By Timofey Gomonov
Ten years ago, Andrey Smolyar set up an international transportation business but admitted after his first cargo dispatch to Germany, “Actually, I know nothing and can do nothing.” Andrey was not wrong: at that time, the young engineer lacked necessary experience and floating assets. Moreover, banks wouldn’t give loans without property guarantees; he only owned three old light-duty trucks, employing three drivers and a director who acted as an accountant, personnel officer, manager and dispatcher. Nevertheless, the entrepreneur decided to risk all on his new business and decided it was never too late to learn.
He found out how to build relations with partners and speak foreign languages, how to understand the law and, even, the art of business etiquette. During his foreign trips, he visited local transport-logistical centres and leading international transportation enterprises. He injected most profits into production development, while allocating some funds to charity and staff bonuses, with only small sums given as dividends. In just five years’ time, his fleet numbered 20 second-hand trucks; he now owns 80 new Euro-4 and Euro-5 cargo vehicles.
Some time later, Andrey felt dissatisfied with the pace of his business growth, realising that he needed his own production and administrative base. In 2006, he approached the Dzerzhinsk District Executive Committee with a business proposal for co-operation. As a result, he purchased the district’s obsolete state owned car fleet, revamping it, and shifted his base from Minsk to the district centre.
The Chairman of the Dzerzhinsk District Executive Committee, Nikolay Artyushkevich, was long ago convinced that the area needs entrepreneurs to ensure growth. With this in mind, he welcomes new businessmen to his district, rendering all possible assistance — including tax privileges.
Many examples of such business projects exist in the Dzerzhinsk District, which are a true blessing for the area, bringing new jobs and greater tax revenue. Mr. Smolyar’s Intertransavto Holding alone has created 70 new jobs in the district over the past two years, while Andrey has been acknowledged as the top manager of the International Road Transport Union and the best Belarusian carrier for the past three years. He was also named ‘Minsk Region Person of the Year: 2010’ and ‘Best Entrepreneur in the Minsk Region: 2010’. His anti-crisis programme has been acknowledged as the best in the CIS for carriers, while enabling Intertransavto to generate 30 percent profitability. Heads of district executive committees, state and private companies join entrepreneurs in learning from Andrey, who knows four foreign languages and can hold talks without a translator.
Of course, some problems exist. For example, the average age of an international driver in the country is 50. Belarus needs many more such people and has concerns over who’ll drive trucks in 5-7 years’ time. The country lacks a special college to train drivers for transport companies delivering worldwide. Apart from professional skills, they must have basic knowledge of foreign languages while knowing the rules of cargo transportation across other states’ territories, customs conventions and even business etiquette (as a driver represents not only their company but their country).
Mr. Smolyar is proposing to establish a flexible system for international drivers’ training and re-training — to meet our economic needs. The proposal is included in the 2011-2015 Socio-economic Development Programme of Belarus, with the Minsk Region currently implementing the idea. From September, training and re-training will be organised for international drivers at three professional-technical lyceums.