Updated at 13:38,03-06-2024

Belarusian Dream. How a builder became the head of a construction holding

Kristina Sukharevich, UDF.BY. Pictures provided by Andrey Korotenko

15 years ago Andrey Korotenko was a builder. He did finishing works in apartments and houses in Minsk. Today he is the owner and CEO of the international construction holding “Aks” that includes three enterprises – “AksInterier” that produces and installs stretch ceilings, “Akshouse” that produces houses of module and wireframe construction, and “Akstent” that installs tent constructions.

Holding has such customer as the President’s Administration, “Gazprom”, “Triple”, “Belaz” and many others. However, everything started with an accidental call about a newspaper ad…

It takes five years to oust all the competitors

Andrey started his way in the construction business in 2000. After the military service he worked on the construction site, puttying and painting walls.

Andrey: At that time, working at Novovilenskaya street, I saw someone installing stretch ceilings. Then I didn’t understand what the guys were doing.

In late autumn there were getting less and less work in construction. And then there was no at all. 

I started thinking about what to do. And then I got a call. A girl saw my ad about finishing works. But she offered me to promote stretch ceilings of her company to my customers. Then I learned what those ceilings were.

After this, Andrey came across a newspaper ad about the vacancy of engineer-consultant in the ceilings producing company. There I worked for several years. Started as a measurer and then became a deputy director.

Belarusian Dream. How a builder became the head of a construction holding

How did I get promotion so quickly? I was very interested in what I was doing. During first 6 months my salary was hilarious, but I liked that business so much that I didn’t insist on big wages. I liked having to move around, I’ve explored the whole country, and I knew my ways in Minsk better than any taxi driver.

After three years Andrey went to Moscow for an internship on production of stretch ceilings. Then he came back to Minsk to set up production in the company he worked for. The enterprise needed dealers.

I came to my boss and offered to become a dealer. I hired an installation team and worked for a year. And then I made up my mind.

In 2007, when stretch ceiling was no longer rareness for Belarus, “Aksinterier” hit the market. Andrey didn’t fear competition or market saturation. He says, he started a company not only to sell, but also to make his own contribution into the construction market, discover new features of stretch constructions and tell people how they can make a good house repair with little money.

Belarusian Dream. How a builder became the head of a construction holding

Viral ad of stretch ceilings by “AksInterier”

Andrey invested a thousand dollars he had made in construction into first equipment, heat guns, and stepladders. The five persons had one goal – to develop the business they like and do well. After a year there were 15 of them. And in 2008 the own production was started.

Favorable offers to customers spurred the company’s quick growth and “AksInterier” opened its offices in all regional centers, as well as Bobruisk and Novopolotsk. After five years since the start, the company became the market leader. The next step was conquering Europe.

Today “AksInterier” is also the leader in Lithuania, though when I got the idea to start a business in Europe, I only had a Lithuanian visa, but no knowledge or contacts.

In Lithuania the company has its own production and dealership network. Dealers of “AksInterier” work in Ireland, Canada, Poland, Germany and the Czech Republic. Requests come from Qatar and the USA. The company is developing very quickly and successfully, so even in 2015 the growth will continue in spite of the crisis.

We have a wonderful team, very smart guys who work coherently. Everyone wants to grow, to reach the goals. We have the right marketing strategy. Our goal is to have a single platform where all colleagues from Belarus, Russia, Lithuania and Ireland could interact and share experience.

Belarusian Dream. How a builder became the head of a construction holding

Crisis and profits coexist

The company is taking a stand in 2015 with a plan to grow 3 times. “We see that the plan is achievable and realistic”, - Andrey says. For example, today “AksInterier” is preparing production for global expansion and launch of new components manufacture in new facilities in Gatovo, Minsk distict: “New areas of 1500 sq.m will allow to increase production and make stretch ceiling more affordable”.

This year the company has expanded its product portfolio and offers attractive sales terms to customers. Workflow of employees is also optimized.

It’s important that an employee is happy at work. In this case the customer will get a high quality product and will trust me.

The crisis, when the company had to cut down on its expenses, happened in 2010. “At that time we had a very intensive growth and decided to expand the branch network. New expenses emerged that we were not ready for. The company’s dynamics started to slow down. We had to take urgent but reasonable decisions that affected employees’ work and the company’s activities in general. Not a single employee suffered”, - Andrey laughs. The company had a fresh start in its development.

In 2010 a new company “AksHouse” was started. It produces houses of module and wireframe construction.

They are fast to build and efficient. Stone, concrete and bricks are used widely in Belarus, Russia and CIS. All of Europe and America use framing construction. This innovative sphere is not common in Belarus. Our goal here is to show clients that choice of house can be as simple as the choice of ceilings: go to a web-site, click – and get a house. We’ve expressed our idea by the moto of “AksHouse” – “Plant a tree. Grow up a son. We will do the rest”.

Gazprom, Bentley and other customers

One of the main company’s activities today is work with corporate customers. “We are doing well in B2B sector. Probably, we are the only company in the industry that has such clients as “Gazprom”, “Bentley”, “Triple”, - says Andrey. Company’s ceilings have been installed in the Independence Palace, Minsk City Council sessions hall, in the office of “Gazprom Tranzgaz” in Gomel, in the office of the head of “Belaz”. Many cafes and restaurants that were looking for unusual design solutions, like “Piaffer”, “Bessonnitsa”, “Mon Café”, have chosen “AksInterier”.

Belarusian Dream. How a builder became the head of a construction holding

Belarusian Dream. How a builder became the head of a construction holding

How to work much and enjoy life

My wife is in tourism business, that’s why we travel a lot – every two months. Last time we were in the US and France. We do not only relax while travelling, we also acquire new experience. We examine buildings, explore interior design in different countries and look for experts. All this is for “Aks” holding to grow and attain its goal – produce innovative and affordable constructions.

Belarusian Dream. How a builder became the head of a construction holding

Andrey has two higher degrees – from Leon Kozminski Academy of Entrepreneurship and Management in Warsaw and the school of management of the Belarusian Economic University. He also holds a degree of Executive MBA.

Every month I meet with my fellow MBA students. Our group was very friendly, so we decided to setup a business club to keep up our relations. We hold trainings for ourselves with guest experts. We often discuss our ideas during the lunch or dinner.

I also find time for reading – 2-3 books per month. I do jogging in the morning and martial arts.

Tips for businessmen from Andrey Korotenko

Talk to successful people; ask them how they managed to succeed. Attend trainings or watch then on the Internet.

Find something you like. There’s no point doing something just for money.

You don’t have to choose a sphere with low competition. If an industry is highly competitive, it’s worth it. You can always find your niche – look for the exclusive offer you can provide. For example, all Belarusian ceiling producing companies use the same materials and components. Only people make the difference. And we have very good employees.