You’ve read the headlines about hackers, soldiers and spies. But who really makes Russia tick? Businesspeople and bureaucrats, honest and dishonest. Understand them, and you are much closer to understanding why Russia works the way it does. In many ways, Russia under Putin functions like a privately-held corporation—albeit one with a very specific business culture.
In the book HOW BUSINESS IS DONE IN RUSSIA: SECRETS OF A RUSSIAN-AMERICAN EXECUTIVE, Dr. Lev Lester explores the primary occupation of Russia’s ruling class: making money. As a sales executive and business consultant, Lev has parleyed his management know-how and connections from academia into international deals worth tens of millions of dollars.
“The harsh reality of business in Russia is corruption,” says Lester. And yet this man, while witnessing and retelling all manner of depraved graft, has managed to maintain a successful career in the country for over a quarter of a century while keeping his own nose clean. In this book, he offers an insider’s view of the Russian business world.
HOW BUSINESS IS DONE IN RUSSIA touches on issues that will interest businesspeople, scholars and amateur Russia-watchers alike:
- How events over the past century have impacted the thinking of Russia’s business and political leaders
- How Russian businesspeople function in the presence of powerful security services, a compromised judiciary and a handful of dominant oligarchs
- How institutional corruption functions in Russia
- Traditional Russian customs for extorting, negotiating, offering, accepting and refusing bribes or kickbacks (and warning signs of imminent danger)
- How to beat the crooks and win multi-million contracts without bribery
About the Author
Lev Lester was born in Moscow in 1948. Originally trained as a factory engineer, he became chess partners with an economics professor at Moscow State University who talked him into pursuing an advanced degree. Lev earned his Ph.D. in management in 1976 and his Doctor of Science Degree in Economics (Russia’s highest academic degree) from Moscow State University in 1987, becoming the youngest person in the USSR to achieve that title up to that time.
While pursuing his studies, Lev worked at the All-Union Institute of Systems Studies (VNIISI), alongside many of the men who would remake Russia in the 1980s and 90s. Among his colleagues were Nobel Prize winner Leonid Kantorovich and the future politicians and businessmen Boris Berezovsky (Russia’s first billionaire), Petr Aven (Minister of Foreign Economic Relations, later head of Alfa Bank) and Yegor Gaidar (Prime-Minister responsible for the most controversial post-Soviet economic reforms). In many ways, VNIISI was the birthing bed of Perestroika and a new Russian entrepreneurship. In the late 80s and early 90s, Lev participated in the first Soviet fact-finding missions to Australia and the US to study capitalism.
In 1991, Lev left the USSR for the US at age 43, without money, English-language skills or a job. As he jokes, “I was an Economics professor from far-away Russia, a country without an economy.” After a chance encounter with an American businessman, Lev became an independent consultant, working ceaselessly and using his connections in Russia to connect American factory suppliers to Russian clients. A series of successful deals made him Vice President for Russian Sales at the Detroit-based automotive factory supplier Haden. By the end of the decade, he made Haden the top-earning company in Russia for its industry.
In the 2000s, Lev served as General Director in Russia for the German factory supplier Dürr and as VP for the American metallurgical equipment supplier AFC Holcroft. Throughout this time, he continued to provide independent consulting services and offer business courses to Russian executives. He is presently the president of the consulting firm Bridge Plus International and provides Russian-language online courses in business negotiations.
Lev Lester has been married to his wife, Vera, for over 40 years. The Lesters lived in Detroit from 1991 to 2014, before moving to stay close to their son and grandson. They now live in Washington state. Lev is an avid chess player and enjoys reading about history and business. He is currently teaching his three-year-old grandson how to negotiate.
About the Translator
Steven McGrath is a Russian-to-English translator certified by the American Translators Association. He is a graduate of the University of Northern Iowa and Moscow State University. He is the translator of the science book The Biosphere and Civilization: In the Throes of a Global Crisis by Victor Danilov Danil’yan and Igor Reyf (Springer, 2018) and of the upcoming dystopian novel The Capsule by Olga Loukianova.