Diversification and Business Planning Builds Success for Oleg FirerDecember 4, 2020
For those seeking an advantage in the world of business, much can be gained by looking to the stories of those who have already found success of their own. By learning of their tribulations and victories, one can better equip oneself for the work needed for a career in business. To help our readers supplement their learnings in this area, we’ve turned to the life story of Oleg Firer. Now the CEO of Net Element, the businessman’s life has plenty to teach those who seek to emulate his success. Read on for a look at that life and the lessons it holds.
One of the reasons Oleg Firer provides a powerful example of success is due to the hurdles he had to overcome early in his life. Born in the USSR, he and his parents fled the Soviet Union when he was just 12-years-old. Eventually making their way to New York, the family set out to create a new life for themselves and capitalize on the opportunity offered by a new start in the U.S. Of course, this new start had its ups and down for the future businessman, who had to learn a new culture, language, and way of life at an age when many kids are most interested in hanging out with friends and the onset of puberty.
Despite the challenges, the young entrepreneur was able to persevere and capitalize on his own innate talents. At the age of 15, he took a job as a clerk at a franchise electronics store. By 17 he had been promoted to general manager, the youngest person in the entire company to hold the position. This rise through the ranks of the organization was predictive of the entrepreneur’s life to come. When the franchise got acquired by another company, he moved on to start his own wireless supply business.
The young businessman took that first step into the world of self-employment as somewhat of a novice. Though he had learned much during his upbringing and time as a manager, he still lacked experience as a business owner. The creation of his wireless supply business — Millennium Communications — was, in many ways, a move of necessity. He knew the wireless supply world from his time working in electronics and he saw the potential for profits there as wireless communications began to explode in the U.S. He was, in fact, right about that potential and the business began to make money soon after its founding, when Millennium Communications began to focus on the enterprise accounts. The businessman has noted in the past that the company’s early success was so lucrative that it even disincentivized him from attending college at that time, saying he was just making too much money to justify it.
First experience as an executive in a NASDAQ-listed company
Through focus on the enterprise accounts, Firer was introduced to a NASDAQ-listed company, SpeedUS, where he was then current CEO offered him a position to join the team. Oleg agreed to join as a consultant in marketing to explore if this opportunity is right for him, shortly after Mr. Firer exited his wireless communications business and started working for SpeedUS full-time, being promoted to a Vice President for the company. At SpeedUS, Mr. Firer was responsible for product development, product launch, acquisition due diligence and operations of its many subsidiaries. SpeedUS, a pioneer in wireless broadband, owning both wireless spectrum and a portfolio of broadband intellectual property. During his career at SpeedUS, Mr. Firer led initiatives at various portfolio companies of SpeedUS, including: Speedia Wireless, a pioneer in wireless and web-based information delivery service and Zargis Medical (joint venture with Siemens (a spin-off from Siemens Corporate Research), a manufacturer of cardioscan, stethoscope and telemed products.
As part of Speedia Wireless initiative, Mr. Firer developed one of the first online portals to procure wireless communication devices for consumers (007Phones.com) and partnered with MCI WorldCom Wireless, AT&T Wireless and SprintPCS as a distributor. Shortly after the launch of the site, sales of wireless devices at 007Phones began to grow exponentially. As such it was decided to spin-off the wireless communications business from the publicly-traded company.
Pioneer in online procurement
Mr. Firer served as a Managing Partner of CellCellCell, LLC and a major shareholder of a premier online distributor of wireless products and services. Company’s 007Phones.com online destination was a first of its kind fully automated online retailer of wireless products and services.
That success wasn’t destined to last, however, and the downfall of this business venture would provide a valuable lesson for future endeavors. He hit rocky waters following the bankruptcy of MCI Worldcom Wireless — the B2B distributor of wireless voice and data communications products and services. WorldCom’s demise was big news at the time and its failure had a ripple effect throughout the wireless supply industry. The entrepreneur was forced to shut down this business following WorldCom’s bankruptcy. The lesson drawn from the occurrence was hard-won but has stayed with the businessman ever since — without diversification and major dependencies on third parties, a business can be needlessly vulnerable.
During the failure of this venture due to WorldCom’s bankruptcy, Oleg Firer tried to reposition the business as an enterprise wholesale operation – Digital Wireless Universe. Mr. Firer served as the Chief Operating Officer for Digital Wireless Universe, a leading B2B distributor of wireless voice and data communications products and services. However, lack of financing, forced Mr. Firer to look for alternatives.
Change of plans
That lesson stayed with the entrepreneur through a number of ventures, which increasingly became oriented towards the world of online payments. At the time, the internet was, in the estimation of many, just coming into its own as a trusted platform for economic growth. Businesses across the world needed reliable methods to process payments for retail and other ventures. This need drew Oleg Firer to the field, understanding that there was a demand for services in the space. Eventually, that work led to the foundation of Unified Payments, the first major business for which he would become known.
The business plan for Unified Payments was predicated on a rejection of what the entrepreneur saw as a troubling trend in online payments. He noted that there was widespread demand at the time for payment platforms that were custom-tailored to a specific company. For instance, a major retail organization might hire a firm to build out a payment platform for its website. Though the contract could provide a measure of stability, the entrepreneur felt such stability was merely a mirage. The retail organization could end its contract at any time, leaving behind an infrastructure that was so specialized that it was not useful in other applications. This meant a payment provider would be scrambling to recover from the loss.
Work in the private equity
Oleg Firer is passionate about sharing his experiences with entrepreneurs and helping distress and fast-growth companies, as such Mr. Firer formed Star Capital, a private equity group focused on distress equity, fast growth and crisis management. Through his career at Star Capital, Mr. Firer has focused on financial and technology companies with recurring revenues and worked with entrepreneurs across the nation helping them save and create jobs. Mr. Firer oversaw strategic direction of the firm and was responsible for distressed equity opportunities in various sectors. Under Mr. Firer’s leadership, Star Capital successfully pursued numerous initiatives, including the deployment of a multi-million-dollar merchant receivable factoring program, the acquisition and complex restructuring of numerous merchant portfolios and distressed companies in the payment processing industry. Mr. Firer currently serves as a Chairman of Star Capital.
Power of diversification
The solution the entrepreneur found to this conundrum was to turn back to the lesson he learned on diversification. Rather than tailor the work of his firm to one major retailer, he sought to provide his services to as many businesses as possible. He accomplished this, in part, by purchasing distressed entities across the payment field. His company worked to acquire payment firms that were having trouble staying afloat and would consolidate their operations under his company’s umbrella. As these disparate customer bases all came under one roof, the firm was able to expand its operations and create new business models that would eventually turn a profit.
This philosophy has continued to the businessman’s role as CEO of Net Element. Not only does the company process payments for a range of customers, it also runs a range of other related companies through its operations. This includes POS services for restaurants, sales operations for sales firms, and the provision of a suite of back-office tools. The company has also recently announced a merger with a company producing electric cars to further diversify its operations.
Looking to the above overview, we can begin to see how Oleg Firer has built his robust success over the years. Born from the lessons of the many challenges he’s encountered in life, that success has hinged on an appreciation for proper business planning and diversification. Individuals who are interested in finding a similar measure of success in their own work would do well to take these lessons to heart.