short while, we are going to officially open “Arenele Ilie Nastase”, an ultramodern tennis club with 14 clay courts and two hard courts. It’s a special project, on a par with those abroad.
I want to make “Năstase & Marica Sports Club” the most important sports club in Bucharest, to become an incubator of champions. This is our mission, but also a personal goal, to make people stay away from smartphones, tablets, laptops, and feel like champions on our sports fields. We offer top conditions, because today sports can no longer be done like we used to in the old days.
We also want to win the football league with Farul Constanța. The people of Dobrogea deserve such joy from their symbol, from the number 1 brand of the region. It is a difficult process, but with Hagi on the team, nothing is impossible.
On a personal level, I still want to build a farm, somewhere in the country, to stay connected to the simple joys of life together with my children.