The conversation with the director of Ukrainian exporting flour Stolychnyi Mlyn Valerii Andriianov about the realities and prospects of the Ukrainian business.
Youth, ambitions, straightforwardness and honesty, as well as the desire to keep moving forward. Is not that the qualities which are so severely lacking for many Ukrainian businessmen? All this combines in himself the head of Stolichnyi Mlyn, which works directly with the UK, Germany, Switzerland, Vietnam, Turkey, Lebanon, Syria, Yemen, Africa and other countries. Of course, communication with foreign business partners imprints on the mind and management – when the focus is on the interests of buyers, and the respect and reputation are achieved by own example.
LDaily: Valerii, tell us a little about the company Stolichnyi Mlyn, as well as the problems that you probably face as a director in your work?
V. Andriianov: Stolichnyi Mlyn produces flour and sell it both in Ukraine and abroad. Now the main focus of our work are the exports and the expansion of sales markets, however, for this there are many conditions, the most important of which is the modernization of existing equipment and the reduction of Ukrainian products in line with European quality standards. Ukrainian GOSTs completely not taken abroad, and I very often confront with the fact that our partners are not aware of any GOSTs, so we have to order the examination in such laboratories as the “SGS, Bastico, Procontrol” for the certification of its products, which is simply essential to our European consumers to buy flour. Of course, it costs to go to, but we can not afford ourselves to ignore the demands of European customers.
And, of course, the main problem in Ukraine, about which we owe to say – the bureaucracy, which hinders extremely the development process, and in our case it is the process of timely deliveries of the goods in the required quantities. I want to say that much in our country is still working under the old scheme, in particular railway logistics. We often have to defend our interests in court, and, of course we do it.
LDaily: What kind of equipment does Stolichnyi Mlyn use in work?
V. Andriianov: We work with a Swiss equipment and the old Soviet as well. But taking into account, as I have said, the expansion of sales markets, we especially feel the need in technical upgrading, otherwise our products will not meet European quality, and the purchase of necessary new equipment for us costs too much.
LDaily: Is there any support from the state?
V. Andriianov: No, at least for now, there is no support, though, I would love to feel it. For example, our company really needs cheap loans, because those that we have at the moment are expensive, and our costs are not covered in full.
LDaily: Tell us about the experience of doing business with the Europeans, what is important for them?
V. Andriianov: First of all, Europeans pay attention to the history and reputation of the company in their own country. For them, it is important to know your company on the market as already proved popular, but even this is often not enough. From my own experience I can say that
before concluding the transaction, the company will be checked with the utmost care and, for example, we, as a Ukrainian supplier, have to conquer the customer even after the conclusion of the contract through the fulfillment of our commitments
After that, everything is based on daily activity and constant communication, we can say online customer support around the clock, as the time zones are quite different, and current issues often do not require a delay.
LDaily: What, in your experience, is the most difficult to work with the export of goods?
V. Andriianov: Of course, the most difficult is the logistics. It is very expensive in Ukraine. It often happens that it is cheaper to our European partners to take the flour directly from our warehouse than we deliver it. You should also take into account the fluctuating grain prices, while we have to keep a fixed price for flour. Sometimes even so, that we operate at a disadvantage.
I would also like to mark the complexity in the work with the financial instruments in Ukraine, I mean, letters of credit. The whole world has been working through a letter of credit, that is, without payment, except our country. This, by the way , creates a barrier in working with foreign business partners, and often pushes aside the cooperation with Ukraine.
Financial instruments in Ukraine need to be constantly expanded, learnt and adapted well to international requirements
LDaily: Does your company use the services of external consultants, this practice is now gaining pace in Ukraine?
V. Andriianov: No, we do not use the services of external consultants, and all the difficulties resolve ourselves. Till we are able to identify weaknesses in the process of direct cooperation and, of course, solve the problem immediately. In addition, we prefer to negotiate directly with our partners. This allows us to be always aware of what is happening and when to make operational decisions.
LDaily: Did it happen to you as a director, to change the company’s development strategy?
V. Andriianov: Yes, of course, but not to change, just to adjust. The fact is that the development strategy of Stolichnyi Mlyn is focused on export potential and in this basis we build our strategy. To talk about long-term plans, for example, for 3-5 years, is only possible looking back on the current positive dynamics of exports, which also covers a number of potential markets and opportunities, which require various products in quality, composition, additives and packaging.
LDaily: Valerii, there is very likelihood that you have long working hours and very busy schedule of meetings. Where do you draw strength, how do you recover, and what inspires you?
V. Andriianov: Yes, I really have a very tight shedule, but what really helps me is gym. There I draw strength and inspiration (smiles). In addition, we have a close-knit and friendly team in a company with which we often spend time together, relax and learn. Our team is young, the atmosphere is positive. It is very important for the company’s development. All our team is focused on results and effectiveness of the actions of each employee, because it is an important link in the chain of internal business processes.
I would also like to note that our company has such a thing as a “staff turnover”, but believe me, it is very low. Why? The case is that the benefits in the official employment and career prospects are much more higher in comparison with the one-stage revenue or outsourcing. In addition, I consider I have a good advantage as the director with my openness and accessibility for employees, which is usually valued and respected as a quality.