I was born the son of poor fur-collectors and, as a child, educated myself by reading Marx’s Capital in the shaking candlelight in a dilapidated family’s log cabin on the outskirts of the taiga after a day of hard working for many hours. Oh, that’s totally not me.
My parents were Soviet engineers (middle class in today’s sense) who settled in a young industrial satellite city of Volgograd, on the opposite side of the Volga river. Despite all years of its best efforts, an ordinary Soviet school was not able to beat the sass (or individuality, if you prefer) out of me and beat penmanship in, but some teachers succeeded in imparting to me a craving for knowledge and ability to solve various problems, which proved quite useful in later years.
My interest in economics, management and business in general initially appeared at the end of secondary (middle) school, after I had to say good-bye to my dream to become a fighter pilot and, ultimately, a cosmonaut. What happened? The USSR collapsed. Even if I witnessed growing chaos and inexorably declining quality of life around me, the only answers I had got from the most educated engineers to my question “Why?” something like “the country is out of money” or “it’s an administrative crisis”. It was obvious that the drastically and dramatically changed world will never be the same, but no one could answer why. Why I have to abandon my dream and struggle for survival? Why do the long-term life strategies no longer work? Should they work in some time later? At that time, no one seemed to care.
So, I enrolled in the Economics and Mathematics Faculty of the best (back then it still was the state-governed one) regional university because, due to lack of means, I had not a slightest chance to pursue an education somewhere away from home. I simply expected to learn the answer why this happened, but instead was immersed in micro- and macro-, international and many other economics, statistics, math analysis, finances, accounting, taxes, variety of management, marketing, interrelation between industries and their structures, law, philosophy and many other subjects that helped me mature and become a manager, who is capable to drive an enterprise in the new reality. I still couldn’t understand exactly why the USSR collapsed, but I got general ideas in this regard. More importantly, I had figured out how to adapt in the best way to the changing world and to build a long-term sustainable business in it.
I have to admit, during various industrial work placements, I had a hard time to persuade in debates the most of the old-schooled engineers, who were in charge of the assets from USSR epoch. Despite the fact that the majority of enterprises back then utilized about 3-5% of their capacities at best, the old management mostly refused to try new or adjusted approaches I suggested. I had a very little intention to win a debate, so right at the university I decided to start my own business. Then another one. And another. I did it in a partnership, mainly persuading my friends (fellow students) to participate. Back then, there was an endless opportunity cloud in an almost completely empty market. Some of the businesses took in and grew; some even were a success; some, alas, not.
A couple of years after graduation, I discovered the existence of management consulting. It was like a revelation. I instantly fell in love with this concept and not only I was determined to play on that field, but experienced a strong and growing feeling that it was my calling, that it’s meant to become my trade. Being an entrepreneur in spirit, I immediately tried to become a consultant in my home region. From those efforts, I learnt two important things: you need a background in it (the more the better) and the home region was far inert and too conservative to consume such an offer. Some people understood the concept of the management consulting services, but, being rigorous old-schooled, they relied mostly on technical approach or even strongly believed in DYI only. So, following the vocation I moved to Moscow.
This breathtaking adventure included hardly any personal life, but a lot of sleepless nights instead and dozens of consulting projects. Some were quite large-scale, influencing entire industries (e.g. telecom) or even reforming them (electricity). As an acquaintance of mine, a partner in a consulting firm, once eloquently put: “Each consulting project is a mini-MBA program”. This is so true! For me these years were like an endless MBA program. I worked closely with hundreds of executives and managers from different companies and industries and learned a hell of a lot!
At that time, early in my consulting career, there are not many management consultants in Russia, hence, almost no one possessed much of an industry focus back then. We had to leap from one industry or market to another for every next large and serious project. Those to succeed had to develop certain, quite unique set of skills and abilities, namely to quickly immerse ourselves into the client’s situation with many details, to navigate through a giant data pools in order to grasp and process only relevant info really fast and in timely manner, and to orient ourselves and to learn as much as possible very promptly about industry, market and rivalry in the project scope. Additionally, almost each consulting project was unique back then. Since no one had experience of such projects in Russia and no similar cases existed as well as no best practices were applicable, we not only had to invent and develop methods and tools and to make sure that those would work, but also to ensure that they would work for the client in this particular situation.
Such a weathering allows me now to be not only useful, but also successful in situations where I had never been before. More than half of my consulting projects were in the industries I had no previous experience with. And I am truly proud of the fact that I have never failed my clients’ expectations.
When the first glitter and charm of the consulting magic started to fade out, I was shocked by what I discovered in the management consulting field. I could not believe how many companies are mismanaged and carelessly consulted, especially mid-sized business, and how poorly they were treated by consultants. I was also astonished at the amount of typical “consulting solutions” sold (and some of them were actually somehow implemented!) under a simple model “one problem = one solution”.
As I cared for the clients, I realized many of them were not receiving direction in improving their business and overall performance. Instead, problems or signs were masked with some typical or standard offerings. I have to confess: early in my life, I personally created a couple of so-called “Consulting Offering Matrix” (interconnected list of standard consulting service/solutions to simplify the sales force’s efforts in closing deals). Mostly it doesn’t work. Well, it actually does work for the sales force of a consulting company, but not for you. As time passed, I began to comprehend a systemic, interlinked, and multidimensional view on a business, an organization, a company. Alas, such view didn’t match the established sales models in consulting companies I worked for.
The chance to prove my viewpoint, approaches and professional maturity in management consulting was presented at the time of crisis that began in 2007 in the West, and reached Russia and CIS at the end of 2008. For this reason, the affiliate of Balanced Scorecard Collaborative in Russia and CIS was closed down, and I had to find another job. Unsurprisingly, not much offers on the job market was back then. So, I decided to start my own management consulting firm, focused primarily on mid-sized business, offering an integrated approach from strategy to day-to-day operations.
I have never been anti-solution, but it became clear to me clients need more than what is being offered. If you take a look at the top 20 or even 50 the most frequently offering typical solution from a consulting company, you notice that they usually offer to install, embed, build or integrate something, which usually makes your business even more complex to manage. Sure, in some cases, it is what you want and/or need (and sometimes you just simply would like to get a distraction from underlying problems), but mostly you want to bring in an order and to improve your existing management systems. And that is rarely an offer.
I was forced into a unique position quite early in my career. As I began to create efficient ways to manage consulting projects for my clients, I had to dive into the field a few had visited before. This forces me to stay current with the research, studies and the practical applications of modern achievements in economics, finance and management in various situations. It was crucial for a deeper understanding of a client’s business, which, in turn, is an absolute necessity for solving problems in an integrated and systemic manner. Then my clients referred to me some their friends with some complex management or business problems, this drove me further to develop the highest consulting competences I could achieve.
At this point in my career, I have consulted managers, executives, directors, shareholders, and entrepreneurs from literally all over the world with various complex issues. I am not always capable to solve their issue or able to help them, but I can usually find a way to improve their situation to some extent. Sometimes it is profound and sometimes it is not. Sometimes it grows into a consulting project. Sometimes it is just an interesting and meaningful conversation. In any case, you can easily tap into the years of practice and utilize the skill set for your benefit.
The combination of needing to perform at a high level as a consultant solving complex practical problem and constantly stay on the edge of theoretical publication and researches, the advanced approaches, best cases and techniques in business management, created a demanding cycle that has led to the service I offer you now.
I am now on a mission to share with you my personal background, research and the insights I have gained through practicing.