“A woman working in Cyprus has to work twice as hard to get her message across,” warns Antigoni Marinou, founder of The Rokket Project which over ten years has made a name for itself in sales strategy, business development and highly individualised career consulting, using cutting-edge technology.
“It’s not just about the sexual aspect. When you are talking to a group of executives, which most often is largely male, they are thinking ‘who is this person? Does she know what she’s doing? Why should I listen to her?’ So, you have to really work to get your message through and make them understand that you mean business.”
“Building the business as a woman in Cyprus was hell,” she admits. “You have to do everything yourself. Maybe you can hire an accountant or a lawyer for specialised services, but when it comes to the key work in starting and growing a business, you spend all your time and a great deal of your own resources.”
Having started out as a business development manager at a major audit firm, Marinou went on to manage a €30m private banking operation at Bank of Cyprus.
Ten years ago, she set out on her own and has since worked with organisations ranging from an insurance company, to Horeca, to a professional school and achieved notable results. Since 2017, her Rokket Project has taken off and is now well-known both in Cyprus and abroad: Marinou has succeeded in expanding to Iraq, Eastern Europe and the Gulf as well as other international markets.
Marinou’s company is also one of the few consulting firms in Cyprus to use data mining and AI-based analytics to show companies the way forward.
What makes it all work for her?
“We are obsessed with impact. We don’t just go in and give a seminar, like many others, we follow up and provide continuing guidance.
“I’m coaching CEOs at smaller companies, as well as directors and executives at larger ones. I see their outlook; I see where they’re making wrong-headed choices and I see how they can do better and get the results they want. This is very much the result of long experience in business: I’ve already tested out a wide range of strategies and I have the know-how to help these executives get the results they want. Yes, it’s always a trial-and-error game, but I bring a lot of perspective to it.”
What Marinou often sees in her work in sales, is that there is no system at work. “There is no method evolved, with a step one, step two, continue on to results approach. There should be a scripted part of that, with a very tight framework, and then you help them understand the rules of the game. Once they understand the rules of the game, they can be authentic in their own way,” she explains.
In terms of individual coaching, Marinou is also determined to get results. “There is always support for executives finding a job, but there is rarely support for people who are already in a structure, working at a company. These executives are often faced with challenges for growth that they cannot confront, and we can help them overcome these barriers.”
Whether helping companies or individuals, Marinou says it is all about achieving goals. “You have to find out exactly where a company wants to go, what exact goals they want to achieve. This has to be very granular; we are not talking about general goals, but very specific achievable ones.”
Marinou compares it with going to a restaurant known for its paté de foie. “When you go there, you don’t look at the whole menu, you concentrate on the thing that makes the organisation successful – so you focus on the paté de foie. This is what we do; we develop success with concentrated, sometimes technical focus. Using data analytics helps us to determine that focus very clearly for a company.”
This can be a challenge in Cyprus, Marinou says, because many companies are afraid to trust others with this kind of deep knowledge of their business. “When you get into sales, you are working with very sensitive information, but once companies learn to trust us, and to understand what we can do for them, we build a successful relationship.”
Data analytics isn’t enough by itself, Marinou points out. “Yes, you have to see what the trends are that affect the company by going to the data, but you also have to have business sense to build a working strategy based on what emerges from the data.”
Marinou has struggled to find the talent she needed to grow the business. “It has been difficult to get professionals who do the little things that you need; it has been a challenge to get across cultural barriers at times, because in Cyprus, people often have trouble visualising how you will achieve results.”
Yet she has worked through it all. “You know, when we reach out to new clients, and we communicate what we can achieve, they say ‘perfect, we didn’t know you existed, you are just what we are looking for’.”
What advice does Marinou have for other women in business: “When you’re in a male dominated group, you have to know who you are. Then you should know exactly what each member of that group is really after. Then you have to prove yourself, show that you know what you’re doing.”