Main a Enterprise in Ukraine Throughout the Conflict


Share post:


On February 24, 2022, Russian troops invaded Ukraine. This dramatic escalation of a battle that started 2014 sparked an ongoing conflict that has led to tens of 1000’s of deaths and the biggest European refugee disaster since World Conflict II. It’s been condemned by 141 international locations as an illegal act of aggression.

Because the world marks the one-year anniversary of the invasion, we needed to know how companies in Ukraine have navigated the final 12 months. To that finish, we performed in-depth interviews with a various group of 10 Ukrainian managers and executives, representing industries together with recruiting, IT, training, enterprise capital, well being and health, agriculture, and oil and fuel.

We requested them about their experiences main within the midst of conflict, the challenges they confronted, and the teachings they realized. Their tales — translated and edited for readability — comply with and make clear a number of widespread themes.


When the specter of a Russian invasion grew to become actual in early 2022, Ukrainian software program growth firm Ralabs started making ready. It created new HR insurance policies in case staff had been drafted, developed an in depth relocation plan for workers throughout eight completely different international locations, and performed worker trainings on working overseas, first assist, and the right way to pack an emergency suitcase. As staff had been turning into more and more careworn (particularly when world media started predicting that if a conflict started, Kyiv would fall in a number of days), the corporate made positive to enhance its tactical assets with psychological well being help, co-founder and COO Roman Rodomansky informed us.

After all, the arrival of conflict shocked even probably the most ready organizations. However our interviewees informed us that after the Russian military retreated from Kyiv, they had been largely capable of adapt to their new actuality. When Russian assaults focused Ukraine’s energy infrastructure, they shortly arrange new workspaces outfitted with turbines and satellite tv for pc web. When staff needed to relocate, employers supplied help, coaching, and assets. To remain afloat whereas purchasers disappeared and revenues fell, leaders discovered inventive methods to chop operational prices with out laying individuals off. Many additionally described how they had been capable of construct on the adaptability and resilience, significantly when it got here to distributed work, that their groups had already demonstrated through the pandemic.

At 4:30 within the morning on February 24, I woke as much as sirens blaring, rockets flying, explosions in all places. My neighbor’s home was hit, simply 700 meters from me. Thank God, his spouse was nonetheless asleep — the blankets protected her when their bed room window shattered and coated the room in glass. All of us hid within the basement, and after we may escape, we went to stick with family in Western Ukraine. Six households stayed within the basement there, meals was working out, there have been queues, shifts for all the things. I imply, you possibly can’t dwell like that.

Finally, my household was capable of get to Poland, and I went to my hometown close to Odesa. However these first few months, there was no work. There have been no purchasers. If somebody referred to as, it was to speak about who was alive and who was not, who was in occupied areas, who had family in hassle, who was within the basement, and in what situation.

Then, in Might, enterprise began occurring once more. The Russians left Bucha and Irpin, and I returned to Kyiv — although not with out incident. A bridge was blown up, and our little practice stood there for 2 hours, ready for the missile raid to finish. I bear in mind Googling the width of the river, and the water temperature, calculating whether or not I’d be capable to make it throughout if the practice fell from the tracks. I even took off my footwear and coat, simply in case, so I’d be able to swim. However fortunately, they repaired the tracks, and I made it to Kyiv in a single piece.

By now, issues are principally again to regular for my firm. We’re a small group, like a guerilla staff. All of us disbanded, however we’ve all returned. And if I’ve realized something, it’s to all the time be ready. Now I do know what to do if there’s an invasion, and I’ve arrange all the things I can for my enterprise and my household in case I’m not right here tomorrow. My checklist of contingency plans received longer, and I perceive higher the right way to react to those dangers. All of us do. And, effectively, if a zombie apocalypse comes, I believe we’d be much more prepared for it than earlier than.

— Volodymyr, Kyiv
Founding companion, startup advisory agency

Our conversations made it clear that resilient organizations go hand in hand with resilient leaders. Private resilience permits the fast decision-making, consolation with brief planning horizons, and agility essential to help a staff via quickly evolving challenges. As Yevhen Tytiuk, president of an oil and fuel gear producer, mirrored, “To be trustworthy, I’ve had some horrible ideas. However now, I’m filled with enthusiasm. After all, we haven’t been capable of preserve pre-war ranges, and we’ve needed to adapt so much. However based mostly on the volumes now we have now, I believe we’re going to be okay.”

The leaders we interviewed described quite a lot of coping mechanisms to assist them get better from the trauma wrought by the conflict and fulfill their tasks to their staff, from overtly sharing their emotions with their groups to carving out time for hobbies and associates to deliberately specializing in humor and optimism.

These days, we name it “war-life stability” — when missiles are flying overhead; individuals are working from bomb shelters, basements, and bogs; now we have no energy, no web; faculties are closed, so children are with us at residence…the stress and nervousness are intense.

