Alexander Bachmann on growing a business and how personal change can affect company transformation
Admitad CEO Alexander Bachmann became a guest of Mark Develman’s new podcast “Den of Rich”. Here are the main points of this interview.
Weight loss and transformation
I started gaining weight when I was 11. That was when my family and I had just moved from Kazakhstan to Germany. When I turned 15, an idea struck me: It’s time to lose weight. So, I lost about 10 or 15 kilograms but gained them back in a couple of months. Numerous attempts to go on a diet and resolutions to start a new life on Monday followed, but none of them really panned out. Six years ago, I decided to review my nutrition and started working out. That helped me drop my weight from 110 kilograms to 70. Since then, everything has changed: I devoted more time to myself and my family and stopped working 15-16 hours a day. I realized that success wasn’t about the number of hours worked.
Mountains. Restart and deep conversations
I’m in the middle of the Volcanic Seven Summits program. My fifth mountain was in Mexico. I’m planning to conquer Chile and Antarctica soon. When I first went climbing, I just wanted to give it a try. I loved staying in a close group of entrepreneurs, where you’re only around each other for 10-14 days, removed from the world. That helps you go farther, from small talks to meaningful conversations.
You reboot, and fresh ideas come to your mind. Last but not least, I see interest and excitement in my daughter’s eyes when I tell her about my mountain journeys. That’s precious to me.
How personal change influences the company’s transformation
I associate my transformation with Admitad’s. We launched one business, an affiliate network, back in 2010 and saw good growth. The second line of business emerged in 2015, and, in 2017 and 2018, we fell into stagnation. Then I went to study at the Adizes Institute, and I had the following questions: «What is company management? How is it built?» We started delving into those matters and found out what we needed to do to ensure continuous growth.
Mistakes and new solutions
What undermined our progress was that we thought about titles, not functions. We did it like, “Well, Rachel is in charge of marketing.” And when we focused on people, we couldn’t continue forming our team. We started building a function-based structure, and, eventually, we decided to employ a business unit system. For instance, we have a head of a business unit and a head of a region (e.g., Russia). They work together in close cooperation since it’s equally important to us to understand both the specifics of a particular country and develop Admitad products.
Interim goals or appetite comes with food
No doubt, I want our company to grow larger than Amazon. But I realize that I won’t derive any pleasure from setting such a lofty goal.
I’m convinced the best way is to create checkpoint goals 2-3 years ahead. Speaking of, we introduced the ESOP program late last year. I allocated 15% of shares to C-level executives and middle-level specialists. Today, at least 50 people have a shared goal until 2025. It’ll help us boost our IPO chances.
Daily schedule, work-life balance
I couldn’t say Admitad is like a job for me. It’s my life, my hobby. I get up at 7 am, take my daughter to daycare, then come to the office by 8 am. My workout starts 2.5 hours later. I return by lunchtime and then leave at 6 pm. I’m at home by 6:30 pm, so I have time to play with my daughter.
I used to be overloaded on work before I lost weight. The idea that I had to work never left me. In those days, I would get up late and go straight to my computer. I had only one meal a day, late at night. To some extent, I was happy to be stout back then. I felt uncomfortable inside my skin, didn’t go to parties, and didn’t talk to ladies. That was my driver, and I kept thinking, “My mind and persistence will bring great results. I won’t live this life in vain.”
Classic education and my way
I think everyone has to study up to the sixth or seventh grade. Most of the subjects taught at school have no application in further life. What is by far more important is that a child starts trying different things in life as soon as possible.
I’m extremely grateful to my parents and my brother for supporting me. I started my online projects when I was 15 and left school at 17 when I initiated another endeavor and got into debt. Nothing would’ve happened if my parents hadn’t taken a loan.
Zero income as a success driver
My whole family is from a small village in Kazakhstan. I remember my parents gave my brother and me a pig in early summer and said, “Raise them, feed them well, and look after them. We’ll sell them in the fall and spend the money on clothes and school supplies.” We moved to Germany in 1999. It may sound great, but it wasn’t actually. We were taken to a barrack, then to a dormitory, where we stayed for about six months. All those events in my teenage years really toughened me up.
Raising a daughter
We opened a bank account when our child was born and began to put money in it so we can give her access to the account when she’s 18, and she can be completely independent. I may change my mind later, but today, this is the way I see it. I hope my child will choose to concentrate on studying what she likes or try something new. We don’t want our daughter to study in Germany for too long since it’s primarily an industrial country.
Big city energy
Admitad’s HQ is located in Heilbronn, but I lived in various places while I was opening the company’s offices. For instance, we lived in Spain for some time until somebody broke into our place through the window. Our family spent a year in Moscow. I met many people during that period, but I realized that there’s no need to stay in a big city all the time. Metropolises can drain your energy faster. Now, I come to Moscow once a month, which is enough for me.
We focus on three lines of business: organic growth (developing the existing products), R&D (seeking new countries, products, and clients), and M&A (acquiring new businesses). While I’m more focused on organic growth and M&A concerns, Maksim Volokhov is in charge of R&D.
As a founder, I make the major investment. If you look at my bank account, you’ll likely find an overdraft. By the way, European banks have a negative interest rate, so it’s more profitable to reinvest as much as possible.
What is a company?
Our environment has a big effect on us. In my company of friends, I’m the person who holds everyone together. I organize regular gatherings and throw a fancy birthday party every year.
You can say the same about building an international company. You need to have a vision, follow a mission, and know how to unite people.