A day with Oleg Korzun
Oleg Korzun, Tier 1 Entrepreneur
Oleg Korzun is a true entrepreneur. When I met him to discuss a website for a project that he had in mind, he was bubbling with multiple ideas for his next businesses in London! It was interesting to find out that Oleg’s arrival to London a year ago was aptly facilitated by Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa. Oleg is fond of photography and, of course, is very fond of London.
Inna: Of course, the first question relates to your choice of moving to London. What attracted you to the idea of moving to London?
Oleg: The idea to relocate to the UK was a result of my personal and professional growth influenced by current changes in Russia.
I was born in the USSR and raised on socialist ideas of liberty, fraternity and justice for all. I have spent 30 years of my life in corporate slavery developing someone else’s ideas and businesses across Russia. When I turned 50, I said to myself: ‘Enough is enough, this is your last chance to do something on your own’.
Selecting a country to move to is like choosing a woman to marry – you follow your instincts rather than soberly calculate. Because the formula is so complex, the elements are so volatile and the rules change so often, you do not understand what game you are playing – chess or poker. Your money, time and energies that you invest into a new country may be justified only if your decision is based on the values that you share with its people. It is like investing into a painting that may grow or not in value over time. At least you will be able to enjoy it looking at it every day, if you liked what you bought in the first place.
Even if you lose money doing business in the UK, you enrich yourself as a personality. Which for wise people matters more than wealth.
My philosophy in life is to avoid situations when you are forced to make a choice and get drawn into a black hole. Always leave space for maneuver and do not play other people games. The inner fight for improvement is more important than a fight for success, territory, beliefs or dominance of any sort.
In these turbulent times the UK is like a beacon of hope in a stormy sea. It is sturdy and it transmits optimism. It is based on values that I share. That is why I am here.
Inna: Upon arrival, did London meet your expectations? What impressed you most / what are the highlights? What impressed you least / any bitter disappointments?
Oleg: I was not ‘a new kid on the block’ and knew exactly what to expect from London based on my numerous trips here previously.
Compared to Moscow, London is a much more relaxed and energetic city at the same time. There is practically no aggression, energies here are positive, they are whirling around future in search for ways how to make life better for everyone.
What upsets me here is backwardness and inefficiency in certain areas compared to other European countries. Why does it take me two weeks to get a plumber? Why is the Internet connection at home so slow and unstable? Why can’t I get an SMS every time I use my bank card? Why is there so much litter in the streets and so long queues to the doctor? Why is the food so tasteless and the transportation so expensive? Why is work productivity so low that it takes two people and a van to change a bulb?
There are many things that the newcomers question this country about, hoping it would improve to fully match their expectations.
Inna: Which area of London did your family decide to settle in? What do you like about that borough?
Oleg: Quite accidentally (a friend offered us a flat in a newly built residential development) we got settled in Harrow, in the North-West of London. It is a 30-minute metro ride to Central London, which by local standards is an acceptable commute time. In return we get fresh air, less people and a lovely Canons park for daily walks.
We are not fixed on Harrow and would like to try and live in other areas, especially those along the Thames. My wife and I are Aquarius, so water should always be somewhere near. Chiswick or Fulham is on my mind.
It may sound strange, but I would not mind sharing a house with an old English family of intellectuals or artists. This way we could enrich ourselves with their culture and lifestyle. Now that I have expressed my wish, it is simply a matter of time before it comes true, I am sure.
Inna: What are your favorite places in London?
Oleg: At present I am fascinated by the area called The Temple, between the Fleet Street and the Thames. I was introduced to it by an old couple of lawyers and family friends, Victor and Jacqueline, who live and work there. It is composed of Inns, associations where lawyers work and live. It looks and feels like a totally different London that tourists never see.
But my heart is in London parks. This is where I feel at home. Almost any park that comes to your mind is worth exploring and enjoying. My favorite ones are Holland park and The Regent’s park.
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Inna: As you probably know immigration is a hot topic here in the shire. From what I understand it is getting harder and harder to be an immigrant from outside the EU. How did you find the process of getting Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa? What areas could prove challenging to those individuals planning to migrate to the UK via this route (i.e. Tier 1)?
Oleg: Being a perfectionist, I have thoroughly studied the visa application process to do it all myself. I also visited London to prepare the base for my future business conducting market research and signing partner agreements. That made my case solid, saved me money, and provided with first-hand expertise which I can now share with my clients.
At present the Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa is the most affordable and realistic way of UK immigration for entrepreneurs. Not too many business people in Russia know about it, mainly due to all sorts of myths. I could perhaps leave many immigration companies without work if I told you how affordable and relatively easy it is.
On the other hand, I met a couple of Russian entrepreneurs in London who paid money to immigration companies to solve their problems with poor English, weak business plan or lack of interest in a realistic business. Now they are in London whining about hardships of life. Finding loopholes in a system to get a UK visa is one thing, but making your business viable is quite another.
Inna: What advantages or perks does London offer to budding entrepreneurs?
Oleg: London is a unique place where things happen all the time. If you don’t sit still, you will inevitably get involved in a story of some sort, business or personal, that will change your life completely. That is exciting.
London does not produce too many material things these days. Its main product is ideas, innovation and pursuit for business success. It is a number one global soft power center.
London is not for everyone. People who are used to solve problems by cutting corners and lubricating cogwheels, find it difficult to operate in this environment. Entrepreneurs who are successful, are in constant search for new ideas to keep up with the ongoing revolution inside the heads.
Inna: How do you see the Brexit referendum results affecting the business environment for London? Do you think it will create new business opportunities?
Oleg: ‘What does not kill us, makes us stronger’. Having lived through so many Russian crisis cycles and being an optimist by nature, I treat the Brexit story as a challenge that creates business opportunities for those who are efficient, flexible and energetic to carry on. It is just a swing of a pendulum in a self-regulating mechanism that, thank God, works in this country.
Inna: What business ideas are you working on now and what are your plans for the nearest future?
Oleg: My initial plan was to set up a consultancy helping my existing clients from the former Soviet Union countries to solve the whole range of issues from business representation to relocation and integration into a new country.
Having arrived here, I have discovered a new ‘oil field’ of business opportunities among the Russian speaking community inside the UK. Many people have run out of energies or ideas and require support. I form partnerships to put them back in shape.
There is an unsatisfied demand on the British side in fostering closer ties not only with Russian oligarchs, but also with the Russian small and medium size businesses in the UK. Bridging the Russian gap is a specific business that I am equipped for with my business development skills polished in the Moscow expat community.
The fourth element of my business strategy is to get established here as an expert capable of providing British businesses and investors with advice and help when the situation around Russia improves, and the money starts to flow back.
I am in a process of creating the Association of Russian speaking entrepreneurs in the UK. That platform will be instrumental in solving all the above described problems, and more.
Inna: Oleg, I wish you good luck.