However nonetheless, now we have to seek out moments of pleasure. We now have to seek out some technique to stability work, volunteering, serving to the navy, and caring for household. We now have to discover a technique to make all of it work.

After all, our management staff had a enterprise continuity plan. However we by no means believed that we would wish to activate it. Within the rapid aftermath of the invasion, our first problem was guaranteeing the bodily security of our staff. We managed to relocate many to Lviv, the place the conflict was nonetheless painful, however enterprise may proceed to function. Precedence quantity two was ensuring we may hold paying our individuals.

And amazingly, just some days after the invasion, 90% of our staff had been already again to work. Their dedication was extraordinary, and it meant we had been capable of hold nearly all of our purchasers, as a result of finally, additionally they have to get their jobs performed.

After all, there have been moments that had been emotionally devastating. I had a colleague who misplaced her father within the conflict. Others had shut family who had been captured within the occupied territories. One has a brother who’s been imprisoned for six months with no phrase on the place he’s or when he could also be launched.

Once we hear these tales, or after we see the photographs of the brutalities dedicated within the liberated territories, all of us really feel nice struggling, and we are able to’t anticipate to be as productive as normal. However as a pacesetter, I discover that sharing my vulnerabilities overtly and becoming a member of volunteer efforts helps me and my staff to maneuver ahead. I do know I can’t totally shield everybody, and I do know that some uncertainty is inescapable, however we do our greatest to offer no matter help we are able to.

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


The leaders we spoke with discovered a shared sense of objective in persevering with enterprise operations that had been supporting the conflict effort by using individuals and paying taxes; in volunteering and donating to medical aid efforts, refugee resettlement packages, and navy help funds; and in creating merchandise that might assist on a regular basis Ukrainians.

For instance, CEO of ed-tech platform GIOS, Nataliia Limonova, shared that she began together with a name for donations to a Ukraine aid fund when pitching her enterprise to traders, enabling her to fundraise for her firm whereas constructing worldwide help for her nation. Her emotion was palpable when she described seeing donations from fellow enterprise leaders begin to pour in.

GIOS was additionally one among a number of Ukrainian corporations that selected to supply their services and products to Ukrainians without cost. These leaders shared that regardless of substantial hurdles, a robust sense of objective helped encourage and unite their individuals — even of their darkest hours.

In response to current estimates, 90% of Ukrainians immediately exhibit signs of PTSD. And you understand, this psychological well being stuff, it’s not as in style right here as it’s within the U.S. and Europe. Lots of people are reluctant to confess they need assistance. So, after we’re capable of make a distinction, after we get suggestions {that a} buyer was lastly capable of get a very good evening’s sleep after finishing one among our packages, after we’re capable of provide free entry to assets that assist with stress, nervousness, and despair, that helps our staff actually really feel the significance of our mission.

Nonetheless, when the conflict began, I needed to discover and articulate a brand new imaginative and prescient for the corporate, for why we must always transfer ahead at the same time as bombs fell throughout us. We all know that our military fights for navy victory on the entrance line, however we combat on the financial entrance line. This isn’t only a enterprise, it’s a technique to help our nation. When our firm is steady and profitable, we in fact enhance our clients’ lives, however we additionally donate to the military, pay taxes and salaries, and create jobs that make it doable for the good minds of Ukraine to remain right here, slightly than leaving to seek out work overseas. I’m extra helpful to my nation with a laptop computer than with a weapon.

My title could be CEO, however just lately, I’m extra like chief vitality officer. My job is to maintain morale up, hold the staff’s batteries charged, and encourage everybody to assist one another, our enterprise, and our nation — in no matter methods we are able to.

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

The leaders we spoke with additionally described discovering objective in serving to construct the nation’s future by retaining and creating expertise, rebuilding the economic system, and fostering new industries to fill the gaps left by elements of Ukraine’s economic system, such because the agriculture sector, which were severely broken.

It is a large tragedy for the for the Ukrainian individuals, for the nation. But it surely’s additionally a singular alternative, as a result of the nation has by no means been so united. It’s an opportunity to push our nation ahead, to spend money on our nation, to guarantee that when this conflict ends, we’re poised to hitch the ranks of really developed nations.

All of us perceive that now we have knowledgeable military, and so they’re doing their job. So now we have to do our job, right here. As soon as my staff and I understood this, we grew to become extra targeted, extra pushed to seek out inventive methods to assist the founders we work with and adapt our packages to satisfy new demand. After the conflict, we’re going to wish plenty of sensible individuals right here in Ukraine, and I see our work as serving to to arrange the subsequent era of younger entrepreneurs to steer our nation ahead.

— Ivan Petrenko, Lviv
Managing companion, Angel One Enterprise Fund and CEO, CfE Accelerator


The leaders we interviewed constantly emphasised how empathy had turn out to be central to their strategy, whether or not by providing monetary help to struggling staff, insisting burned-out staff take day without work, or just listening to staff. One government, who described recurrently taking time to take heed to his driver speak about his son, who was serving on the entrance line in Jap Ukraine, joked that his position was just like that of {that a} priest.

