Max Sazhin

MBA '09

CFO
Henderson Russia

What do you do professionally?

I am currently the CFO of a men's clothing retail chain. Our trademark, HENDERSON, is well known throughout Russia. There are more than 150 HENDERSON stores in 50 major cities in Russia.

What is the most enjoyable part of your job?

I would mention two things. First of all - our band of managers. Most of them have been working in the company since its incorporation 20 years ago, including the CEO. All of them have very deep knowledge of their subjects or specialties whether about relations with shopping malls, goods suppliers or construction companies. I have worked in many different industries but here I started to study again. Or better say I continue my education. And secondly, you have fantastic drive when you see how your work supports fast growth of the company. When I came to the company four years ago, we had only 55 shops; now we have 150. Annual CAGR is more than 30% for these four years.

What is the biggest challenge you face?

The same as I mentioned in the previous clause. Fast growth of the company brings big challenges to the whole team, but the finance department probably has the biggest impact as you need to have very good planning and analytical skills for your cash flow and working capital, and you need to have good negotiating skills to prove all your concerns to the shareholders and banks. You should be very careful of details as fast growth can rock the boat very easily.

What sorts of interesting places has your position taken you? Do you have a favorite?

Thanks to this job, I have visited two beautiful regions outside Russia. They are quite different from each other, but I like them both.  One of them is Armenia, which is one of the former USSR republics and now it is a great independent country.  I had never been there before, but I liked the people and culture of the country from first sight. The second place is Hong Kong. Thanks to Duke, I visited Shanghai during my studies, but Hong Kong is, of course, much different. You definitely should visit.

What is the best professional advice you've received?

Actually I would mention two pieces of advice.  One I received from a partner when I was an assistant in Deloitte, and the second one was elaborated during my working experience.
The first one, of course, is more valuable to people who work in the consulting industry when even an ordinary consultant can reach tops of the company he/she works for. "Always go to the top", meaning that quite often middle and below professionals can see only part of the problem, they cannot know some details, etc. Your project can sometimes even meet a hostile reception from them.

The second one is an easy thing from the first glance - "Inform!"  But a lot of mistakes are made because bosses do not inform their direct reports on the items they need to know to fulfill their work. When your employees do not tell you about challenges raised during their work then a person who should make a decision may make a wrong one.

Aside from your current role, what is your dream job?

Problem solving. I do not know what to add. I like the challenges my work brings.

What do you like to do outside of work?

Unfortunately with all our growth I do not have much time outside work but I am trying to spend more time with my beloved wife and three daughters. Only one thing can make light competition which is ice hockey. I am an old-time supporter of the Detroit Red Wings and sometimes due to time differences you have to get up rather early to watch the game.

What is the most important thing you learned during your time at Fuqua?

I think that the major thing I learned is related to soft skills. One of the reasons I went to this program was to systematize and organize my old knowledge by adding, of course, some new aspects, knowledge, and views. And I can say that I achieved my goal. Also I would mention that as we studied without stopping work, time management and setting priorities were very tough learning.

Who was your favorite professor?

I like following three: Aaron (Ronnie) Chatterji, Allan Lind, and Peter Wilson, who has left Duke, unfortunately.

What is your favorite Fuqua memory?

I do not know….To be honest, all of our classes and after-class activities on several continents evoke wonderful memories. You cannot forget a visit to a camp of lonely mothers in Rio, taking the high-speed train in Shanghai, team building day in Durham or meetings with guest speakers and the best professionals in all these countries.  

What does Team Fuqua mean to you?

Quality, Friends, Knowledge and Support. We continue our discussions with our classmates on different social networks; we continue to meet in person when somebody is in town. I think it is very important to know that somewhere in the world there is a group of people that have similar aspirations.