Career Confessions: Ruslan Kogan – Founder & CEO of Kogan
Kogan is a privately-owned Australian company established in 2006 by entrepreneur Ruslan Kogan. After completing a Bachelor of Business Systems at Monash University, Ruslan had by the age of 23 worked at the IT departments of Bosch, GE and Telstra, and been a management consultant at Accenture. He started Kogan in his parent’s garage with zero external funding or capital, and has gone on to build one of the fastest growing companies in Australia and is now international with the launch of Kogan in the UK in November 2010.
In just over five years, Kogan has sold over 550, 000 products directly to Australian and international customers through its websites, www.kogan.com and www.kogan.co.uk. Kogan is set to record $150m+ in sales in 2011-2012 and remains one of Australia’s fastest growing companies.
Kogan believes technology can make the world a better place, and their goal is to make the latest technology more affordable for everyone. Specialising in LCD and LED TVs, Blu-ray players, digital photo frames, PVRs, digital video cameras, Android powered tablets, laptops, and home appliances, Kogan brings the best technology direct to consumers at unbeatable prices. By cutting out the middle men and selling direct through www.kogan.com andwww.kogan.co.uk, Kogan is the online store for smart, savvy shoppers. Kogan regularly talk with their customers through the Kogan blog, Facebook, and Twitter, and manufacture products based on these conversations.
Ruslan Kogan is also a partner in another successful online furniture business, www.milandirect.com.au /www.milandirect.co.uk. He is the only person ever to have two companies on the BRW Fast Starters list.
Ruslan Kogan has won a number of awards for his success in bringing the best value technology to Australian consumers:
The Australian Top 50 Most Influential People in Technology
The Age Top 100 most influential people in Melbourne
BRW 2011 Young Rich List, Richest Person Under 30 in Australia
T3 magazine most influential people in technology
Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year
BRW 2010 Fast 100 List
BRW 2010 Fast Starters List
BRW 2010 Young Rich List
Virgin Australia 2011 Top Guns in Tech
SmartCompany 2011 Hot 30 Under 30
2010 Charter Security Retail Innovator of the Year
BRW 2009 Fast Starters List
BRW 2009 Young Rich List
Anthill Top 30 Under 30 Entrepreneurs
My Business 2010 Best Young Gun in Business.
Describe yourself in 3 words: Crazy, hard working, perfectionist (sorry about the extra word, I always push the boundaries).
What is your life motto? Work hard, play harder.
When did you start pursuing your career and how long did it take to become successful? I have run 20 businesses since the age of 10, and learnt a lot about the business world from a very early age. I don’t think you can set a timeline for when you start pursuing a career. One thing I’ve always done is ensure I’m passionate about what I do and keep pursuing happiness. I don’t think any external person can call me successful because they don’t know what success means to me. It’s a personal measure.
How much time and effort did you dedicate to pursuing your dream? 100% of my effort is dedicated to pursuing my passions and dreams. It is the most important thing in my life and something I’ll keep doing.
What are the challenges in your line of work? Running Kogan brings with it many challenges, there are thousands of important decisions I have to make every day. The business is growing very rapidly and the current challenge is pursuing the right opportunities available to us.
What is the mistake that taught you an extremely valuable lesson? I don’t regret any decisions I’ve made, even though some may have been wrong. Every mistake you make is a great learning opportunity and I’ve become a much better business person because of it.
I could highlight hundreds of instances like this but the one that pops into my mind straight away is about the importance of protecting your intellectual property. We recently purchased the Kogan.com domain for an amount with lots of zeros behind it. If we had been more careful about protecting our intellectual property from day one, we could have bought it for $14.
What is the best piece of advice you have been given to date? The best advice has been printed on Nike t-shirts for years ‘Just Do It!’. I see a lot of people discuss great opportunities, but rarely do I see people back it up with actions.
In your mind, is formal training essential? I don’t think formal training is a very helpful exercise. I think formal training is for people who want to look like they’re learning. Google is for people who really want to learn.
We must all take responsibility for our own personal development; there is not a single business problem that you can’t solve by using Google.
Do you think having a mentor is important? How would you go about getting one for this industry? I don’t really believe in mentors. When I was starting Kogan, I spoke to a few significant business leaders and they all thought I was crazy to think people would buy TVs from an online only store.
To me, an entrepreneur is an inventor and an athlete in one. They are an inventor because they have to come up with a new way of doing things and they’re an athlete because they need to work their butt off to make them happen.
Nobody could have mentored Thomas Edison to invent the lightbulb and nobody could have mentored Henry Ford to invent the assembly line.
An inventor is someone who thinks like no one before them has thought.
What are some steps those starting out can take to start/further their career? There is no step-by-step guide on how to create a successful business. Every industry is changing very rapidly, and in order to stay on top, you need to be the most responsive to change.
What kept you going when you weren’t at your best? I’ve been through a lot of tough times in my life, but I think if we didn’t experience the troughs, it wouldn’t make the peaks as enjoyable.
I’m motivated by the end goal and no matter what adversity you face in life and business, it is important to stay focused and put any setback you have into perspective.
Do you believe that ‘making it’ is about luck and being in the right place at the right time? Whenever someone wishes me luck I often tell them ‘don’t wish me luck because it’s got nothing to do with it’. If I believed in luck, I would spend my time buying lotto tickets rather than scientifically analysing the business world.