Tour De Force is a licensed tour operator in Russia authorized by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation to provide services to foreign visitors. Operating group and private tours in Russia since 2000, Tour De Force’s headquarters is located in St. Petersburg. They provide services in other cities in Russia, Ukraine, Baltic States and former republics of the USSR.
Victor Shevtsov is the project manager for Tour De Force and the team caught up with him for an exclusive interview on Tour De Force and his mantras to success.
Kindly give us a brief about yourself. When did Tour De Force happen to you?
I was born in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg), Russia, in 1979 and graduated from the State St. Petersburg University (Economic Faculty) in 2001. I was always interested in marketing, sales and business development management, but of course not in a specific field. Today, I have a range of experiences that span across consulting, project management, mobile content services and telemarketing.
I joined the Tour de Force team in February 2009 as a Project Manager for the Tour De Force web site (www.tourdeforce.travel). And till today my goal remains the same which is to increase traffic to the web site, expand on-line sales and optimize our internet marketing strategy.
How important have good employees been to your success?
I believe that the right people make all the difference. At certain stages of the company’s growth, it is very important to hire the best employees who will push the business forward. Not new technologies, not unique products or the best prices — just people. I always try to find the best specialists or managers, I can.
But of course, it shouldn’t take you long to understand if you’ve hired the right person. Personally, if I see that I hired the wrong person, I do not hesitate to bid “good bye” to him or her immediately.
What three pieces of advice would you give to college students who want to become entrepreneurs?
Never give up!
Don’t be afraid of mistakes! (But try not to repeat the same mistake twice.)
Find a reliable partner.
If you had the chance to start your career over again, what would you do differently?
I would definitely start “to do” time management (including setting goals) much earlier.
How long do you stick with an idea before giving up?
It depends. Sometimes I can drop it in a minute; sometimes it takes months to understand that the idea won’t work. I prefer the first variant. Time is the most important resource in business.
What motivates you?
I believe in what I’m doing and I believe that we will succeed. My faith in what we are doing drives me to my goals.
How do you generate new ideas?
New ideas are something you cannot control or manage. You cannot just say to your employees, “Give me five new ideas how to improve sales by tomorrow! They won’t and they can’t.
I try to find new ideas everywhere — when I’m driving home, when I do shopping or when I’m giving you this interview… Wow! I just got an idea!
To be serious, I try to use tools and apply instruments such as mind mapping (Originally from Tony Buzan from UK) to generate associative thoughts and to create new ideas. Any tools that I find are useful, I immediately promote to my colleagues.
What is the best way to achieve long-term success?
Develop a plan and follow it. Get support from people around you. Never give up.
Do you believe there is some sort of pattern or formula to becoming a successful entrepreneur?
I have read dozens of books about successful businessmen and businesses. There’s no such formula, you simply need to work hard. One also needs to be lucky.
What book has inspired you the most?
I love Stephen Covey’s “7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” I wish could have read it when I was much younger. It is one of my favorite books of all-time.
What has been your most satisfying moment in business?
When I closed the deal on my first contract! I was happy and suddenly knew I could sell. If you do not sell, you are not a businessman.
How do you go about marketing your business? What has been your most successful form of marketing?
In IT we trust. 95% of our marketing budget goes to the Internet, and we plan to develop further in this direction. We sell tourist services to foreigners, and the best way for our customers to reach us, and for Tour de Force to reach them, is through the Internet.
What are some of the biggest mistakes you’ve made?
I have made many mistakes in my life, but I cannot call any of them “the biggest mistake.” However, I once quit one job without having a reserved position in another company. It was a very emotional time for me and took me 6 months to find a new position. On second thought, maybe it was a big mistake.
What are your hobbies? What do you do in your non-work time?
I love to read business literature and I’m also a football fan. I support a local football team Zenit St. Petersburg (Russia). I once went to an away game in Belgrade (Serbia) and it was one of the best trips of my life!
What makes you happy?
I’m at my happiest when I get back home from the office, and my 4-year-old son runs to greet me saying, “Daddy’s home!” A big jump, a big hug and a kiss follow. How could I be any happier?
Excluding yours, what company or business do you admire the most?
I admire Richard Branson’s business model and his Virgin brand. I think he is one of the greatest entrepreneurs in the world.