22 Jun 2020

“GSOM provides system knowledge and thinking”: interview with Andrey Safelkin, an alumnus EMBA 2014

Andrey Safelkin, Development Director of STD "Petrovich", an alumnus of the 2014 EMBA program. We discussed with him education at GSOM, business development in times of crisis, and found out what knowledge was useful in everyday work.


What do you do in STD "Petrovich"? 

I work as the Development Director of STD Petrovich and am engaged in regional expansion. I am looking for new sites in the regions where it would be interested to open retail outlets, thinking about marketing and expanding the catchment area. I do everything: search, verification and preparation of the Land plot, selection of a developer who can implement the project according to our terms of reference, construction control at all stages. When the facility is physically ready, I work with the operators to prepare the center for opening (installation of technological equipment, delivery of goods, etc.) and then I put the facility into operation and transfer the complex to the department responsible for the operation. And than I continue to search for new sites. In the year we open 1-2 points, perhaps we could have more, but we open new points not for external investments, but for reinvested profits, so the possibilities are not unlimited.


Did the demand for STD Petrovich goods increase during the pandemic? Has this allowed you to strengthen your B2C direction?

Of course, demand has grown not only in our company, but also in the entire DIY segment. People were sitting at home or in the villages, and the feeling of disaster caused a desire to create something new and good, to improve their home. Someone did not go on vacation and saved money on repairs. All of these factors spurred sales growth. We closed offline stores in Moscow and St. Petersburg, but online sales felt a big surge of traffic, including from individuals. Previously, they made purchases in other networks, and now, having gone online, they began to use our services. Therefore, yes, of course, we have greatly increased our B2C customer base over this period. Now one of our main goals is to retain these customers.


At the meeting of the Club of Practitioners, you said that during the pandemic, it was possible to redistribute employees from the stores to online orders. How did you manage to optimize processes and retrain employees in a short time?

Our company has a very powerful department for employee training and development. We finalized and simplified standard training programs, as employees who worked in trading floors and other positions already partially possessed many of the skills and competencies that are needed for distance sales. The training course was reduced to one week. Of course, in a short period of time it is difficult to teach employees everything, but most will strengthen their knowledge and skills already in the process. Perhaps the new customers who came to retrained employees felt some inconvenience, but such a redistribution helped us to receive a large flow of calls and orders. During the pandemic, there were 4-5 times more calls and orders.


Is product promotion in a crisis different from normal time?

Yes, we were forced to abandon the traditional advertising of the company, and switched to an advertising format where consumers can see the final result, tried to maximize the possibility of online shopping. We deliberately introduced and promoted evening delivery for 100 rubles in St. Petersburg and 190 rubles in Moscow in order to reduce the load from morning orders. Also we refused to advertise in the subway due to the fall in passenger traffic, and this money was redistributed to other channels. 


What new communication channels did you use during the crisis? What do you focus more on?

Firstly, they are actively engaged in finalizing the site and mobile application. This is an ongoing process, but during the pandemic, the importance of these services has increased significantly. Secondly, we have increased the amount of advertising in the search engines Yandex and Google.


How do you evaluate your steps during a crisis? How correct were they?

We are in favor of doing less, but with good quality, than do a lot and bad. Therefore, the company has always paid more attention to quality service than a large flow of customers. During the crisis, we tried to keep the service at the right level for each client. At the moment, we are witnessing an increase and increase in customer flow to a level that we saw only in the most ambitious plans. But let's see what will happen at the end of the year, who will stay with us in the future.


What new opportunities have appeared after the completion of the Executive MBA program?

This is a philosophical question. On the one hand, there was a feeling and understanding that it was completely unimportant what to do. You can manage pasta production, build rockets, and do IT business. In this regard, consciousness expanded as much as possible, I wanted to do everything at once. But on the other hand, GSOM provides systemic knowledge and thinking, as well as the understanding that it is better to do the thing that you love, you know, focus on your own resources and time, and all of these things will give the maximum result. Despite the fact that there were many exciting offers from new areas, I decided to stay and build my career in the company.


What is the most valuable skills or things you received during the education at GSOM?

The group I happened to study in is one of the greatest values that I can single out. All the guys are very versatile people who shared their opinions, experiences, thoughts. Over the past two years, I have developed a sense of brotherhood, which is also a very important and valuable part. And, of course, the expansion of consciousness and knowledge, which covers many industries, today helps to communicate in the same language with specialists of different levels and areas - HR, logistics, IT, planning, etc.


What did you manage to apply from the acquired knowledge in your daily work or in times of crisis?

During the training, we had an excellent mathematical course, which was called "Quantitative decision-making methods." Our company is tied to logistics, as well as to the reception and processing of a large amount of information, and not all of us sometimes succeed. I still have a strong desire to ask advice from Andrey Zyatchin. Logistics and mathematics are very closely related, and the ability to operate with a large flow of data in order to draw the right conclusions is very important. From the point of view of the applied, of course, much has been done in relation to personnel management and an approach to employees.


What would you recommend to a future listener of the EMBA program?

I am happy for them, and a little envy that all the knowledge and new acquaintances they have yet to come!