Leading a Enterprise in Ukraine For the duration of the War

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On February 24, 2022, Russian troops invaded Ukraine. This spectacular escalation of a conflict that started 2014 sparked an ongoing war that has led to tens of 1000’s of deaths and the premier European refugee crisis due to the fact Globe War II. It is been condemned by 141 international locations as an unlawful act of aggression.

As the entire world marks the 1-yr anniversary of the invasion, we needed to recognize how corporations in Ukraine have navigated the previous calendar year. To that stop, we done in-depth interviews with a assorted group of 10 Ukrainian managers and executives, representing industries such as recruiting, IT, education and learning, enterprise funds, health and fitness and health, agriculture, and oil and fuel.

We requested them about their activities major in the midst of war, the difficulties they faced, and the lessons they learned. Their stories — translated and edited for clarity — comply with and drop light-weight on a number of popular themes.


When the threat of a Russian invasion grew to become serious in early 2022, Ukrainian software package growth company Ralabs started planning. It designed new HR policies in situation workers were drafted, created a in depth relocation prepare for staff members throughout eight different countries, and executed employee trainings on functioning overseas, initial help, and how to pack an crisis suitcase. As staff members were being getting to be progressively stressed (primarily when world media started predicting that if a war began, Kyiv would tumble in a number of times), the enterprise produced sure to enhance its tactical means with psychological overall health help, co-founder and COO Roman Rodomansky explained to us.

Of program, the arrival of war shocked even the most prepared organizations. But our interviewees explained to us that right after the Russian military retreated from Kyiv, they were being mostly ready to adapt to their new actuality. When Russian attacks targeted Ukraine’s energy infrastructure, they quickly established up new workspaces geared up with turbines and satellite world wide web. When staff members had to relocate, companies made available help, training, and assets. To continue to be afloat though clients disappeared and revenues fell, leaders located resourceful ways to cut operational charges with no laying persons off. Lots of also described how they were capable to construct on the adaptability and resilience, notably when it came to dispersed perform, that their teams had by now shown through the pandemic.

At 4:30 in the early morning on February 24, I woke up to sirens blaring, rockets flying, explosions everywhere. My neighbor’s home was hit, just 700 meters from me. Thank God, his wife was nonetheless asleep — the blankets guarded her when their bedroom window shattered and coated the home in glass. We all hid in the basement, and when we could escape, we went to remain with family members in Western Ukraine. 6 families stayed in the basement there, food stuff was running out, there ended up queues, shifts for every thing. I indicate, you just can’t live like that.

Inevitably, my family was in a position to get to Poland, and I went to my hometown in the vicinity of Odesa. But all those initial number of months, there was no perform. There had been no clientele. If a person termed, it was to communicate about who was alive and who was not, who was in occupied locations, who experienced kinfolk in hassle, who was in the basement, and in what condition.

Then, in May well, business enterprise started out taking place yet again. The Russians left Bucha and Irpin, and I returned to Kyiv — although not with out incident. A bridge was blown up, and our very little teach stood there for two several hours, waiting around for the missile raid to close. I bear in mind Googling the width of the river, and the water temperature, calculating no matter whether I’d be equipped to make it across if the coach fell from the tracks. I even took off my shoes and coat, just in circumstance, so I’d be ready to swim. But the good news is, they repaired the tracks, and I manufactured it to Kyiv in just one piece.

By now, points are largely back again to regular for my company. We’re a smaller team, like a guerilla group. We all disbanded, but we’ve all returned. And if I’ve learned nearly anything, it is to normally be prepared. Now I know what to do if there is an invasion, and I’ve set up all the things I can for my business enterprise and my family members in circumstance I’m not here tomorrow. My checklist of contingency options got longer, and I understand superior how to respond to these hazards. We all do. And, effectively, if a zombie apocalypse arrives, I believe we’d be a great deal much more all set for it than just before.

