Secrets of a polyglot’s success in business

Eldor Makhmudov speaks five languages, travels for much of the year, and appears to have a knack for turning “a crisis into an opportunity.” Originally from Uzbekistan, he is also a family man who has made South Korea his home since earning a government scholarship in 2008. He joined Samsung C&T in 2012 as a global intern, before rising to the position of senior professional in the Energy & Metal Division’s Coal Group.

Victory from the jaws of defeat

A clear example of Makhmudov’s global ascent is the way he developed a highly fruitful business relationship in Sakhalin, Russia. By his own admission, “the situation of our sales in Russia was not good.” After contacting several coal mines on island of Sakhalin, he discovered a company that had just begun to develop a mine six hours away from the nearest airport by car. He found out about its problems and offered some help.

“I am very proud of it because it was a case in which we changed a crisis into an opportunity,” he explains. “It was a small mine at first, but now its output is gradually growing.”

Multilingual edge

If language learning requires motivation, Makhmudov appears to have plenty of it. He studied to improve his English while growing up speaking Russian and Uzbek. Korean was next, and he added Chinese after joining Samsung C&T to better communicate with Chinese and Taiwanese client companies. He feels this has all given him an edge.

“It is true that I can communicate better with partner companies if I can speak their language,” he says. “I can lead the conversation more comfortably than our competitors who use interpreters, and I can make partner companies ‘our people’ with the sense of kinship generated by using the same language.”

Big and small things

What emerges from Makhmudov’s story is someone for whom relationships are vital. As he puts it, “In business, everything is about people.” It is this attitude that seems to drive his frequent personal visits to Russia, Thailand, the Philippines, and India. He stresses the importance of continually meeting suppliers, contacting them regularly to look for potential opportunities of any size. “We begin with a small deal and then it can lead to a long-term contract later,” he insists.

He also highlights the need to build trust with business partners: “If two companies are competing, the business partner will choose the company that responds quickly. It seems that trustworthy relations are created gradually by both big and small things, even as simple as promptly responding to the requests of business partners.”

As for the future, Makhmudov says he “would like to meet more business partners of the world while adapting to the local culture of Korea.” It might seem like a busy life, but he claims any stress vanishes when he hears his 3-year-old daughter call, “Daddy!”

Eldor Makhmudov, senior professional in the Energy & Metal Division’s Coal Group of Samsung C&T, smiles during a photo shoot on March 22, 2019.
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