Elena Guta’s way of doing business can be characterized by the phrase “systematic ease”. Her path is absolute trust and development. This is shared by the employees and felt by the clients, who have just as easily entrusted their housing to Alterhaus for more than 5.5 years. Elena is a wife and mother of four children, lives in two countries, cooks pasta with enthusiasm and can afford to reset herself by collecting an armful of poppies in a field outside the city.
HOW EVERYTHING BEGAN
Elena Guta tells the story of how she paid for marketing research in a very famous agency, when she was asked if there were any doubts at the beginning of building a business.
The focus group was supposed to check how the idea of a service company for the repair of apartments, offices, houses and other premises – from a design project to an individual selection of furniture – is a working product. Will there be a demand for such a service? Will the business work?
When a letter with a long summary fell into her workbox stating that the product was absolutely non-working, Elena Guta was not up to the details – that day she signed a contract for $ 120 thousand. At that time, the Alterhaus company had been working for only 2-3 months. She chose never to doubt again, and it turned out to be a very good decision.
In 2018, the company has already implemented 60 projects — five completed projects each month. Compared to 2019, the “quarantine” 2020 allowed us to double our revenue. There is every reason to double it in 2022 as well. There are 270 families who are our happy clients. And this is about a thousand people covered by repairs from Alterhaus.
ABOUT REPAIR FOR PLEASURE
For many people who are faced with the issue of repair, it is associated with suffering. Many talk about the unpleasant emotions that they had to endure. For most, repair is a pain. The pain is that people do not understand how long it will last, do not know how much it will cost them, face deceit and dishonesty.
We really wanted to deprive customers of this pain, so that they would remember the repair as a pleasant experience. We have created a project to “do not hurt”. Our signboard says, “Renovation for pleasure” – this is about how to create a beautiful, comfortable, practical space for living.
For us, this is also a pleasure: we know how to do it, we create. Our clients are aware of how long the repair will take, how much it will cost, they do not need to run around, fuss. They come to our beautiful office in the city center, drink coffee, choose some materials with smiles, create their future space together with us.
We have created a new niche in the repair market with a completely different approach. We did not follow some already existing trend, we created it ourselves.
ABOUT TRENDS AND WHITE WALLS
At that moment, when we started, people were sure that it was necessary to spend everything that you have on repairs, and also borrow some sum of money. There was an installation that the apartment is “for life”. But now everything has changed, the world has become more global. People easily change their place of residence, cities and countries.
At the time of the founding of the business, I had already lived in Switzerland for five years, imbued with a certain sense of design, Swiss minimalism and practicality. This country is several decades ahead of Ukraine in terms of technology, aesthetics, and how objects are created.
For Switzerland, white walls have been the norm for decades. If you want, take the decor from Zara Home, if you want, hang Picasso: both will look acceptable.
Repair is, in fact, a canvas where you can paint with furniture, decor, paints of different price categories. But the canvas must be of high quality, functional. We create the right canvas for any interior, where furniture and decor can shape any space.
When we started, we were told that the white walls are a “hospital” and it’s terrible. Five and a half years have passed and no one thinks so anymore. It is important not only to feel the trend itself, but also the spirit of the times, to understand that the moment has already come when people are ready to accept it.
When Steve Jobs created the iPhone, everyone said it was nonsense. Well, what other phone do you know with one button? But he created a trend, something that everyone is using now. We did it in the refurbishment.
ABOUT BOLT POLISHING AND VALUES IN BUSINESS
The first thing that underlies business is our values. We know that suffering is a person’s own choice, there is no meaning in it. Overcoming problems is a waste of energy. My task as a leader and owner of a business is to ensure that the energy of the team goes to creation, and not to internal disassemblies, misunderstandings, doubts.
A huge number of the coolest businesses die not because of difficulties or a competitive environment, but because of internal problems – the partners quarreled, the team is fighting against someone.
I go into the office and already on the threshold I feel if everything is fine here, if energy is being wasted on some nonsense. Otherwise, even if the market will pave the red carpet for us, we will not have enough strength to walk along it.
The second is unconditional trust, and this is a two-way process. We trust our clients, they trust us.
The third is continuous development. Very often, businesses start making money, catch the hype and think: “Why go to all the trouble?” We encounter such companies in the markets.
I return to the same Steve Jobs – he polished bolts that are not visible so that they are perfect. This “polishing of the bolts” should take place in every business, constantly, at any stage. Even when everything is good, it is important not to stop developing.
I am often asked: “Who are your competitors?” I do not know. When you go ahead, keeping an eye on competitors means looking back, wasting time. And time is very valuable.
For the first 2–3 years, every fifth or tenth person, disguised as a client, came to see how our business works in order to create the same one. The man wanted to get a ready-made recipe, he asked for examples of contracts. Some tried to copy our name. Many people thought that if they Ctrl + C, Ctrl + V our site, pictures, contract – then this is the solution.
But I don’t know of any business that could do it this way. There is no prescription and magic pills. Magic pills are exactly what they teach in business books and business schools. Do your own thing – what you enjoy, and you will succeed. Then you will be in harmony with yourself, with your nature, it will be good for the world and for you.
ABOUT THAT HARMONY. COMPANY OF ASSOCIATES
“The Alterhaus team consists of talented people,” the company’s website states. Architects, designers, engineers, builders, managers of Alterhaus are united by a common idea. This is easy to read from general shots. So, Elena Guta’s method works.
Julia Kyrylyuk, managing partner of Alterhaus, has been with the company since the first day of its foundation. She went all the way, learned the processes, and grew up to the manager of the operational business. The right people in their positions is another answer to the question of how to make it “work”.
