There is a popular belief that it is much easier to create and run business “over there” than doing it “over here”. Someone appeals to more strict, but fair and transparent legislation. Someone believes that he is just expected to be “over there” and his only appearance itself is a 50% guarantee of success. Someone hopes for new technologies and quick breakthrough. Is it easy to run business “over there”? We decided to look into this issue together with the financier, international investor and the founder of the Imperium Investments company, Dmitry Leus.
Dmitry, as far as I know you were born and grew up in Turkmenistan. How did it happen that you decided to move to another country and, so to say, radically change your life?
Probably it came from despair. However, I’m glad of it now. I clearly remember that very moment (I was 23 years old) when we all woke up in a foreign country (the disintegration of the Soviet Union) and all our plans fell to pieces! All at once! It happened fast and abruptly. And if only yesterday everyone was socially equal and respected by each other, then today the national signs began to be very marked, and the society started dividing into indigenous people and “other”. At the same time, indigenous people had certain preferences on the one hand, and very strong national and spiritual obligations on the other. At that time, I worked for a Turkish company that was involved into organizing the supply of cotton from Turkmenistan. Being in different parts of my country then, I saw poverty and almost complete lack of opportunities for further development. Moreover, the situation with nationalization was gaining such speed that at some point I started fearing for myself and my family. I clearly realized that I need to leave the country. But where should I go?
Due to the fact, that as a teenager, I went in for sports professionally and was a member of the national team, I often went to Moscow for competitions or gatherings. I knew something about the city, I had friends there. Thus, I decided to move to Moscow. Intuitively, I understood and felt that there is a huge potential and there are much greater opportunities to achieve something. Even then Moscow was an expensive city. And I needed money to realize my plan. I had a specific goal – 2000 $. According to my calculations, this should have been enough for the first time. I have been facing the deadlines, so I completely immersed myself in the work. I worked practically around the clock, without days off. Since I had no other options, I tried and worked with all my might. My zeal and diligence allowed me to increase my salary in six months, and I started earning $ 300 per month. At the time when the average salary in the country was about $ 30, it was very good money, but very hard, I would even say, grueling money to earn. But I clearly understood for what reason I’m doing it. When I had the necessary amount in my hands, I took my wife and my little son, we moved to Russia and rented a small apartment on the outskirts of Moscow. At that time it seemed to me that here, in Russia, I would be completely safe. How naive I was!
In Moscow, being away from home, from my friends I grew up with, from my parents, I realized that I have no way back, that I was at that point of despair. Despair was the main motive for building something new in my life. So my new journey, which at the moment brought me to many countries, to many cities, began.
You have several projects not only in Russia, but you also actively cooperate with various foreign partners. What is the key to your successful business development? What are the secrets?
Perseverance and a great desire to do something! My story, when I moved to Russia, could be an example. When I got settled in Moscow, I decided to open a currency exchange office. Thus, I had to solve the following problems: how to buy a specially equipped booth ($ 3,000) , pay a fixed amount of $ 2,100 to the bank for using its license for currency transactions, pay a rent of $ 1500, pay for security ($ 200) and provide the necessary amount of working capital in the cash desk for operating activities, having only $ 2000 in the pocket. At first glance, this task has no solution. But it is only at first glance. In the bank, I took a loan at the full cost of the booth and agreed on a shift in mandatory payments for 1 month. Then I agreed to pay for rent at the end of the month. However, for an alarming button I had to pay immediately, because without this I could not be given permission to start. I rented an apartment for $ 200 and put $ 1500 in the cash register. I solemnly opened my business, where I was a cashier, manager, and accountant in one person. I did not succeed sometimes, I made many mistakes, but I did not stop. At some point, I wanted to surrender and go back to Turkmenistan. But I could not do it. I had no options. I pulled myself together and continued to go forward. I worked hard, the turnover gradually grew. So, day after day, month after month, I worked hard and the result did not keep me waiting. Already after 9 months of work, the exchange office started to bring me $ 1500 net profit a month. At that time it seemed to me that this is what success is.
If you have already achieved something and succeed, then repeating it is just a matter of time and amount of the effort. I always feel bad for those who think that going abroad could bring them success, without even trying to build something in their homeland, where they can speak their own language, have support from friends, and know the legislation. It is self-deception, for which you have to pay. And sometimes it is very expensive to pay for it.
Now you spend a lot of time in London. Please share your impressions of how easy / difficult it is to do business in England.
I do have a lot of projects, and not just in England. It is impossible to say unequivocally that in England it is much easier to do business than, for example, in Russia. I would say that organizing/creating business in England is easier than in Russia. However, to lead and develop it in a highly competitive environment, where there are rules, laws and accepted norms, is much harder than it can be done in Russia. Here you need professionalism, deep basic knowledge, perseverance and time. To characterize business in England and highlight some of the main points, I would say the following:
- The presence of risks, but their rather high predictability. Everything depends on the market and business environment (political component affects the entire market rather than its individual players). If you are a pro and you know how to correctly analyze this or that information, then you can minimize the risks. Or at least start to manage them.
- Low marginality of business (including due to risks) in almost all segments. Here the theory ” the higher the risks, the higher the margin and the higher the possibility of bankruptcy” is working.
- Despite the high density, there are enough niches and even entire directions where you can start building something anew in almost all industries. This is also due to the fact there are not really many people with congenital business and entrepreneurial skills. Even among the English.
How did you feel when you found yourself on the “new territory”?
