With almost two decades of building commerce technology businesses behind him, Boris Lokschin is undoubtedly an expert in digital commerce and digital technology. Boris was at the forefront of the cloudification and Open Source movements of the commerce tech industry and even offered software-as-a-service solutions before it even was a recognized industry term. He has a deep understanding of the diverse organizational, methodological, and complex technological needs multinational corporations and traditional businesses face amid ongoing digitization developments. Boris sold both of his previous businesses, the last one to NASDAQ listed CGI Inc.
Boris is convinced by the vast potential of technology to enable companies to build digital transactional capabilities beyond traditional thinking and transform businesses and whole industries. Since its founding in 2014, Spryker has empowered 150+ companies such as ALDI, Toyota, Siemens, HILTI, and RICOH around B2B, Enterprise Marketplaces, IoT, and Unified Commerce in more than 200 countries worldwide.
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Tell us a little bit about your current projects. What exciting milestone would you like to share with our readers? (Don’t hesitate to delve into your achievements, they will inspire the audience)
Boris Lokschin: Right now we have a strong focus on international expansion to the US. We reached a headcount of over 50 stateside employees within the first six months of the year and plan to grow to over 100 by the end of 2021. Our first US-based customers went live, with another round of customers now in the implementation phase.
Later this year, we have Spryker EXCITE coming up. It will be held on 7 October and will be our first fully hybrid e-commerce conference with a packed agenda of industry experts and commerce specialists and representatives from the Spryker team. It will be held on-site in both Miami and Berlin and, in addition to the meetings in person, attendees can join online. Participants can expect product announcements and fascinating insights from our keynote speakers as well as hearing a selection of our best customer success stories.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up?
Boris Lokschin: Every founder faces times of uncertainty and difficulties, and I’m no exception. In my first company, we didn’t have an office for the first year and were not accepted in the first batch of a local startup competition. In the end, we were in the second batch and won.
In the second business, our successful SaaS product was challenged by the vendor itself, we used their open source product at the time. But look at us right now, we’re growing the current business at light speed. We’re hiring ten new people per week and expanding into new markets around the world. So far, giving up has never been an option (maybe this comes from my experience of being a title-winning trampolinist in my youth). Challenges push me forward and help me connect the dots between the end goal and how to get there.
Often leaders are asked to share the best advice they received. But let’s reverse the question. What’s the worst advice you received?
Boris Lokschin: For a long time, many people have advised me that experience is one of the most valuable traits in a new hire or collaborator. I have found, this ultimately leads to just approaching problems exactly as people have done it before. Therefore, I see potential as a far more important trait than experience. Curiosity, being brave, and actively pushing the boundaries of the status quo is what creates innovation. I heard far too often that things aren’t possible or have always been done like this. In the end, that’s just not true. Everything is challengeable and changeable.
Has the pandemic and transitioning into mostly online shopping affected your company positively or negatively?
Boris Lokschin: It’s been positive for us. All key verticals are growing. B2B is skyrocketing since the legacy way of field sales was challenged and has proven to work better with more growth and less cost or more margin. New business models are being built in manufacturing, services, around enterprise marketplaces. Unified Commerce (click and collect, curbside pickup, BOPIS) became a much bigger thing and this is where we fit the best with our Spryker Cloud Commerce OS. We grew more than 100 percent year-over-year and are doing the same this year.
When you think of your company, five years from now, what do you see?
Boris Lokschin: We will have enabled new verticals, such as food & groceries, manufacturing or B2B in general, pharma, education, and many more, to either shift significant portions of their revenues to digital or enabled them to build sophisticated digital business models following all modern best practices. Here we’re talking about practices such as short time-to-value, constant innovation, and iteration or customer-centricity in a marketplace/platform world. We will have brought significant business to our partners and become a global category leader in our space.
Delegating is part of being a great leader, but what have you found helpful to get your managers to become valiant leaders as well?
Boris Lokschin: It’s essential to find the right balance between giving them room to do what they do best and alignment on the overall vision and strategy. We have many management techniques we apply to ensure people understand the expected outcome, rather than focussing on output, and can find their best ways to achieve it (where, how, when) they want.
There is a big difference between being the best sales or tech leader and a leader! Leadership has a lot to do with being a role model – it’s about being someone people naturally want to follow, regardless of what it states on your business card. When you are someone that people seek out for your expertise and for guidance, this is the strongest tool you can have. You can hire functional leaders but helping our team to become great leaders is a big part of what I do.
How important do you think it is for a leader to be mindful of his own brand?
Boris Lokschin: Very important. Ultimately, leaders are role models. As leaders, it’s our obligation to set the right tone and send the right signals, not the people’s obligations to interpret them.
How do you monitor if the people in your department are performing at their best?
Boris Lokschin: We have an outcome, not an output-oriented culture. Our innovative working model, FLOW ensures a focus on the right initiatives via the OKR framework, transparency, and constant alignment. The most important leadership task is to make sure people understand the outcome that’s expected from them while allowing for maximum flexibility on how they achieve the desired results.
Do you think entrepreneurship is something that you’re born with or something that you can learn along the way?
Boris Lokschin: I think if you approach it logically, entrepreneurship is not as shiny as it might appear. You work incredibly hard, there are really long hours and statistically, chances of success are very low. This is why you need passion. You need to love what you are doing and the problem you are working on. You need tons of intrinsic motivation and the ability to convince other people who are essential to your success such as employees, customers, and investors. You can teach or learn management techniques but this desire for invention, restlessness, and endurance is something you need to have.
What’s your favorite “life lesson” quote and how has it affected your life?
Boris Lokschin: Choose your battles wisely! Our integration manager, who helped integrate my second company post-acquisition by a NASDAQ-listed corporate, gave me this advice. At the time, I was upset about corporate processes, the lack of transparency and how slow everything went, politics, and endless CC and BCC email culture. After his advice, I decided to focus on the topics that mattered to me the most and where I could achieve the most impact.
Jed Morley, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Boris Lokschin for taking the time to do this interview and share his knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Boris Lokschin or his company, you can do it through his – Linkedin Page
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