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Text: Roksolana Chernoba
Photo: Maxim Seregin

Remy Martin’s head of operations for Central and Eastern Europe Leshek Karpovich is busy living a fan’s fantasy and selling the famous cognac brand. Below, Leshek ponders over somewhat counter-intuitive ingredients of an uber-successful career and, perhaps, an even more enviable private life.

A [soccer] fan before anything else:

My private life revolves around soccer. A real man must have a hobby. Mine is soccer. Rather than the VIP box, I go to where the real rooting takes place – in the crowd. If my lifestyle is about being a fan that is what I am going to be. Four years ago, I wanted to go to Korea and Japan for a month [to see a string of games] and my company did not like the idea. I told them that if I did not go I would quit since, if I stayed, I would not give the company anything as my passion, my best thinking would be elsewhere. So, I went.

Leshek finds happy medium between passion, competitiveness and charity and calls it a ‘mission':

I believe that a person has a destination or mission of some kind in this world. Mine is to do a certain amount of good, no matter where I am. [While working in the Baltics] I funded, privately, a cable TV channel in Polish for the residents of Daugavpils. Daugavpils has a population of about 100,000 ethnic Poles most of whom are elderly. Priests came from Poland to deliver an Easter sermon on TV.

One of my identities is a fan… Adrenaline reaches a level where nothing is impossible.

Competitive spirit means a great deal to me. I have walked away from lucrative offers since I did not see much of an adrenaline flow in them.

Leshek shares – some – of the secrets to his success:

The secret to success comprises two things. One is you must never forget where you come from. If you are sitting in your ivory tower of an office and do not realize you’ve isolated yourself what kind of success is that?

The other part is the team you put together. Members of the teams I’ve assembled over the years – maybe 30 people – may now be working at other projects and in other teams, all of them in comfortable positions, but once a year we get together in some country… When I was leaving Henkel I was offered a sizable nice bonus but, instead, I chartered a plane and took all my co-workers to Greece for a week. For an entire week no one paid for anything or remembered what his job title was. I tore a ligament there in an accident and almost the whole bunch followed me for surgery to Poland.

Before leaving office for a few weeks I would think through possible scenarios and situations that might arise and would prepare my staff to deal with them.

In my early days, as a Colgate door-to-door salesman, I would memorize a recipe for, say, a salad before walking into a store and starting a conversation (more often than not my counterparts would be women three times my age since the stores were government-owned). That is how I learned to say what people wanted to hear. In return, they wanted to talk to me.

I always try to look into a person’s heart and pay attention to what he or she wants, not what I want.

Leshek contemplates the future:

I have had a castle built on the shore of a lake in Poland’s 800 Lakes District. If I get tired of my jet-set lifestyle I will settle down there. I know that this will indeed happen.


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