Born in Bulgaria, Stoyan Yankov is an internationally recognized productivity coach, speaker, podcaster at Productivity Mastery Podcast, and book author of PERFORM: The Unsexy Truth about (Startup) Success.
Stoyan began his expat journey in his early 20s, and since then, he has been moving around Europe and beyond, helping teams with productivity, performance, and spreading the message of his book.
When did you become an expat, and how do you reflect on the experience?
“Back in 2008-2009, I spent two summers in Massachusetts (US), which can be considered my first ‘expat experience.’ It was a wild adventure. In many ways, it inspired me to go and study abroad afterward. So in 2010, I got accepted to a Master’s degree program in Aarhus, Denmark. I believe that everyone who is an expat might relate in one way or another: No matter how much you get accustomed to the ‘local way,’ you will never feel fully at home.”
“What really helped me to adapt to life abroad was making friends with the locals, getting to know and respecting the culture and customs, and learning the language. If you haven’t lived abroad yet, try it, at least for a while. Personally, it helped me grow as a person, strengthen my self-reliance, and learn to understand others better.”
Have you ever experienced any difficulties as an entrepreneur living in a foreign country?
“Being an entrepreneur from abroad is not an easy ride. I’ve had many difficulties while building my business in Denmark. Initially, I started a video production company together with a Danish producer. Early on, we landed a large contract with a short deadline, so we decided to do the project before receiving an advance payment (as was our usual practice). After all, Denmark’s culture is about trust, and people keep their word. However, the lady who “hired us” suddenly left the country, and we never heard from her again. So not only did we have to “survive” as early-stage founders, but we had a significant amount of debt to repay to all subcontractors on top. You get these moments. But they are a natural part of the journey.”
“These days, I interview many successful entrepreneurs for my podcast (like the founder of Reebok, unicorn founders, etc.). I haven’t met anyone who hasn’t gone through struggles while building their company. So just show up daily, face the challenges with a smile, pick yourself up when you fall, and keep going.”
How has the expat life inspired you to embark on a journey of writing your book?
“In the world of consulting and speaking, writing a business book can open many doors. It gives you credibility and an opportunity to present your ideas and methods to a much wider audience. My experience living abroad has definitely played a role. In fact, I met my co-author Cristobal Alonso in Denmark, and we started working on the book in 2019.”
“Had I not lived abroad, I don’t think the content would be so internationally oriented (not even sure the book would be in English). I’m pretty certain many of the book’s ideas had been partly inspired by the countless conversations I had with people I met abroad. We even ended up including examples from 50+ entrepreneurs & thought leaders from the CEE region. (Find our BTS learnings in this article).
“So play to your strengths. If you are already an expat: what’s good about it? What gives you an edge? And whatever it is you do, how can your experience, story, and international network help you strengthen your case and achieve what you desire? Best of luck, and feel free to reach out on LinkedIn if you have any questions or ideas!”