— Volodymyr, Kyiv
Founding companion, startup advisory business

Our discussions created it clear that resilient corporations go hand in hand with resilient leaders. Own resilience allows the brief determination-producing, consolation with short setting up horizons, and agility vital to guidance a team through swiftly evolving issues. As Yevhen Tytiuk, president of an oil and fuel equipment producer, reflected, “To be trustworthy, I have had some terrible views. But now, I’m full of enthusiasm. Of study course, we haven’t been equipped to maintain pre-war degrees, and we’ve had to adapt a large amount. But primarily based on the volumes we have now, I believe we’re likely to be okay.”

The leaders we interviewed described a range of coping mechanisms to assistance them recuperate from the trauma wrought by the war and fulfill their obligations to their personnel, from brazenly sharing their feelings with their teams to carving out time for hobbies and close friends to intentionally focusing on humor and optimism.

These days, we call it “war-daily life balance” — when missiles are traveling overhead folks are doing the job from bomb shelters, basements, and bathrooms we have no power, no net colleges are shut, so young ones are with us at home…the pressure and stress and anxiety are rigorous.

But continue to, we have to obtain moments of pleasure. We have to come across some way to harmony do the job, volunteering, helping the armed forces, and caring for family members. We have to locate a way to make it all operate.

Of course, our management workforce had a organization continuity approach. But we in no way considered that we would need to have to activate it. In the rapid aftermath of the invasion, our first challenge was guaranteeing the physical safety of our staff members. We managed to relocate a lot of to Lviv, where the war was nonetheless agonizing, but business could carry on to run. Precedence variety two was making sure we could retain spending our folks.

And surprisingly, just a number of days just after the invasion, 90% of our employees were presently back to function. Their determination was incredible, and it intended we have been equipped to keep the the vast majority of our clientele, since finally, they also require to get their positions accomplished.

Of training course, there were moments that had been emotionally devastating. I had a colleague who lost her father in the war. Other folks experienced shut kinfolk who ended up captured in the occupied territories. One particular has a brother who’s been imprisoned for 6 months with no word on where by he is or when he could be introduced.

When we listen to these tales, or when we see the shots of the brutalities dedicated in the liberated territories, we all feel excellent struggling, and we can not hope to be as productive as usual. But as a leader, I come across that sharing my vulnerabilities openly and becoming a member of volunteer efforts aids me and my group to go ahead. I know I can’t entirely protect absolutely everyone, and I know that some uncertainty is inescapable, but we do our best to give whatsoever help we can.

— Lidiya Dats, Lviv
Co-founder and head of HR, TechMagic (software engineering company)


The leaders we spoke with found a shared sense of objective in continuing enterprise operations that ended up supporting the war exertion by using individuals and spending taxes in volunteering and donating to healthcare relief attempts, refugee resettlement applications, and navy aid funds and in acquiring products and solutions that could assist everyday Ukrainians.

For illustration, CEO of ed-tech system GIOS, Nataliia Limonova, shared that she started off which include a phone for donations to a Ukraine reduction fund when pitching her business to buyers, enabling her to fundraise for her company when setting up international guidance for her place. Her emotion was palpable when she described seeing donations from fellow business enterprise leaders start off to pour in.

GIOS was also one particular of quite a few Ukrainian providers that selected to offer you their products and providers to Ukrainians for free. These leaders shared that despite sizeable hurdles, a strong feeling of reason helped encourage and unite their people — even in their darkest several hours.

In accordance to new estimates, 90% of Ukrainians these days show indicators of PTSD. And you know, this psychological wellness stuff, it is not as common in this article as it is in the U.S. and Europe. A large amount of individuals are reluctant to confess they need to have support. So, when we’re capable to make a big difference, when we get responses that a customer was lastly equipped to get a superior night’s sleep soon after finishing a single of our packages, when we’re ready to present no cost obtain to sources that assist with worry, stress and anxiety, and depression, that allows our crew actually feel the importance of our mission.

