Why my salary as CEO is just $4,500 a month

21 December 2018

Fyodor Ovchinnikov

Dodo Pizza CEO

Fyodor Ovchinnikov

A Russian blogger named Oleg AsSa did an interview with me recently, and judging by all the comments on the stream, the most sensational detail of it turned out to be my salary, which is now a little more than $4,500 (300,000 rubles) a month. Many people are surprised to know that the CEO of the largest Russian pizza chain with an annual revenue of more than $200M makes such a modest sum. So why is that?

I’ve been building my business for 15 years now in wildly diverse circumstances. At some point, I was on the brink of bankruptcy. I was up to my neck in debt. There were times when I was paying a salary to my team with the last of the money from my credit cards, and I had nothing to pay for gas with. I borrowed from underground money-lenders at 3% interest a month just to let my company keep going. There were times when I couldn’t pay myself a salary at all. If I didn’t have enough, I moonlighted as a paid consultant. I had a family, and I had a business, and that business had to survive. About a year ago, I sold some of my shares, and that money is lying out at interest so that I have additional income without having to increase my salary.

Life has taught me that business is a very dangerous affair, and it’s twice as dangerous to fulfill a big dream. Success is fleeting. You should be very careful. Spend less, think of the future more. Look sharp or you’re out of business in the blink of an eye. The company’s safety was always the first priority for me, as the company is the future; the company is an opportunity to make something new, to build and create, and that’s much more important to me than an opportunity to spend lavishly here and now.

I’ve never built a business just to buy myself a Ferrari—not that I blame those who dream of it. To each his or her own path and his or her own dream. My dream is to do something worth doing, something impossible: to create cool products, build an open and honest global consumer products company, inspire millions of people and show them that all of it is possible. It’s possible to build a global business in a small town without the initial capital or useful connections, create something that’s going to outlive you or even just play this exciting game for the sake of it. That’s what’s really breathtaking, not a luxury car. Anyway, I’ve never understood luxury. A person needs little to be happy, and you can’t buy those things.

We’ve been building Dodo Pizza, our big dream, for seven years now, and only this year has our parent company reached profitability. We took risks. We’ve invested a lot in the future, in our own IT system, in our team and our development. We needed investments. And professional investors did not believe in us; well, no surprise there. Who would believe that a small Syktyvkar company would suddenly become Russian pizza chain no. 1? But a lot of ordinary people did believe in us. Programmers, businessmen, managers, and engineers have invested their money earned through their own hard work, and thanks to their help, Dodo Pizza has been created. A lot of businessmen from all over the country have believed in us and become our franchisees. They mortgaged their apartments, borrowed money from banks, friends, or relatives, accepted responsibility and opened pizzerias in their cities. So they are those who have built Dodo Pizza.

Business is not just about money. The founder and director of a large pizza chain is not just about salary. It’s about big responsibility for the company, our franchisees, investors, those working at pizzerias and at the parent company. I’m responsible for our dream that inspires thousands of people who believe in me. This is what’s important to me, not the money I currently make personally.

And one more thing. Dodo Pizza is not Fyodor Ovchinnikov. Dodo Pizza is a big team. We’ve all embarked on this expedition together, and I’m just one of many: one of us.


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