Taras Korniyachenko, CEO “TEDIS Ukraine”: how the company digitizes business and grows leaders
The company develops new directions, invests in technologies and develops innovative IT products
Your company is one of the largest distribution structures in the country. How does market trends affect it?
Today we are the largest distributor of FMCG, and tobacco remains our anchor product, therefore, we are influenced by the processes characteristic of the tobacco market, and this is a tendency for tobacco consumption to decrease by 9-12% annually. But if the markets in Europe have already stabilized, then our decline continues.
At the same time, there is a decrease in the efficiency of some processes that were previously tuned for a larger volume: the workload of warehouse areas and vehicles has decreased, and this adds loads. Retail outlets order smaller quantities, and if earlier we delivered, for example, one box of cigarettes, now the average delivery is two times lower, respectively, the collection of goods and the number of points on the route of one car is growing, and unloading is one point less.
Several years ago we began to develop the non-tobacco category: lighters, matches. Today we are also one of the key players in these markets and are gradually developing other categories, for example, snacks, and we do not want to stop there.
We cover all regions of Ukraine: we have 32 regional centers and about 45 thousand retail outlets, which we serve on a regular basis. And it would be interesting for each point to receive a full service, when a sales representative came and offered the product that is needed at the price that suits a particular point, and then one machine would deliver these products. We are developing, expanding our portfolio, improving our quality standards for service, delivery, and visits. We also develop IT projects aimed at improving the service for our clients directly at retail outlets.
How did you manage to preserve your human capital?
The company has always placed a strong emphasis on its employees. The HR department has done a lot of work on the development of corporate culture as the core that unites all staff. But at the same time, we constantly supplement the employee’s social package. For example, since 2018, everyone has been provided with health insurance, which today has become a significant help during the coronavirus epidemic. This year, we have expanded our coverage to include COVID-19 testing and primary diagnosis.
We are constantly working to improve the working conditions of our staff. For example, in the trade direction, we analyzed how a person works, what motivates him, and what factors, on the contrary, affect demotivation. Thanks to this, we managed to reduce the turnover of personnel in the sales department by more than half and now we are holding at a very decent level of 30%.
Since 2018, the company has provided each employee with medical insurance, which today has become a significant help during the coronavirus epidemic.
The company has a highly developed training department. Before the crisis, we introduced a Web-tutor system, which made it possible to study in a remote format, and our HRs began to develop training webinars.
There is a developed system of career growth: an employee is shown how he can grow from an ordinary sales representative to a senior, supervisor, etc., and this applies to all positions that are in the company.
The distribution business is highly competitive, everything is strictly controlled here: time, efficiency of delivery. Do you have empathy in your business, which is now becoming the main skill of a leader? Is it important now?
There certainly is. This is very important, this is the level of customer service. If a sales rep does not show empathy, but acts like a machine, then it will be very difficult for him to build communication with retail customers.
We devote the lion’s share of trainings to client relations, the fact that the client should always be in focus. He is the key to business success. For a sales rep to do his job properly, all other employees who help him sell must also be customer-centric.
Has the crisis changed the strategic objectives of Tedis?
We had a series of strategic sessions a couple of years ago. And what we planned then is confirmed today. We understood that the tobacco market would decline, so it is very important for us to develop other areas, become more technological, and invest in innovative IT products.
We continue to develop a modern multi-channel model to expand our sales channels. Now this project is at its final stage, we will soon launch this platform and add its functionality.
All modern researchers say: if the systematic work in the company is set up, the business can be debugged even during the coronavirus. We haven’t lost a single penny of sales. All our sales worked and continue to work like clockwork.
We are now implementing the strategies that we talked about two or three years ago. I think that the crisis will give us more opportunities to realize ourselves according to the parameters and benchmarks that we set for ourselves, and will allow us to work even more efficiently.
How much has the turbulence of the economy affected your business and you personally?
We have always worked around the clock, without a break. Now we have added more responsiveness to the problems associated with the virus, so we need to act even faster. We had certain standards regarding cleanliness before, and now we provide employees with gloves, masks, disinfectants. This is at the operational level.
At the highest level, we have developed a system for protecting personnel from the virus almost every day. We looked at what other enterprises are doing, what is in the world, how they are fighting, protecting people from risks. Now that we have worked out a certain approach, we meet once a week or two in order to level up and assess the situation.
At the same time, we have people who monitor the disease situation every day. And if there is a threat of an outbreak, we immediately respond to it. But since the processes were fine-tuned, our regime, as it was cosmically fast, remains so.
Which is better – vertical integration or matrix management of the company?
We have a combination of different kinds of solutions. For example, accounting and finance are completely centralized. Management processes are operational, in each regional division there is a leader, and he is authorized to make decisions.
If there is an issue that affects the interests of everyone – the sales team, HR, finance, logistics, we assemble a multifunctional team, create a working group, develop certain ideas, develop business cases that are submitted for approval to all departments, and put it into operation.
Moreover, working groups are a more convenient and flexible tool than if someone alone proposed an idea and began to coordinate it with all interested parties. The working group initially consists of specialists of various profiles. For us it works like this: the project was described, everything was checked, a business case was created, submitted to me for approval, and launched. This speeds up the process at times.
So you support domestic entrepreneurship?
Absolutely! We even have a mini-MBA School of Effective Management and Leadership. And it bears fruit. And the emphasis is just on the study of approaches from the point of view of the development of internal entrepreneurship. People have been trained and we see that they have a spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship. Now we need to decide how we can use it and how to further cultivate ideas that will benefit the company.