England is already my third “territory”! And if I had not gone through difficulties in Russia, then it would have been more difficult for me to deal with this territory psychologically, first of all. But I developed for myself a certain algorithm, a certain sequence of actions that help me in such situations. Probably, it is easier to break this algorithm into stages.
The first stage I call the stage of “misunderstanding.” This is normal when you get into a new environment and just do not understand what is actually going on around. You just need to realize and accept the fact that you know nothing. You must become an apprentice for a while and eagerly absorb all the information that will be available to you. This is the time when you need to look around and do not hurry up. This stage determines the success or failure of your endeavor.
The second stage, which I call “understanding,” is characterized by the fact that, having received enough information, you begin to pass it through the prism of your previous experience, but taking into account the specifics of the new market. Thus, you begin to build your experience into new conditions and you gain “understanding” over time.
The third stage is the stage of “actions”. Not the easiest one, but the most pleasant, stage when you start to get the first results of your efforts.
Perhaps someone else has a different situation, but all my undertakings and the “development of new territories” took place approximately according to this scenario. And this is what I try to pass on to my children so that they can see it and feel it on my example.
How can you manage everything? How do you do business in several countries at once?
I do not pretend to catch everything, but I have time to do the most important thing! Our life is a river that brings more and more new tasks. At every moment of your life you need to correctly determine this very importance. If it is important to close a major transaction for me, I leave for 5 days and work almost without a break, and my family understands it. If it’s important for me to take my wife and children and spend a great weekend with them, then the importance of this moment outweighs, and I can safely postpone or shift my meetings for a couple of days. It is important for me to observe a certain balance both in work and in the family.
It seems to me that it is the quality of the time spent together, and not its quantity, that is the basis of healthy relationships in the family. For children, it is important to have parents around. They have to be just around and give as much time to the child as he needs at the moment. Because our children are the strictest judges, who will tell you the whole truth and will not worry if this truth differs greatly from the one you imagined. For me, children are a very strong impetus. And this, among other things, was one of the reasons why we decided to move to London.
Naturally, it is almost impossible to be simultaneously in several countries and manage operating activities. You need people you can rely on and trust. So, for example, in Russia my younger brother helps me a lot. Here, in London, I have a proven team. We have been working for more than a year together and I fully trust them. I can rely on them and not worry that they will do something wrong or forget something. I delegate a large part of my tasks, thereby freeing up my time for important matters.
By force of your work, you travel a lot around the world. Are there any special places you occasionally return to?
You know, I have a special attitude to traveling and I believe that you need to travel. And you need to do this as often as possible. Why? Because changing places and changing planes is a new area for growth. And, again, my children, who always travel with me, helped me to come to such a conclusion. After each trip, I notice something new in my children, as if they made another big step in their development. Someone becomes more confident, someone simply begins to speak English fluently, and someone expands their horizons and gets new impressions. This is a kind of breakthrough . The same can be said about adults. However, It’s not so obvious to us (adults).
Traveling and physical movement in space help you to literally look at your situation from outside, outside your usual boundaries and surroundings. This helps a lot to push the boundaries and find solutions that you simply have not seen before. Personally for me, this is a very powerful tool that I periodically use.
Dmitry, how do you see business in 2018? What is your forecast?
2018 will be interesting and complicated. To date, I do not see any global prerequisites for saying that next year will be easier than 2017. We are living in the time of constant changes. And the amount of such changes do not become less from year to year. Therefore, I would not talk about stabilization in the near future.
If we talk about trends, they are more connected with the changes and development of new technologies:
1. The atmosphere in the cities can radically change in the nearest future and this is due to the active development of electric transport. Many European cities, since 2019, would introduce restrictions on entry for cars that work on hydrocarbons. Thus, the air would become much cleaner in the areas where it was heavily polluted. This, in turn, will affect the choice of people about the acquisition of real estate there. Their choice will be dictated by the concern for their health and the health of their children. Such a change can have an impact on the real estate market, and I suppose that there will be some redistribution and equalization of the real estate value (price). There will no longer be areas, standing out by the cost of housing.
2. We spend a lot of time in transport, and the autopilot technology can significantly affect this. Active navigation, which builds the optimal route in online mode, in combination with the autopilot will significantly reduce the time on the road and will allow you to solve your problems on the fly. It is extremely convenient and effective. And this is another argument in favor of the fact that the distance and its impact on the choice of real estate, in particular, will not have as much influence as it has now. In general, it is impossible to foresee how this or that event or technology will affect us and which segments of the business will have the greatest impact.
3. In the nearest future, the business of hydrocarbons (gas, oil) will be the usual linear business without excess profits, without war (including physical) for resources and minimal influence on it from the political side. This will not happen quickly, but the process has already been launched and it is only a matter of time and intensity of technology development.
4. It is almost impossible to predict what will happen in the currency market today. The course is the display of mostly political state within the country and, as common as it might sound, the value of the currency is almost 100% dependent on the information space. If we talk about crypto-currencies, today it is very convenient to conduct “anonymous” calculations using crypts. But this technology requires certain regulation and avoidance of anonymity. The current banking system and mutual settlement systems are morally and technologically obsolete. Something should come to replace it. It is possible that the technology of crypto currency could be taken as a basis for building a new payment system and become a new round in the development of the banking system as a whole.
This is my vision of some segments and their further development. Only time will tell whether my forecasts will come true or not. But one thing I know for sure – if you want to be successful, then you should constantly be aware of what is happening around, consume new information and do not stop even for a second.