Nevertheless, when the war started out, I had to obtain and articulate a new vision for the company, for why we really should shift forward even as bombs fell all close to us. We know that our military fights for military victory on the front line, but we combat on the financial front line. This isn’t just a small business, it’s a way to guidance our country. When our organization is secure and productive, we of course make improvements to our customers’ lives, but we also donate to the military, pay back taxes and salaries, and make work that make it feasible for the amazing minds of Ukraine to continue to be right here, somewhat than leaving to find work overseas. I’m more useful to my place with a notebook than with a weapon.

My title could possibly be CEO, but just lately, I’m much more like main electricity officer. My job is to maintain morale up, hold the team’s batteries billed, and inspire anyone to assist each individual other, our business, and our country — in whichever techniques we can.

— Victoria Repa, Kyiv
CEO, BetterMe (well being and conditioning platform)

The leaders we spoke with also explained getting purpose in aiding make the country’s potential by retaining and creating talent, rebuilding the economy, and fostering new industries to fill the gaps still left by areas of Ukraine’s economy, such as the agriculture sector, that have been severely destroyed.

This is a big tragedy for the for the Ukrainian folks, for the nation. But it’s also a unique opportunity, since the nation has in no way been so united. It’s a likelihood to drive our state forward, to spend in our nation, to make sure that when this war ends, we’re poised to be a part of the ranks of truly developed nations.

We all realize that we have a professional army, and they’re doing their position. So we have to do our position, right here. As soon as my crew and I recognized this, we became far more concentrated, additional pushed to obtain artistic ways to assist the founders we function with and adapt our courses to meet up with new demand. After the war, we’re going to need a good deal of clever persons listed here in Ukraine, and I see our perform as serving to to put together the up coming technology of youthful business people to direct our country ahead.

— Ivan Petrenko, Lviv
Handling companion, Angel A person Enterprise Fund and CEO, CfE Accelerator


The leaders we interviewed persistently emphasised how empathy experienced turn out to be central to their method, whether or not by supplying fiscal assist to struggling employees, insisting burned-out staff just take time off, or simply listening to staff. One particular government, who described regularly using time to pay attention to his driver converse about his son, who was serving on the entrance line in Eastern Ukraine, joked that his purpose was very similar to that of that a priest.

At the exact same time, the leaders we spoke with also mentioned the limits of empathy. A lot of reflected that unless of course they went by a similar encounter by themselves, they could never completely realize an individual who had lost a house or a loved one.

You know, most of the time, when I discuss to my colleagues, I don’t just communicate about work. I discuss to them as persons. And I feel they can see that the discussion is not just about enterprise, that I’m also contemplating about them on a personalized stage, and so they just naturally open up a minimal extra. It conjures up a sort of hope, a sort of positivity.

For example, ahead of the war, I experienced bought my motor vehicle to one of my staff members on credit history. She was going to pay back me back in installments, but after the war began, I informed her it wasn’t important to fork out me back again. And it turned out that the automobile ended up aiding her and her partner a wonderful deal, due to the fact it was a 4-wheel drive, and without having it, they may possibly not have been equipped to escape Kyiv. Factors like this carry people today collectively about you.

I was regularly in touch with my colleagues, my companions. I realized what every person was facing, and since I understood about their life, I was generally typically anxious with their safety — thoughts of enterprise could have been there someplace, but they ended up in the track record.

— Yevhen, Kyiv
Founder and normal manager, grain and oil seeds investing firm


You just want to pay attention to your persons. You want to actually hear — really don’t just listen to what they say, but tune in to how they’re really carrying out.

I experienced a crew direct with two modest children, and her mother lived close to Mykolaiv, in an place that was occupied by Russia. She was a terrific lady, a definitely potent supervisor, but I could see that with every thing going on, she was more and more pressured. But in some cases folks are not always equipped to get their own temperature. At very first, she insisted that she was all right, but we talked extra, and I just listened, and ultimately she understood just how taxing it experienced all been for her. From there, we have been capable to operate with each other to determine out how the company could support and how we could move forward as a crew.

