Tobias Kormind started his career with a degree in law and worked in investment banking and technology before co-founding diamond business. He tells BQ about his journey so far.
What is it the company does?
We are an online diamond retailer based in London and Manchester. We manufacture and sell diamond jewellery directly to consumers and we are proud to have spearheaded the affordable luxury trend in Europe. Our jewellery is made-to-order and hand-crafted in our Mayfair workshop.
Describe your role in no more than 100 words
I am the managing director and, basically, an octopus! With eight direct reports, I look after most of the crucial aspects of the business. From the front-end operations including the workshop, design, website and sales, while my business partner looks after diamond sourcing. From the back-end, we share IT and marketing and I also look after HR and Finance. It's hard to find time to think!
Give us a brief timeline of your career so far – where did you start, how did you move on?
I studied Law at UCL but went straight into investment banking. First in Real Estate and then M&A at Morgan Stanley and finally, I landed in the technology team at CSFB. I joined Interactive Investor to delist from the LSE after the Internet Bubble burst in 2001. I met some savvy marketeers and we set up an online marketing agency, which is where the concept of 77 Diamonds was born. In 2008, while 77 Diamonds was still in its infancy, I bought it out as I could see great potential.
What do you believe makes a great leader?
To have a clear vision and be an effective communicator, while keeping an eye on the detail. Hire well. Have plenty of humility and the ability to listen to staff and customers. Not to be afraid to change course, change your mind, or try something new.
What has been your biggest challenge in your current position?
Managing the constant conflicts drives you mad. The question is, how do we manage growth while making sure the foundations remain strong? Other challenges are functionality versus design, and allocating development resources to the front-end for growth versus streamlining the back-end systems for scalability. Amending existing technology or migrate to new sexier technology that opens up more possibilities is another conflict, and let's not forget hiring and retaining great people.
How do you alleviate the stress that comes with your job?
Lots of exercise and having fun with my wife and kids. I now run early morning four or five times per week and train in the gym two or three times per week. But even better is waking up to a household of three active screaming kids to make sure the day starts off with a bang!
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I never had a strong leaning in a particular direction but I knew I wanted to own and run my own business. In my early teens, I started several businesses, importing and selling skateboards to my friends; selling a cool large-format newspaper to fashion shops, etc. For a degree, I thought about aeronautical engineering and even architecture, but settled on law, assuming it would be more useful. But while studying, banking seemed like the best fit to lay the foundations for entrepreneurship.
Any pet hates in the workplace? What do you do about them?
I have a few that seem to repeat themselves on a regular basis. People love comfort zones, and it's my job to shake the tree. My pet hates are hearing people say “because that’s the way we have always have done it…” and “I assumed that they had already…”.
Where do you see the company in five years’ time?
We believe there is a massive opportunity in Europe for affordable luxury and we want to be the clear brand leader in diamond jewellery. Within five years, the company should have sales over £100m with multiple geographic locations across Europe.
What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?
My advice is more for the space I know best: e-commerce.
What do you wish someone had told you when you started out?
Don’t do it, just stay in banking or put your money in property! I didn’t imagine how hard the journey would be. In the end, it’s comes down to finding fulfilment in making customers happy and building something from scratch. Knowing the younger me, I probably wouldn’t have listened anyway. Today, I wouldn’t change it for the world, I love what I do and am excited to see how the business evolves!
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