Alexei Miller: "if I'm the executive director, then I have to execute something"
Alexei Miller: “When Mail.ru took off in popularity, and we reached many dozens of employees, we rented an office space on Serpukhovskaya Street, in a posh area of St. Petersburg. The office was in a very beautiful mansion with high ceilings, stucco molding, and mirrors, the whole deal. That was the peak of our naivety, when we had lots of ideas, lots of work, and lots of money. In addition to the fact that we were expanding, we began to formalize our company. We figured that since we were such a big company, we needed the appropriate attributes. Zavileysky got his own office, and hired a secretary and personal chauffeur, who drove a black Volga. I was told that I would be the executive director. This was a half-funny, half-shameful episode in my career.
At that time in my life, I was a 23 year-old in a ripped-up T-shirt. I was very pleased that I would be the COO, but I had no idea what that meant. I figured that if I'm the executive director, then I have to execute something. I went to Zavileysky to ask what I should be executing, but Zav just read me a long lecture about our company’s philosophy in response. Then I decided to go for advice to a more experienced colleague, Vova Gabriel. He said that I should write administrative orders and job descriptions. So I spent a month or more just writing administrative orders: who should do what, how everything in the company should be organized. I saved all of this to my hard drive. But after a while I understood that I’d been writing administrative orders for a month and a half already, but nothing was happening.
That was an important lesson in my business education – that bureaucracy without a soul has no chance of success, and that the boss’ role is not to tell people what to do, but to help people do the things that they consider necessary – together. I haven’t written a single administrative order since then, and I hope I never will.”