Ruslan Kogan: Young, rich and growing two businesses. Fast.

Gen Y staff ‘get’ online

Kogan says the average staff age is young. The guy behind the majority of their web analytics, a crucial part of Kogan’s success, is a 19 year-old student. He’s one of three on the senior management team. “Most guys his age would only get the opportunity to work somewhere like Coles. We don’t work like that. He totally gets SEO and our culture. He’s from a generation that Googles everything. If he needs to learn how to do something, he Googles it. It’s simple. He’s had several pay rises because he can prove he is making us money. If he keeps adding value, we keep paying him more.”

Does he think he’s a good boss? Not really. “I’m a bad people manager,” he admits. “But we do run a meritocracy. If someone runs an ad campaign and can show me a return on investment, they’ll be rewarded for that. Equally, if someone doesn’t perform I’ll tell them about it in no uncertain terms and I’ll cc everyone else in as well. Some people say that’s unfair or bad management but that’s the way we work. If you don’t like it, get out.“

People don’t though and Kogan says his team love coming to work and are passionate about their products and the business’ success. “Everybody has a passion for technology at Kogan. When we get a new product in, everyone crowds round like kids around a Christmas tree, really excited. One of the most exciting parts of the job is getting to play with all these gadgets.”

Unorthodox management style

Kogan’s also come up with two key questions which are proving to help recruit more successfully. “I ask them which email account they use and which internet browser, and to explain the reasons why.” Anyone looking for a heads up on getting a job there should know that the answers are (not surprisingly) Gmail, and Mozilla Firefox or Google Chrome. Applications from a hotmail address are not looked at favourably. “About 99 percent of the time, if they answer those questions the right way, it’ll lead us to a good candidate for us,” says Kogan.

His management style may be unorthodox but it’s working for him. In financial year 2008, Kogan Technologies’ turnover was $3 million, in 2009, $8 million and this year, more than $16 million. For Milan Direct, revenue was $2 million in 2008, double that in 2009 and more than $8 million this financial year. These figures put both companies in BRW Fast Starters this year and made Kogan the first business owner to have two companies in at the same time. The companies are growing fast and they’re about to move into new, bigger office premises in Melbourne.

[Next: Business in his blood]