ABOUT THE RECRUITMENT OF EMPLOYEES AND THE “JAR OF PICKLED CUCUMBERS”
I have a request for certain people, I want to find them – and they come. I feel that we are comfortable that we can create something together.
They come to us for a long time, there is no turnover in Alterhaus. We go some part of the way together, people grow next to me, I grow thanks to them. If I do not feel that this is “our person”, that our paths do not intersect, then it is my right to refuse, and I use it.
I created a business, a kind of environment in which each person is comfortable to grow and develop, “a jar of pickled cucumbers”. Any person whom I have determined that he is “mine”, getting into this jar, becomes the same pickled cucumber. He lives in this environment, in these values, is saturated with them, grows.
It was important for me to create an environment, and then this organism is improved by people, it is alive. I have no need to interfere with how it works.
My task is to look ahead and guide. To manage is something from the category of technical issues, for this I have a financial director who monitors the numbers, manages costs, income. This is his task. My task was to take him to work.
ABOUT INITIATIVE AND MOTIVATION
We have a very cool system of motivation. Our environment is so self-sufficient that it does not limit anyone in growth. If you take on more responsibility, then you earn more.
We encourage initiative, it is not punished. Everyone has the freedom to make decisions in favor of the client. The employee has the right to make a decision without even coordinating with anyone.
Each manager can recruit assistants and cope with big tasks. We also encourage non-linear solutions – they are unique and very valuable.
It is comfortable for people to work in Alterhaus, they themselves determine the schedule, workload, responsibility, so that the balance between professional activity and family is not disturbed. Because it will not bring them pleasure and will affect the business. We are not interested in people losing this balance.
CLIENTS AND COMMITMENTS. RUN THE WAVE
Over the years, Alterhaus has formed a niche for a professional approach to repair and has become a benchmark in it. Talking about working with clients, the company recalls the film “Pay It Forward” about three good deeds of the hero, which multiplied exponentially.
Elena Guta says, “When you bring joy to people, you start a wave, and others pick it up. There is no small business or big business, important or unimportant, you can do one good deed in your life, and that will be enough to live it for good reason.”
The mission of Alterhaus is to make sure that as many people as possible remember renovation as a pleasant experience.
ABOUT REPAIR IN 50 DAYS
Any question about construction can be solved with the help of time and money. And only by our attitude we form whether something is difficult or easy. Builders, absolutely unique in their category, face our lightness and trust in them, with respect for what they do, and cannot respond with something bad. There are problems – and they are solvable.
We do not refuse our clients, if they contact us with a request, we say how much it costs and how long it will take.
We make repairs in 50 days and very rarely break the deadlines. However, if this happens, customers receive a penalty. I think it is the highest on the market. If we do not fulfill our obligations on time, we pay 0.1% per day, which is 500–1000 USD.
ABOUT OPTIMAL SOLUTIONS
Quite often it happens that clients come with their own renovation ideas and leave with ours. Over the years, we have developed a cool expertise in the market, we act on the basis of the fact that the client is satisfied. Our offer may be less profitable for us, but optimal for the client.
The work is structured in such a way that our employees find a solution that takes into account the client’s desire as much as possible, and it brings money. But the financial result is secondary here. It is very important that the repair was a pleasure – both for us and for the customer.
ABOUT CREATING A SUCCESSFUL BUSINESS
To create a successful business, the absence of fear is very important. After all, the fear of the unknown, the fear of making a mistake stops people, prevents them from going their own way. Mistakes are our experience, such challenges make us stronger and wiser.
I also don’t see the point in long term planning. Even financial analysts from the best Swiss banks guess 50/50. That is, the system is too complicated to plan anything. And it is too dynamic now – everything changes very quickly.
My husband told me how he feels what doubts are. He took part in races in Morocco. He says, “I am driving in absolute confidence that I am the leader of this race, and now I see a hole somewhere a kilometer before the finish line. I think: “Will I hit it or not hit it?” I’m getting in.” Now, doubt is a pit that could have been avoided. Our choice: fall into the pit or reach the finish line without a doubt.
Business is probably the simplest thing in this world. These are just math problems that can be solved.
PERSONAL. ABOUT LIFE IN TWO COUNTRIES, UNTYPICAL MOTHERHOOD AND PASTE
Elena Guta has a lot of personal successes and achievements. The ease with which she goes through life captivates and captures. The idea that, as a leader, she is not at all like the others, with their dogmas and bookish rules “in the spirit of the times”, the founder of Alterhaus perceives as a compliment.
And according to the response the company has in the repair market, how the “fan club” of customers is multiplying, we can conclude that Elena Guta has excellent business intuition. But there is another side – personal.
ABOUT COMBINING BUSINESS AND EDUCATION OF FOUR CHILDREN
Children have been living in Switzerland for more than 10 years, and I also live in two countries. I am well aware that this is contrary to recognized norms.
They have freedom – they go to school themselves from the age of four, they are independent and are responsible for the result of their activities. They know that mom doesn’t “fix” them to get better grades, they don’t have drivers, cars, security guards.
I am happy to see how they grow and develop, this is a whole gang, and they are each other’s mountain. About 30% of the days of the year we spend together, and this is a very high quality time.
ABOUT FREE TIME AND HOBBIES
Now I have a new hobby that I enjoy a lot – I cook. This is also a process of creation.
I even used to make my own pasta. At my house, everyone refuses to buy pasta, they say, “Better than yours, no.” Yesterday I made a Red Velvet cake, but it turned out to be Black Velvet, with cuttlefish ink.
I enjoy this, because the food I cook is pure energy. And it’s very close to business.
Photos provided by Elena Guta