Mikhail Kuchment: "When We Started, Everyone Was Twirling Our Fingers At The Temple "

Table of contents:

Mikhail Kuchment: "When We Started, Everyone Was Twirling Our Fingers At The Temple "
Mikhail Kuchment: "When We Started, Everyone Was Twirling Our Fingers At The Temple "

Video: Mikhail Kuchment: "When We Started, Everyone Was Twirling Our Fingers At The Temple "

Video: Mikhail Kuchment: "When We Started, Everyone Was Twirling Our Fingers At The Temple "
Video: НЕФТЬ и ЭКОЛОГИЯ. Спасут ли нас электромобили? 2023, May

MC: There is an opinion that cars were made for centuries before. And now they use simpler materials so that people buy a new car more often. Is there such a trend in furniture and how long does a typical sofa have?

Mikhail Kuchment: In Russia, nobody throws out anything. The sofa will go to the dacha and will serve until it falls apart. (Laughs.) Before entering the furniture industry, I thought, for example, that a mattress is an eternal thing. It turned out that in Europe it must be changed every five years. It seems to me that the question is not in the service life of the furniture, but in the needs. Here young parents come to Hoff: they had a bedroom, now it is a nursery, and they have to sleep in the living room. So furniture does not have a classic life cycle.


And in what phase of the life cycle is the furniture industry now?

Much more advanced than in 2008-2009. Then Russian manufacturers could not compete with imported ones either in price or quality, and the share of imports itself was 50%. Before our very eyes, this industry became more and more professional, and we also contributed to this. Of course, the devaluation of 2014 also played a role - imported furniture has risen so much that local manufacturers have room for maneuvers. In our own sales, the share of imports has decreased over the past few years from 30% to 10%. Today, domestic suppliers are competitive at the global level; I know factories that export up to 20% of their turnover. At the same time, do you know what the owners of these factories look like? These are entrepreneurs who don't read gloss and don't use social media. Nevertheless, they run a factory in a city of 200,000 and are among its top 3 employers. They do not speak English well, but this does not prevent them from going to international exhibitions and adopting new technologies and trends.

Are there women among these entrepreneurs?

The furniture business is still more associated with men. There are a lot of women entrepreneurs in the household goods category. At Hoff, out of 10 product development managers, only one is a man, he is responsible for the upholstered furniture category.

To run a business, you first need a brain, knowledge of technology and a team. Is there any sense in this situation to divide the business into men and women?

I think this division is a stereotype. This is still not a sport where we send girls to figure skating and boys to hockey. Although there are many gender stereotypes in sports. "Moscow does not believe in tears" remember? There is a woman - the director of the plant. The film is almost 40 years old, and we still imagine the director of the plant as a stern, mustachioed man who gives instructions with a mother.


It seems to me that the Veuve Clicquot Business Woman Award, of which I am on the jury, should remove certain barriers in consciousness. Archaism about male and female professions will sooner or later become a thing of the past, and we will contribute to this.

What are you dreaming about? Or do you prefer to set goals?

People are waiting for an answer that I dream of, say, overtaking IKEA. No, our goal is to become the best place for home furnishing in Russia, and we are successfully moving towards this. Speaking at conferences for entrepreneurs, I like to give the example of an ottoman with a lid. This is the kind of product that cannot appear in the assortment of a global European player, because Europe does not face the problem of cramped hallways and lack of space for additional storage. And we understand this, we are closer to the consumer, and it is easier for us to adapt the product to his needs. So Hoff is a national champion that can compete successfully with global corporations. For me, a dream is something more abstract, definitely not about business, where you can set a goal and understand what actions you need to take in order to come to it. I suddenly realizedthat I dream of writing stories. In my youth I tried, I really liked it. I was fond of authors who worked in the genre of short stories. Salinger was my reference book, it was also read by Truman Capote and Hemingway.

I understand that when you started building your career, you also did not dream of the furniture business.

I started working in the mid-1990s when I was in my fourth year at the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology. By that time, I knew one thing for sure: I would not be an outstanding scientist.

Why did you rate yourself so?

My dad devoted his life to science, and I saw how real scientists are passionate about their work. I am not so big a fan of science. In addition, in those days, in order to study science, I would have had to leave for Europe or the United States. I wanted to do business, but there were no connections or capital, so I decided that the right option was to study at some Western company. So I ended up at Samsung and started my career as an Assistant Sales Manager.

A balanced decision for a young man


He chose between “making quick money in non-systemic business” or “taking a longer path”, betting on systemic development, which was then given by Western companies. My first salary at Samsung was $ 600 and I felt great with it.

When and why did you decide to leave for M. Video"?

When, in six years, I came close to the border separating managers from company owners. Then retail in Russia was just beginning to form, the first online sales appeared, and I wanted to be on the other side of the barricades. Before my eyes, a huge business was developing, in which I was interested from a professional point of view, plus I used this opportunity to later become a co-owner of the company, albeit a minority one.

Where did you learn to calculate so many moves ahead? Not in physics lessons …

I disagree. What is the main difference between physics and mathematics? In physics, you can go from point A to point B in different ways. This science develops lateral thinking and creativity.