No make a difference what, which is my tactic: We are all a person group. I do not believe in dealing with individuals in a different way, regardless of whether they’re a freelancer or comprehensive time, junior or senior, marketer or engineer. At times, when there were being blackouts, some of our freelancers could not uncover a area to do their perform, considering the fact that all the cafes and free areas have been completely total, so I requested my team to manage some workspaces for them. One particular of my consumers was astonished, since he thought it was not our duty to do all that. But I don’t feel you can commence splitting the staff, as if some folks are more significant than other folks. We’re all men and women, we all treatment about each and every other, and we’re all experiencing these troubles jointly.

— Natalia Tkachova, Odesa
Task manager and team lead, TechMagic


The leaders we interviewed pretty much universally shared moments of deep gratitude in the midst of tragedy. They described how they would consider just a brief pause to admit the positives in their lives, providing them the strength, enthusiasm, and optimism to carry on. Without a doubt, exploration has shown that easy expressions of gratitude can reduce anxiety, enhance interpersonal relationships, and even increase bodily health.

I operate a recruiting agency that will help worldwide companies retain the services of tech talent in Ukraine. Right before the war, our pitch was in essence, “Hey, Americans, we know what you pay back for developers — come to Ukraine and you can get the similar excellent for half the value.”

But when the war begun, many of our consumers felt it was far too dangerous to employ Ukrainian developers, or open up Ukrainian workplaces, so we lost a whole lot of business enterprise. It was a definitely difficult time, there was a whole lot of uncertainty, but it also showed me how much I have to be grateful for. My group was outstanding, prepared to do whichever required to be carried out to keep the firm afloat. And of program, I’m truly grateful for the people preserving our state on the front lines, giving us the prospect to preserve operating and making price for our consumers. We’ve faced some tricky situations, but definitely, I’m so fortuitous to be the place I am. For me to complain just would not make perception, not when there are people who are basically providing up their lives for our nation each individual working day.

Even little things, I realized to enjoy to a new amount. For the initially handful of times, for occasion, the complete financial system stopped, supermarket cabinets were vacant, I could not even buy diapers for my just one-calendar year-aged. Then 1 working day, I was capable to get some, and I felt this sort of joy at staying capable to get some thing I made use of to acquire for granted.

I keep in mind a different time, I was heading to mattress following a lengthy, 16-hour workday, and I reported to my spouse, “I come to feel genuinely pleased right now.” I was put in, fatigued, but I felt that I experienced offered my do the job and my loved ones all the things I could that day, no much more, no less. And I remember imagining, if I could reside my full everyday living that way, I would die pleased.

— Bogdan, Lviv
CEO, tech talent recruitment agency


I guide an ed-tech startup, and both our in-dwelling group and the academics on our system were wonderful. Every person tailored to the problems, some even educating from their basements all through the blackouts.

But we have been intended to receive our subsequent tranche of financial commitment on February 28, and of course, that didn’t flip out to be in the cards. In addition, we gave college students no cost accessibility to our system as soon as the war started, to assist households who may well be displaced. So, nicely, dollars movement has been a challenge.

Still some times, I’m nevertheless just confused with gratitude. Get this early morning: I’m in my house, and a attractive winter season day is all close to me. I’m with my partner, we just completed breakfast, and the early morning feels like a modest getaway, just since we are alive, and we can see these stunning environment, and I have my staff and my loved ones with me. And we have the chance to enable so numerous men and women by our get the job done, to inspire people today and assist pupils and instructors all about the world. Often, I have days like that: amazing days.

— Nataliia Limonova, Kyiv
Founder and CEO, GIOS (interactive math platform for college students and teachers)