Be honest with yourself. You have to be able to admit your mistakes. Only if you truly understand why you failed, you can improve. Otherwise, you will be repeating the same thing over and over again. Sometimes we pick the easiest option. For example, if your business does not get funding, you might think: “This is because I am too young” or “They just don’t understand the product”. Well, what if you did a bad job explaining it? Make sure to get to the root of the problem to cure the symptoms.
In this interview series, we are exploring the subject of resilience among successful business leaders. Resilience is one characteristic that many successful leaders share in common, and in many cases it is the most important trait necessary to survive and thrive in today’s complex market. I had the pleasure of interviewing Viktor Viktorov.
Viktor is a serial entrepreneur who built his success from scratch. He started his first business while at university. It was simple — importing fruits and vegetables. Then, he moved on to bootstrapping a leading sporting goods e-commerce website and scaling it to seven countries. A few years later, he decided to challenge himself and founded a financial technology startup REINNO that offers real estate tokenization and lending services. Throughout his journey, Viktor had to overcome many difficulties, personal, financial and strategic. However, he always keeps the passion for growth which helps him achieve great results.
Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’?
Over the years I have started successful businesses in several areas, including import and distribution, e-commerce, and most recently — fintech and real estate. Since the young age, I have always been striving for growth and improvement. Coming from a small town, I have learned to work hard for what I want. During my studies at City University of Seattle, I came up with the idea for my first business. From then on, I have been on a life-long entrepreneurial journey which is both challenging and rewarding.
Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
When I studied at the university, there was an interesting assignment — to play Capsim. For those who don’t know, Capsim is a business simulation where you play as a team to create and implement a successful strategy for your company. I took the lead and persuaded my team members to choose an aggressive approach. At first, we were lagging behind and our professor was sure we would have the lowest score. However, by the middle of the game the tables turned. Long story short, we ended up not only being the best in class but also one of the top ten teams globally. This success gave me the confidence to start my own business. I was ready to become the next Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg. Little did I know, real life is nothing like the simulation. Having a business is not only about counting numbers and managing resources. It is also about establishing relationships, connecting with people, networking, dealing with pressure and emotions… The list goes on and on. Moreover, it can take years to achieve what can be done with one click in the game. You have to patient and reasonable with your expectations.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
REINNO offers a unique combination of products — real estate tokenization and lending backed by tokenized real estate. This way we are able to deliver liquidity that other companies can only promise. I had a chat with a venture capitalist who tried to persuade me that we had a lot of competitors. I was curious, so I asked him to show me a few. Upon further research, it turned out their models were completely different from ours and could not secure the same level of efficiency, for either the company or its clients. At the moment even if an asset is tokenized, its value can be trapped by the lock-in period; plus, the secondary market is not fully established yet. The lending functionality that REINNO offers allows using tokens backed by real estate as loan collateral and getting instant access to funds with no hustle or paperwork. The clients have leverage over their investments since the lock-in period won’t prevent them from accessing the value of real estate. They get a chance to obtain funds in just a few clicks, choose the size of loan collateral (the number of tokens) and repayment conditions. We believe that using real estate tokens as loan collateral is the key to providing immediate liquidity to investors.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
There is only one person who has been with me from the start — my wife. You know how the wedding vowel goes: “for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health”. She took it seriously. Viktoria is my inspiration, my backbone and my support system. When times are tough, she motivates me to push through and never give up. We have two beautiful kids and I am forever grateful to her.
Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the trait of resilience. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?
Resilient people are not afraid of difficulties; they can bounce back no matter what hits them. In order to build resilience, they have to be determined and passionate. They should be confident and understand that their temporary problems will eventually pass but their identity will remain. They are self-aware and know what they absolutely need, what they can give up and when to ask for help. In the perfect world, they would always know when to show a little stubbornness and when to be flexible. However, it does not always happen, which can lead to stress.
When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?
When I think of resilience, I think of Elon Musk. He is not scared of failure; when he has an established goal, he works hard to achieve it. He is not only talking about making a change, he is actually doing it. He thinks big and doesn’t let other people’s doubts discourage him. Musk has been criticized for some of his business decisions, beliefs and even tweets. However, his ambitions and well-established character help him get through the tough times and come out stronger than ever.
Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us?
