Focusing on securing her future and independence through determination and flexibility has proven key to the success of Sofia Radomska, Oriflame Managing Director, UK & Ireland.
Originating from the Ukraine where she lived with her mother and father, she moved to Sweden when she was just 16. Moving home is difficult at any age but particularly more so when you are a teenager and dealing with the insecurities of adolescence; deciding to uproot yourself to live in another country where the culture is so different, and where you don’t speak the language, must have been incredibly difficult:
“Yes, of course it was quite hard in the beginning. I missed my family so much that in the first two months, I refused to talk to them on the phone. It was hurting so badly to be away from them that hearing their voice didn’t help. So for the first two months, we just didn’t speak. I think it all changed when I started to speak Swedish. It took me only four months to learn it and that was the ‘ice-breaking’ moment for me when I understood the culture, the language – I felt part of it…”
Fluent in five languages, Radomska is an advocate of not only of being able to communicate in the local language but also of immersing yourself in the culture of the country where you live. It was her experience in Sweden that showed her the importance and value of participating fully in local life: “Only when you understand the culture [of a country], can you say that you speak the language fluently”. The determination required to make yourself understood and to succeed in business in a job where the native language is not your own is not to be underestimated; it takes drive and dedication and a willingness to make mistakes and to learn from those mistakes. Sofia believes that she has inherited those traits from her parents.
Although very different to each other – her father was a teacher and her mother was an entrepreneur running her own business – it was a complementary dynamic for Radomska:
“My dad and my mum are the people I look up to the most. As a young girl I always wanted to impress my dad. I remember coming home [from school ] when I got four and not five [five being the top grade]. Telling this to my dad was completely different to telling my mum. For example, my dad would always ask me what I could do better to get a five next time. He would make me put a plan in place whereas my mum would celebrate like I’d received the greatest success ever! For my mum, it was all about enjoying what you do even it if wasn’t perfect. My mum always taught me to take risks, go with the gut feelings, be adventurous, brave and try new things; from dad, I got the importance of thinking of the future and having a long term vision, being focussed, persistent and hardworking and being super, super structured and organised.”
Radomska admits to being an out and out socialite which she puts down to her family upbringing and their love of celebrating every success, every occasion and their generally happy disposition. Having overcome her initial resistance to her new adopted country, Sofia threw herself into seizing and making the most of the opportunities afforded to her whilst studying a sports leadership programme, including trying her hand at curling, ski-jumping, ice fishing and ice hockey.
Fully immersed and enjoying her new life in Sweden, Radomska had wanted to carve out a career in international diplomacy following an internship at the Ukrainian embassy in Sweden. She was fascinated by how negotiations between the two different cultures worked and, with a foot in each camp, Radomska believed she could have a very successful career and one in which she would also be able to draw on her love of politics and history. However, in order to continue to build a career in the diplomatic service, she would have had to return to the Ukraine which was something that she didn’t want to do as she was now very settled in Sweden, loving her new life and spending time with her new friends.
Despite not wanting to return to the country of her birth, Radomska’s ability to negotiate and socialise with others naturally did not go to waste. Recalling how happy and excited the people outside the Oriflame office in the Ukraine were, she decided to apply to join the company when she saw a recruitment ad in Stockholm:
“I did know the company from my days in the Ukraine. I remember on my way to school I would pass the office on the way. I always saw these people excited as they came out of the office. Now I understand who they were. They were most probably sales consultants who were there to celibate their success, maybe receive recognition but at that time, I said to myself, I’d love to work for a company that like. When I saw an ad that Oriflame was hiring in Stockholm, I thought ‘that’s it; I’d better try it.”
Radomska has never looked backed from that point onwards and now twelve years later, she holds the position of Managing Director, Oriflame UK and Ireland. Company culture and ethos is important to Sofia and something she points to as keeping her with the company.
Her willingness to learn and adapt to new challenges in order to feed her curiosity and love of learning new things has seen her work in a number of roles within the company including managing Oriflame’s international conferences and events, global sales support project management and also as sales force support manager for western Europe. This position involved the launch and full implementation of a wellness category which was an entirely new concept for the business.
Her progress and experience within the company have undoubtedly given her great insight into how the company operates and how to make the best of its assets – notably its people:
“I think I have the best job in the world right now! If you look at Oriflame as a company and the way it treats people is just phenomenal. The core values are togetherness, spirit and passion. Both employees and the sales force strongly promote these values – it’s a fabulous place to work. When you look for a new job, it’s not just the company and the sales results that should inspire you. It’s very much what the company has to offer to its employees. Many, many companies out there today are very strong with regards culture so there are a lot of opportunities out there for young people but Oriflame is a great place to work.”
It would appear that Radomska’s passion and enthusiasm is shared by many of those within Oriflame as the group appears in the top 15 make up and cosmetic company for 2019 according to an article for Direct Selling Agent with an impressive employee headcount of around 6,189 and over 3 million independent consultants across 60 countries.
It has, however, not always been plain sailing for Oriflame in the UK and Ireland and, in an article for the Swedish Chamber of Commerce, Radomska commented that “I think it is much easier to start a new company than to turn-around a mature, declining one”.
Undeterred, and using the analogy of a rowing boat where success is harder if one person stops rowing and is more easily achieved through everyone pulling together, Radomska has been instrumental in bringing about a transformation and modernisation programme. The company has gone from a position of declining sales to double digit growth but Sofia is quick to emphasise that the transformation has very much been team effort:
“I have the best people in the world working with me. We have a great team with experts in what they are doing. Most importantly we have an amazing sales force out there. We have very strong, dedicated, loyal and hardworking leaders. Really, it’s that together we’ve created a strategy – it’s not me creating it. Together we’ve created a strategy we believe in and that we’ve worked with together and so it is people who have made the difference. But, as a company, we are also very proud of what we stand for and what have to offer.”
Perhaps taking inspiration from her own mother’s entrepreneurial spirit, Radomska and her team always make sure to take time to reflect and celebrate all milestones and achievements, not just as a company but also those from the sales force of Beauty Consultants. For the past two years, Radomska and her team have been focussed on planning another revision to the business model which Radomska believes will further improve the proposition for their consultants and which has recently launched
“What it has to bring is phenomenal. I can’t sleep as I’m so excited! I wake up in the night as I can’t wait for it to be launched. I can’t wait for all the results that we believe will happen. It will be a game changer for us.”
It is evident that Radomska is fully committed and engaged with her work, showing the same determination that she has when learning a new language and it is that purpose and focus that is a common ingredient with ensuring success.
Also in common with most entrepreneurs we meet at KWIB, Radomska’s day begins with an exercise regime. For Radomska, this usually consists of a long distance run in the woods or a hot yoga session which allows her to concentrate her mind ready for the day ahead. Fuelled then with a coffee in one of her 75 (yes 75!) Starbucks mugs collected from the places Radomska has visited, she is ready to face whatever challenges the day holds for her.
Radomska’s energy and drive is obvious when you sit and talk with her so it is no surprise to learn that in order to celebrate the 50th Anniversary for Oriflame in the UK, they are planning a huge celebration in January but with her previous role as international conference and events manager, she is taking it all in her stride as well as making the final arrangement for her own major event this month – her wedding! As someone who seems adept at making a plan come together, we’ve no need to wish her luck – it’s bound to be an enormous success and the start of another wonderful chapter.