The question that all successful and wealthy people hear most often is ‘what is the best way to make a lot of money?’ Today we have an exclusive chance to talk to a woman, who is both wealthy – holding the title of the richest woman of Russia for 14 consecutive years; and successful – having been the founder and for 20 years president of a huge construction company. Yet the question we ask the woman worth $1.2 bln, is the opposite:
So, what is the best way to spend a lot of money, in your opinion?
I believe, many will agree that money is not the goal. It is what you can do with that money that really matters. I have been in construction business all my life, so it is convenient for me to compare money to cement – you can use it to build anything, and it’s up to you whether the thing you create will be beautiful or ugly, useful just for you or for other people as well, whether you will own it or share it, etc.
And the house you have built is called BE OPEN?
It is. BE OPEN is a philanthropic initiative I set up in 2012 to incorporate all the ideas I had about the ways of making a change in the world – by supporting the right people and the right ideas in particular.
What are these ideas about?
BE OPEN is about fostering creativity and innovation, promoting people and ideas today to build solutions for tomorrow. I strongly believe in the potential of the young, creative generation and their ability to look at the world with fresh eyes to find solutions no one has found before. That is why it’s vital to give them all the support they need to bring their ideas to fruition.
Is there a particular reason for you to be focused on the creative youth?
I have been a business person for most of my life. And I have grown to understand that good businesses rely not only on sound financial planning and management, but also on allowing creativity to be at the heart of their growth and development. From the design of a new building or product to a business development idea – it is the originality of thought that is required, and younger people possess that originality.
Tell us a little about your background and your journey to this point?
I wasn’t born into a wealthy family, so I completely understand the concept of having a dream and working hard to fulfil that dream. I started into business quite young, so I also understand how important it is for young people to have support from those a bit more experienced to get through difficult periods. Early into my career, I was involved in computer software enterprise, then a plastics manufacturing business, then moved into construction and development. By 2005 my company became one of the country’s leading construction firms with a wide-ranging portfolio. I sold Inteco on 2011, and went on to employ money in multiple areas that I am genuinely interested in, with philanthropy being one of them. The foundation became a sort of a lens that concentrated my firm belief in prioritising creative people and their ideas as a way to make the world become a better place.
As a business person, do you feel in general that the industries do enough to support and nurture rising talent?
I feel there is always more that can be done, particularly from a business point of view, both in terms of projects commercial realization, and stable employment for young creatives, recent graduates. I feel it’s important for businesses to step up and offer young people the right guidance and opportunities to help them take the next step with their ideas and careers.
How do you feel about your role in inspiring young people to participate in the industry?
I feel honoured to play even a very small part in their journey to success. I’m also excited when I see what the next generation has to offer and when I see the sheer scale of talent; it makes me confident that the future is safe in their hands.
Who have been your biggest inspirations in each of your careers?
When I was president of the construction company Inteco, I was lucky enough to work with inspiring people such as Ricardo Bofill, Hadi Teherani and Norman Foster. Working with people who have architecture and design at the very core of their lives is a great inspiration. No matter how different their ideas, there is always the same constructive force behind them, an urge for better, for growth, for pushing the definition of ‘good’ a little further. That’s what we work for.