Oh, it happens almost all the time! I remember when I started one of my first businesses, the e-commerce retailer called MyMall. I was rejected hundreds of times. I was out of money with no funding from investors, no established partnerships, no support from relatives; even my father told me that unless I worked in the family business, I would be on my own from then on. He didn’t think that my new venture would be successful. At that time, I already had a wife and a kid to support so the decision didn’t come easy. Still, I decided to follow my dreams. It was hard but I never gave up. It took me three years of hard work and no income in order to start making some money. There were moments when I had to take all of my wife’s salary to pay developers for the work they had done on the website. Sometimes I felt like Chris Gardner from The Pursuit of Happiness. I watched the movie and thought: “Oh, this guy is worse off than me. At least I still have a wife!” Thankfully, it all paid off in the end. We developed a leading e-commerce platform for sporting goods operating in seven countries; in three of them it ranked number one for online sales.
Did you have a time in your life where you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us?
When I decided to start REINNO, I had to hand over the management of MyMall, my e-commerce business, to a new CEO. REINNO required my full attention and I wasn’t be able to take care of two companies at the same time. That was not my best hiring decision (and trust me, I have made some questionable ones). Over the course of one year, the new CEO lost millions of dollars and almost brought MyMall to bankruptcy. It all came down to this: if I wanted that company to have a future, I needed to restructure it and make it better than before. It was a huge challenge. However, that pushed me to take the time and look over the entire operations of the company. It allowed me to reduce inefficiencies that appeared during the initial growth phase and make the company more profitable than ever. I got some lemons and made delicious lemonade!
Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share a story?
I used to be a professional table tennis player. I trained from when I was eight years old to nineteen. Sports helped me understand that a failure is not the end of the world. It taught me that if you want to outperform others, you should put in more efforts than them. My coach used to tell me: “You are definitely not the most talented kid here, so you need to train more than others if you want to achieve something”. Some people would give up, choose another hobby, switch to a new coach or just settle down for mediocre results. However, I trained a lot to perfect my skills. That led me to become a three-time national champion.
Resilience is like a muscle that can be strengthened. In your opinion, what are 5 steps that someone can take to become more resilient? Please share a story or an example for each.
- Be honest with yourself. You have to be able to admit your mistakes. Only if you truly understand why you failed, you can improve. Otherwise, you will be repeating the same thing over and over again. Sometimes we pick the easiest option. For example, if your business does not get funding, you might think: “This is because I am too young” or “They just don’t understand the product”. Well, what if you did a bad job explaining it? Make sure to get to the root of the problem to cure the symptoms.
- Stay focused. When problems keep coming up, it is easy to forget what you are fighting for. The tougher the situation, the more motivated you have to be. Always remind yourself why your goal is important and make every step bring you closer to it, even if you need to take a little detour. When I had to manage two companies at the same time, it was extremely challenging. One of them was an established player on the edge of bankruptcy and another one — an early-stage startup that needed attention for fast development. This is a perfect recipe for losing control over your emotions and strategy. However, I managed to focus on what was really important and push through. It might have required a few sleepless nights but that’s what you get for being an entrepreneur, right?
- Be prepared. Always have a plan B and never expect things to go the perfect way. Something will go wrong; it’s inevitable. The only way for you to make it better is by having a recovery strategy. Business people are constantly taking risks, big or small. It is impossible to have a positive outcome at all times, and you need to understand that. Every time I start a new company, there is a certain level of uncertainty. However, I am not scared of failure. I am ready to face the challenges and create new, better solutions.
- Pick yourself up; then pick yourself up again. I agree with the saying that you don’t fail when you fall, you fail when you refuse to get up. Find that inner strength and don’t let difficulties break your spirit. Do you think I would be where I am now if I stopped pursuing my dreams when my dad gave me the ultimatum to work in the family business? Or when I didn’t get investor funding from the first try? Of course not!
- Work on relationships. It is not easy to be a one-man band. A strong professional and personal network can significantly help in times of hardship. Having my wife’s support was essential for me to build several successful companies. Moreover, over time I found people in all business spheres you can imagine — from law and accounting to sales and marketing. I know that I can rely on them and it helps me keep a positive outlook when times a rough.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I would love to reshape the cities to make them self-sustaining and bring better living for people. Not only in terms of environment, but also to reduce the stress levels. I would increase efficiency and optimize so that no resources are wasted. This is one of the reasons I decided to start a business in the real estate space. Step by step I would like to contribute to the development of smart cities. Automation, elimination of paperwork, instant transactions, fee reduction and time saving — these are the things we are already working on at REINNO.
We are blessed that some very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them 🙂
I would love to have a coffee with Elon Musk. He wants to disrupt huge, well-established industries and change the status quo — and he succeeds no matter how hard it is. I share his vision and desire to push the boundaries. I respect that he always chooses the hard way and does not search for ways to cut corners.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
You can follow me on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/viktor-viktorov-54176467/ and you can follow REINNO on a variety of social networks:
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!