Itake no pleasure in writing about myself, but who does. I don’t even have a CV any newer than 2001 (although that is because I found the job I love). But people tell me that readers want to know about the ‘expert’ behind these pages so I suppose I ought to write a few lines to show that I am not an SEO spinner sat in a coffee shop in Cairo. I, Damian Galvin, came to Romania through the reward of Karma, in my view. A gift to me for past good deeds. I have, since being a schoolboy in Chertsey, Surrey, I was able to understand / appreciate the wiser things in life. Romania is no exception. It is something only wise eyes can truly appreciate.
After leaving school at 16 with almost no qualifications because I was more interested in mucking around than studying, I became a car mechanic. Lying under Ford Escorts, Transits and Granadas on my back in a car park changing clutches & exhausts was a tough but rewarding foundation to life. But I was constantly frustrated at not being able to access certain parts of the car & would regularly whinge, ‘who designed this nonsense?’ until one day, a colleague said, why don’t you stop talking about how to do things better & go do it yourself. It was the trigger I needed. I changed gear, started to study hard, really hard, getting weekend jobs in diverse careers alongside my regular mechanic career, in order to broaden my horizons. I was a part time security guard after mynormal job was finished, a machinist, a boat driver & a theme park guide before I was 20. At nights, I would take extra classes in maths, physics, aeronautics & other technical subjects.
Then, as I reached the end of my 4 year apprenticeship, I launched myself into full time education. Four times I attended university. Even now I find that incredible given my low start. Beginning with an Higher Diploma in Electronics & Mechanical Engineering, I progressed to a Bachelor degree in Vehicle Design, working for Jaguar Cars Ltd as an Engine component designer during a gap year. After graduation, I moved on to Ford Motor Co. in Essex as a Chassis Design Engineer & later a Manufacturing Engineer in the Fiesta production facility. I took a Master of Science degree in Design & Manufacturing Engineering before I was offered the ultimate boys job working for Aston Martin Ltd. I would have done that job without a salary! From here, I became a Principal Engineering Manager for Chassis Design, going on to take a Master of Business in Finance. I left 2 legacies when I moved from Aston Martin 12 years later, to live in Romania. The first was a Cost Optimization strategy that to date has saved over a billion dollars in real savings on component costs. For a company that was making between zero & 40 million dollars per year, I was pretty pleased with that. I should have negotiated a commission! Not all my work of course. I was just the architect of the team and its methods. I worked with some brilliant colleagues over those 12 happy years.
The second was an equally unusual team. I set up a team to look at warranty repair costs but not to try to fix it – that is the job of the department that owns those components, but to try to make it quicker to repair the warranty that inevitably exists. Example, if it takes 2 hours to change a light bulb, that affects both the factory’s profit (if it happens during the warranty period), & future ownership costs. Only the dealers were winners in such cases. So I would for example, introduce a quick access door to change broken parts more quickly. Jaguar Cars later copied the idea & now have almost 50+ staff doing exactly this. Optimizing repair costs to reduce warranty & ownership costs. This brings multi million dollar annual savings & improves ownership costs.
Back to the subject of Karma. I learned that Karma is like a beautiful Witch, she can seduce you, reward you and crush you in spades at her whim in an instant. When you sow seeds, you can see the results in a short term time frame. Good or bad, the seeds grow quickly. When I used to carry out the occasional philanthropic acts, such as to hold a large party for charity, or make some minor sacrifice in the name of others, soon after I would have a piece of uniquely identifiable good fortune. One such piece came my way after repeated trips to Romania.
I discovered Romania after years of organizing Charity Balls & donating the money to Oxfam. I was invited to donate some of the proceeds to a Romanian children’s charity. The following year, 2003, I was invited on a construction trip with the Birmingham Fire Service to refurbish an unused orphanage. From that successful trip onward, my love affair with Romania began. I would subsequently come out each year with my own volunteer construction team working at different institutions in Transylvania.
During this period of my life, from 20 years old upwards, I traveled extensively. Over 60 countries in total including Argentina, Cuba, Mexico, USA & Canada, from Sweden & Norway, Portugal, Spain, Tunisia & Egypt, to Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Turkey, from China Indonesia, Thailand, Sri Lanka to Ukraine, Estonia, Riga not to mention all of Europe. But somehow, with the exception of Ukraine, Romania remains my favorite place in the world. It is a complex mix of Romanian’s faith in God, family values, dignity, decency, innocence compared to the decadent western attitudes, wild beauty and a tranquility in the cities & towns that simply does not exist in other countries.
After a few years of visiting Romania, I decided to throw in my dream job at Aston Martin, after 12 happy years, & move to Romania to create a new life here. With 500 gbp in my pocket, a 10yo car (I had company Jaguar’s up til the point I left Aston), some clothes & a couple of cats, I moved to Brasov. Within a month I had started White Mountain Property & was working on my first of many renovations.
From this point onward, I started to recruit Brasov’s bright young resource & after 7 years of operating from Brasov only, we opened a second office in Bucharest’s center. At the time of writing we had 6 staff in the Brasov office & 7 in the Bucharest office but growing continuously to meet demand. Our clients include several embassies, schools, & major companies. We also do the store-fitting throughout Romania for Lego & Apple. Recently, we were asked to provide gardening & landscaping services to the British Embassy of Bucharest, competing with the best 2 Gardening companies in Bucharest.
In addition to that, we were asked to put forward investment offers to a large Swiss Investment fund, along with Romania’s finest such as Colliers International, Knight Frank, DTZ and a few others. To our shocked delight, our proposals of a major commercial buildings in full use was chosen by the Fund & we were able to broker one of the largest sales transactions nationally with the sale of a building worth 31 million euros. So at a time when some Romanian’s sadly chose to leave the country for better conditions in other countries, White Mountain remains a preferred choice for my team of Remanians!
For me, I continue to grow White Mountain to meet the needs of our clients, working with bright, capable staff & I continue to love Romania, its people & its rich experiences. But it is a greatly misunderstood country. I have created this blog to try to share some useful insights & experiences. I hope it is helpful to some. Damian Galvin, Director, White Mountain Property