What Mikhail Fridman would say to get a job at Forbes, what principle he uses when selecting his staff and why business partners are more important than friends
Mikhail Fridman, chairman of the Supervisory Board of Alfa Group, spoke at the Atlanta Business Forum, where he answered questions from Forbes editor-in-chief Nikolai Uskov.
On getting a job at Forbes
I don’t know what kind of job they would give me at Forbes, but if, for example, as an analyst, I would say that I have a lot of experience in business, and I would even be good enough to get a raise at your magazine.
About finding new employees
We found several major managers and even partners through an ad in the newspaper. That’s how Andrei Rappoport, the future Chairman of the Management Board of Alfa-Bank, came to us. My current partner Andrei Kosogov, who used to head Alfa-Capital, also came through a newspaper ad. But when you put an ad in the newspaper, 80% [of the people who come] are crazy.
On the main qualities Friedman expects from job applicants
First of all, you have to show up on time. It’s not very fashionable right now, but I try to arrive on time. It’s much more interesting for me to talk about something other than professional knowledge, because I understand much less than the person I’m interviewing. Those people who claim to be top managers usually know a lot more about business than I do because they do it on a professional daily basis. For me the human qualities are very important. What family he comes from, where he studied, what his hobbies are, whether he likes to read, what kind of cinema he likes, etc. That’s what’s important to me.
About the Alfa Group partners
In my opinion, partners are more than friends. Friends are great, but in our very regulated world, friendships do not often pass serious tests. Partnership is a serious ordeal, it is fire, water, and brass pipes. It’s money, it’s fame, it’s participation in decision-making, it’s the ability to sacrifice self-interest for the common good and the ability to insist on something important. You need the people who become your partners to share your own values.
On the role of written agreements in business
I always try to think ahead. We were very young, 24-25 years old, but I would say, “Guys, it’s okay, we really feel close and reliable, but life is complicated… Let’s sign some papers about how we’re going to split up, how we’re going to share, etc.” We signed some serious papers in 1992, not according to Russian laws, because they didn’t exist, but according to Western norms. And I think the fact that we did this helped us a lot.