“Many miss this one fact: you can’t just blindly emulate someone else”
People have always been interested in why some people do much better at certain things than others. They tend to look for examples of how to conduct themselves, and try to find ways to imitate successful people. Therefore, demand for memoirs, biographies, interviews and simply the thoughts of successful and distinguished people never drops. But the most successful people themselves also look at other peoples’ lives. I asked different entrepreneurs which individuals are interesting to them, be they living or dead, and why. Evgeny Chichvarkin, for example, admires Peter the Great – for his uncompromising stance on life – and Sam Walton (of Walmart); Oleg Tinkoff likes the self-assurance and boundless creativity of Richard Branson (Virgin); Vadim Dimov prefers the leadership qualities of general Alexander Suvorov; and Ruben Vardanian admires the consistency and strategic working style of Lee Kuan Yew, the first prime minister of Singapore. At the same time, all these Russian entrepreneurs have done things their own way, and in turn they themselves have become examples to others. So, is it possible to learn how to be successful by studying a roll-model? I put this question to Oleg Boyko, entrepreneur and president of the investment holding Finstar. Among his friends and acquaintances many figure on the Forbes Golden 100 list, and Boyko himself consistently finds himself in our rating.
“I never had a mentor – not at any stage in my life, apart from in sport (in the 1970s I was keen on karate, and mentoring is an integral part of that martial art; incidentally, my first money was earned organizing a karate class at school). In business, I generally learned what I know from a select few individuals – when taking part in joint activities with them. That’s how things worked out for me in my life. However, I am certain that in business having a mentor is a good thing and desirable; to learn from others’ examples I think is wholly necessary. My rule on this is simply to keep an eye on those who are successful: what they do, why and how.
successful: what they do, why and how. In the world of business an opening occurs very rarely. All the laws of human relationships and rules for personal success were formulated many centuries ago and have not changed radically ever since. So it’s clear: others’ success can and should be an example. But at the same time there is one thing here that many miss: you should follow blindly no one. You should try out for yourself the methods and technologies that other successful people use, and try to work out whether this or that attitude to money, goals, way of life in general, or psychological profile “fit” for you or not. If there’s no match, then that particular “school of business” is not applicable to you – you can’t effectively adopt its rules. You should learn from those with whom you have something in common – be it personal characteristics or aptitudes. Biographical similarities like “he also started out mopping floors in a restaurant” are not what I mean here. I’ve had partners in different businesses from whom I learned nothing. They were all successful people; it was just that their methods for securing their success did not coincide with my psychological type or, if you will, my soul.
You can and should learn from the example even of your competitors. You needn’t just stick to dividing up spheres of influence and avoiding aggressive moves; you can also learn something useful. I have learned rather a lot from my competitors and have always been surprised by how easy it is to get really important information – if you have good relations with a person. People have a tendency to talk a lot about their achievements, and quite often tell you ideas that you may not have hit upon on your own. Therefore, I like to communicate with my competitors and, to be honest, I consider doing so mutually beneficial, since the information flows both ways. To earn someone’s confidence, one needs to give something in return. And this doesn’t bother me. Far from all the information about how my business works and is structured is secret. But far from every person learning about some kind of technological nuance or new aspect of someone else’s business may use such knowledge effectively. You can adopt only that which sits neatly with your way of doing business, your personal profile, etc. For example, Warren Buffett can keep on telling everyone about what he does. But to outplay him, you need to become a person like Buffett himself.”