As I’m entering the stylishly decorated Russian Time conference room in Sacramento a few minutes before the start of my interview, the couple that agreed to sit down with me today, Tatyana and Mikhail (Mike) Kharitonov, is already comfortably settled in leather chairs. She is an intense, stunning blond fit to be on the cover of Vogue, and he is a focused, athletic, very handsome man. Their powerful drive and unity of purpose are so palpable, you can almost see the air vibrating around them. Little wonder that they are such successful entrepreneurs and popular YouTubers. I take a deep breath, count to three and dive in.
You two look like you were born with a silver spoon in your mouth–beautiful, wealthy, happy, driven. Have you always been this way?
Mike: No, not at all! Nothing is ever as simple as it seems. Tatyana and I come from very different environments, different families and countries even – she is from Ukraine and I’m from Russia. Before we met online 12 years ago, and even after I married her and came to live in the US, we have each tried our hands at all sorts of things – real estate, care homes, house cleaning, electrical work, to name just a few. But we have always focused on the main idea: how to make the most money while gaining the most freedom. We took classes and made our fair share of mistakes. But that’s just how we found what really works for us – selling things through Amazon. And now we are trying to spread the knowledge, to teach others how to do it right so they, too, could live comfortably, doing things they enjoy.
I didn’t realize that there was science behind selling things on Amazon, that one needed to go to school for that. I thought it was just “make or buy something and sell it.” What am I missing?
Tatyana: No, one doesn’t really have to go to school. But learning from someone who’s already made your mistakes for you is a nice shortcut, don’t you think? These lessons were costly – or would’ve been costly for us if we didn’t do our homework. You see, some of the selling tactics require a sizeable investment and take forever. And by then your market may have gone away, and you’ll have made very little, if any money. So we searched and found a much more cost-effective and dynamic approach. But there was still quite a bit of know how, the little pesky details that could make it or break it, and that’s just what we now teach our students and our YouTube Family X channel followers. And even with our tips and tricks you still have to work pretty hard at first to get the hang of it, but it works!
“A job is about selling your time for money. But time is a finite, extremely precious commodity, it should be spent doing what you actually like – raising your kids, helping others, travelling, buying nice things. Money is much easier to come by, you just need to know how. Then you can make it work for YOU. And that gives you freedom to enjoy your life.” (Mike)
Oh, I believe you! But how do your students know you’re the real deal? Many people teach things they have no idea how to do themselves.
M (laughing): Very true! We’ve certainly met teachers like that, and that’s why we’re totally transparent. We share our sales numbers, even our TAX RETURNS with our students. Last month we made over 70 thousand dollars in sales, and anybody can verify that. And see [he’s proudly showing me screenshots on his phone], one of our most motivated students made his first sale within 3 days of finishing the class, and he’s so excited! That’s why we do it, so others can also prosper. That’s our way of giving back to the community that supported us through tougher times.
But doesn’t it ever get boring? Now you aced it, and then it’s just rinse and repeat?
Tatyana: Absolutely not! If you want to stay relevant in this business, in this 21st century, you have to constantly master new skills! Just think of social media marketing alone – how much is changing every day. You gotta keep up, and that’s very exciting!
You see, we believe that non-stop learning and thinking things through is key to everything – business success, happy life, happy community. This is what we teach our four kids.
Mike: Yes, we have four kids aged 5-18. Tatyana and I each have a daughter from a previous marriage, and our two little sons are our “joint venture.” So yes, one of the main principles we teach them is “think carefully before you act.” Analyze, calculate, consider the consequences. Never stop learning. Never let your brain get lazy and fat! And it’s working, at least for us and our kids, and we’re trying to be the best role models we can be for them.
We strongly believe that if Tatyana and I came to the US and made something of ourselves, then pretty much anybody can. America really is a land of opportunity, and if we just give people a little hand up, teach them to fish, so to speak, in Amazon waters, then with some effort they can do really well. But they have to really apply themselves.
That’s wonderful and very wise. But I’m just curious, do you really believe that you can think your way to fulfillment?
Tatyana: No, of course there are many other parts that are equally, if not more important. Thinking is just the starting point. Kindness, compassion are things that we value tremendously, that we practice in our business and daily life. We are actively engaged in many charities, and we make sure that the kids understand the importance of social responsibility, of taking care of their community. Our children are the ones that make sure that homeless people around our office regularly get some kind of food. Ultimately, you know, money is great, work is great, but the joy is not in the money, it’s in the service. You have to give back to the community, and I’m not talking only about the Russian-speaking community! As much as we can, we should make people’s lives better, uplift them. That’s key!
I can tell that you both are very dedicated, caring parents. How do you find time for parenting?
Mike: We make time, because this is the most important job we’ll ever have! If we don’t raise our children right, who will? What’s the point of having them then? I actually stop whatever I’m doing when one of my sons or daughters comes to me with a question – because right now, exactly when this question came into their mind, is the perfect time to answer it. Tomorrow may be too late.
Tatyana: We never fight with our children, but we set very firm, consistent boundaries, and they understand that disobedience will have consequences: they may have their privileges taken away. They also know that once they fly the nest, we will not, ever, provide any help other than moral support. There will be no monthly allowance checks. So they better apply themselves, learn, so they can do well later in life. The proverbial “pouch of gold” will eventually run out, but the “clay tablets of knowledge” will carry them through!
“Every uneducated, under-nurtured child spells out our unfortunate future. Ignorant children will be tomorrow’s poor, uncaring lawmakers, sloppy surgeons, lazy builders. Our children will shape our old age. They are the best investment one can ever make: love them, teach them right from wrong, direct them, and your family and the society will be healthy. Our motto is “Don’t be greedy, don’t live just for yourself. Live for the good of the society!” (T)
Do you think anyone can just follow your approach and do well?
Mike: No, definitely not everyone. Those who are lazy and passive will never make it. Whatever knowledge and skills we may be sharing through our school, you still have to work it, to hustle. Skills need to be practiced or you lose them.
Looking back, is there any advice you’d like to give to a younger version of yourselves?
Mike: Don’t waste time! Don’t blow through your life, it’s too precious. Don’t wait to start living – go and do it right now. Doesn’t matter if you succeed or fail, just don’t wait to live. The past is over, the future is not yet here, and whatever you want to do, do it RIGHT NOW. Right now is your life!