There were no fears when switching from a Western company to a Russian one?

I understood that corporate governance would differ, but I did not fully understand what I would have to face. Samsung had a paperless office, and M. Video”there were endless memos on which they wrote“to approve”by hand …

What prompted you to start your own company?

My partner at Hoff Alexander Zayonts (then a partner at M. Video) always said: “Remember, Misha, you can only earn a lot of money yourself”. For me, these were the words of the mentor. The story of M. Video”and its president Alexander Tynkovan, who started building a company with a 50-square-meter store on Maroseyka and a start-up capital of $ 5,000. And Zayonts and I have already developed a lot of experience, accumulated more impressive financial resources, formed a team, so we sold our shares to M. Video”and founded Hoff.

You started your business in the very crisis, the first store opened in April 2009. Have you been discouraged from taking such a serious step?

Everyone twisted their fingers to their temples: "Why are you doing this?" There were devastating articles in the press, one was called "Furniture in an open field", I remembered this title for the rest of my life. The work on franchising also added some negativity, because we started under the Austrian franchise Kika. The assortment was not adapted to the Russian culture of consumption, and when I typed “Kika” into the search line, the first thing that came out was the description of Almodovar's film about Kiku, “a cheerful prostitute”.


We realized our mistakes and two years later we made a rebranding - this is how Hoff appeared. Fail fast, as the saying goes, means "get over failure quickly."

You mentioned that you saw a mentor in your partner Aleksandra Zayonts. And now where and how are you developing?

I am greedy for new information and collect it from everywhere. This is communication with professionals in their field, conferences, books, subscriptions to industry media. In 2014, I graduated from Executive MB at Skolkovo, plus I regularly took modules at Western business schools, such as INSEAD and Columbia.

What life hacks do you have for hiring?

We live in a world where the digitalization of the company is important. During the interview, I can ask you to show what applications the candidate uses on the smartphone. I like to ask how old will be seven nine. Can you answer? Not? 80% of the people I asked this question could not answer. And the question is not even that this knowledge is necessary for the profession, for me it is an opportunity to see how a person will behave if he is taken out of balance.

Simple and clear litmus test

When I was 25-30 years old, I was constantly decomposed into molecules using different diagrams and tests. I do not support this approach: you need to tighten up the weaknesses, but still focus on the strengths. But there is also a funny episode connected with this. I once started telling a business consultant who dissected me a story about how I had failed negotiations. Bargained for a fur coat for his wife, rested for a hundred dollars and left with nothing. I came to my senses, returned to the store the next day, and that coat had already been sold. I was ordered a similar one, but I had to pay $ 1000 on top. The consultant said that failure is more important here, the ability for self-irony - the highest degree of personal development, and gave the maximum score.


Is your daughter, at 19, free to choose her own path?

Dasha entered the Higher School of Economics and has now finished her first year. I wanted to push her to study abroad, but I realized in time that our children are already another generation, who grew up in a new country, who do not think, as we did before, abroad is a priori better. And I am pleased that Russian education is her own choice.

Would you like children to come to your business and work with you?

Hoff is one thousandth of a percent of what is now open to them. The speed of change in the modern world opens up endless possibilities. Of course, I will be pleased if the children follow my path, but first of all it is important for me that they grow up happy, for this it is not at all necessary to become entrepreneurs.

Let's talk about shopping. I bought a bed at Hoff, I have been sleeping for seven years. What did you buy in your own store?

More than half of my new home furnishings. I can tell you for sure that the kitchen, garden furniture, something from the bedroom and upholstered furniture are from Hoff.

Did you choose yourself?

Wife. The target audience for which we work.

What are you doing to better understand us, the target audience?

We do not allow ourselves to lose contact with customers. The entire head office is required to work in retail once a year. And in social networks, the client gives an instant reaction to the problem. Sometimes I get it too. Of course, I am worried, but at the same time I understand that this is a certain point of growth - we will solve the problem and figure out how to avoid its repetition in the future.

And it's all about him


Mikhail Kuchment

Co-founder of the Hoff furniture hypermarket chain, co-owner of Sovcombank, winner of the EY Entrepreneur of the Year competition

Age: 45

Family: wife of Milana Korolev, blogger; daughter Daria, 19 years old; son Leonard, 3 years old

Travel: Iceland, California, New Zealand

Places of power: Biarritz, Lugano, Rio de Janeiro

Influencing books: Jason Fried, “Rework. Business without prejudice”; Jim Collins, Good to Great; Jack Trout, "Differentiate or Die!"

Favorite directors and actors: David Fincher, Woody Allen, Tom Hanks, Michael Douglas, Alicia Vikander, Anne Hathaway

Pets: Chelsea husky dog

Sports: snowboarding in winter, wakesurf in summer

Time for sleeping: 8 hours a day, no more. Optimally lie down at 0:00


Photo: Vladimir Vasilchikov

Related materials

  • Olga Slutsker: "Having achieved success, you need to continue to set goals for yourself and develop"
  • The Queen and Lipstick: The Story of a Beauty Passion of Elizabeth II
  • Body Language and Your Success: 7 Easy FBI Agent Hacks Anyone Can Learn

Popular by topic