No more vodka
Virginia executive who travels to Russia says business traditions have changed
- July 26, 2013
In the late 1990s it wasn’t unusual for Garet Bosiger to have a shot of vodka during business meetings in Russia. In fact, he says, it was the norm, regardless of the time of day. Now, that once-mandatory tradition is a memory. “When I first started going over to Russia there were older people running the mills,” he says, and the practice of serving vodka was a tradition to that generation.“Now the people running the mills are younger and more highly educated folks. They speak English, and they don’t drink vodka at work. They don’t roll it out in the
Bosiger, division president of cabinet and drawer manufacturer Genesis Products Inc. in Keysville, travels to Russia to purchase hardwoods such as Siberian birch and Baltic birch used in making drawer and cabinet parts. Genesis imports 80 percent of its hardwood from that country. “Russia has about 70 percent of the temperate forest in the world,” he says. By comparison, in the U.S., “Appalachian hardwoods are used for furniture making, but a lot of that is being exported to China,” he adds.
Bosiger says most of the plywood being manufactured in Russia is exported to the European Union or the U.S. “It’s high-quality plywood. Russian birch plywood has become a commodity. We also are importing birch lumber from the Siberian area of Russia that we make into drawer parts for our
Bosiger travels to Russia at least twice a year. He has learned that a face-to-face visit is important to businesspeople there. “What I have found out about Russians is that they are very careful about trusting anyone,” he says. “When you make the effort to go sit down with them, that means a lot. You have to build that trust. It doesn’t happen automatically or quickly.”
He finds that Russians always “go by the book.”
“They are very much ‘this is what you ordered, and this is what you get,’” he says. “I’ve not had any bad business dealings with them. After a while, you develop a very deep relationship, and it works very well.”
Bosiger, a Virginia Tech alum, has been involved in furniture manufacturing for 43 years. He worked his way up in management before starting Appomattox River Manufacturing in 1995. “I started with 12 people. The first year we had sales of $1.1 million,” he says. “The company grew incrementally until 2008 when revenues dropped 40 percent. We have recovered all of that.”
At the same time Bosiger was growing his company, competitors were going out of business. “We gained market share because we were a low-cost producer,” he says.
Bosiger sold the company to Indiana-based Genesis Products Inc. in 2011 at a time when Appomattox was generating more than $14 million in revenue. The 220,000-square-foot facility in Keysville now has 100 employees.
“We had a common denominator in the sales group Seemac,” he notes. Seemac, an Indiana-based global trading company involved in the wood industry, worked with both Appomattox and Genesis. Seemac recognized the commonalities between Genesis, a cabinet company, and Appomattox, a manufacturer of drawer parts,
Bosiger started his company in Keysville because of the easy commute from his farm in Appomattox County. “I looked for a factory within driving distance of home and found one I could buy in Keysville. It was an old textile factory,” he says.
The area is a plus for his business. “We are in a perfect area to receive product,” he says. “Also, I like the work ethic of the people and the business friendliness of Charlotte County.”
Genesis’ customers in-clude Vaughan-Bassett Furniture in Galax and Stanley Furniture Co. in Stanleytown. “We ship to customers as far away as Texas and Arizona,” Bosiger says. “All of our sales are domestic.”
The Russian Federation seat of power, Moscow serves as a financial and business center for the country. This March, Forbes magazine listed Moscow as “the billionaire capital of the world” with 84 of the world’s richest billionaires. Industries in the city include software development, energy production, chemicals, aviation and furniture. Leading companies include the Mil Moscow Helicopter Plant, which produces military helicopters; the Krunichev State Research and Production Space Center, known for creating the Russian spacecraft; and the Moscow Distillery Cristall, which produces Stolichnaya vodka. Technology companies include ABBYY, a leading provider of document recognition, data capture and linguistic technologies and services.
On his trips to Moscow, Bosiger likes to visit the Moscow Kremlin Museums’ collection of royal carriages from the 16th and 17th centuries. The Kremlin, which is in the center of the city, includes several cathedrals and the Grand Kremlin Palace. The circa-1560 St. Basil’s Cathedral in Red Square, with its distinct red and green domes, is one of the most visited spots in the city. The cathedral was built by the order of Ivan the Terrible. Moscow has close to 100 parks and gardens, including Izmaylovsky Park, one of the world’s largest urban parks. The Moscow Zoo has more than 5,000 animals.
Charlotte County’s economy
Located in Southern Virginia, Charlotte County covers more than 500 square miles and has a population of approximately 12,000. Economic drivers include agriculture, forestry products and furniture manufacturing. Major employers aside from Genesis include Morgan Lumber Co., modular homebuilder Cardinal Homes, Ontario Hardwood Co. Inc. and the J.H. Daniels Campus of Southside Virginia Community College. Keysville, considered the commercial hub of the county, is on an upward swing, especially in the service and retail areas.
Visiting Charlotte County
Charlotte County provides a variety of outdoor activities, including bird watching along the Virginia Wildlife and Birding Trail system. Buggs Island Lake, with 800 miles of shoreline, is a fisherman’s delight with plenty of striped bass. The county also is home to the Staunton River Battlefield, a 300-acre site where Confederate soldiers prevented the Union army’s seizure of a crucial bridge. The park has a historic bridge trail as well as Civil War exhibits. Other tourist attractions include Red Hill, Patrick Henry’s last home and burial place, and Annefield Vineyards, whose wines include chardonnay and cabernet Franc.