On the similar time, the leaders we spoke with additionally famous the bounds of empathy. Many mirrored that until they went via an identical expertise themselves, they might by no means totally perceive somebody who had misplaced a house or a cherished one.

You recognize, more often than not, after I discuss to my colleagues, I don’t simply speak about work. I discuss to them as individuals. And I believe they’ll see that the dialog isn’t nearly enterprise, that I’m additionally fascinated by them on a private degree, and they also simply naturally open up just a little extra. It conjures up a form of hope, a form of positivity.

For instance, earlier than the conflict, I had bought my automotive to one among my staff on credit score. She was going to pay me again in installments, however as soon as the conflict began, I informed her it wasn’t essential to pay me again. And it turned out that the automotive ended up serving to her and her husband a terrific deal, as a result of it was a four-wheel drive, and with out it, they won’t have been capable of escape Kyiv. Issues like this carry individuals collectively round you.

I used to be continually in contact with my colleagues, my companions. I knew what everybody was going through, and since I knew about their lives, I used to be all the time principally involved with their security — questions of enterprise may need been there someplace, however they had been within the background.

— Yevhen, Kyiv
Founder and common supervisor, grain and oil seeds buying and selling firm


You simply have to take heed to your individuals. You could actually pay attention — don’t simply hear what they are saying, however tune in to how they’re actually doing.

I had a staff lead with two babies, and her mom lived close to Mykolaiv, in an space that was occupied by Russia. She was a terrific lady, a extremely robust supervisor, however I may see that with all the things happening, she was more and more careworn. However generally individuals aren’t all the time capable of take their very own temperature. At first, she insisted that she was okay, however we talked extra, and I simply listened, and finally she realized simply how taxing it had all been for her. From there, we had been capable of work collectively to determine how the corporate may assist and the way we may transfer ahead as a staff.

It doesn’t matter what, that’s my strategy: We’re all one staff. I don’t consider in treating individuals in a different way, whether or not they’re a freelancer or full time, junior or senior, marketer or engineer. Typically, when there have been blackouts, a few of our freelancers couldn’t discover a place to do their work, since all of the cafes and free areas had been completely full, so I requested my staff to arrange some workspaces for them. Certainly one of my purchasers was stunned, as a result of he thought it wasn’t our accountability to do all that. However I don’t consider you can begin splitting the staff, as if some individuals are extra vital than others. We’re all individuals, all of us care about one another, and we’re all going through these challenges collectively.

— Natalia Tkachova, Odesa
Mission supervisor and staff lead, TechMagic


The leaders we interviewed virtually universally shared moments of deep gratitude within the midst of tragedy. They described how they’d take only a temporary pause to acknowledge the positives of their lives, giving them the vitality, motivation, and optimism to hold on. Certainly, analysis has proven that straightforward expressions of gratitude can cut back stress, enhance interpersonal relationships, and even enhance bodily well being.

I run a recruiting company that helps worldwide corporations rent tech expertise in Ukraine. Earlier than the conflict, our pitch was basically, “Hey, People, we all know what you pay for builders — come to Ukraine and you may get the identical high quality for half the worth.”

However when the conflict began, lots of our clients felt it was too dangerous to rent Ukrainian builders, or open Ukrainian workplaces, so we misplaced plenty of enterprise. It was a extremely exhausting time, there was plenty of uncertainty, nevertheless it additionally confirmed me how a lot I’ve to be thankful for. My staff was unbelievable, keen to do no matter wanted to be performed to maintain the corporate afloat. And naturally, I’m actually grateful for the oldsters defending our nation on the entrance strains, giving us the chance to maintain working and creating worth for our clients. We’ve confronted some powerful occasions, however actually, I’m so lucky to be the place I’m. For me to complain simply wouldn’t make sense, not when there are people who find themselves truly giving up their lives for our nation daily.

Even small issues, I realized to understand to a brand new degree. For the primary few days, as an example, the entire economic system stopped, grocery store cabinets had been empty, I couldn’t even purchase diapers for my one-year-old. Then sooner or later, I used to be capable of get some, and I felt such pleasure at with the ability to get one thing I used to take without any consideration.

I bear in mind one other time, I used to be going to mattress after an extended, 16-hour workday, and I stated to my spouse, “I really feel actually blissful proper now.” I used to be spent, exhausted, however I felt that I had given my work and my household all the things I may that day, no extra, no much less. And I bear in mind pondering, if I may dwell my entire life that means, I might die blissful.

— Bogdan, Lviv
CEO, tech expertise recruitment company


I lead an ed-tech startup, and each our in-house staff and the lecturers on our platform had been superb. Everybody tailored to the challenges, some even educating from their basements through the blackouts.

However we had been speculated to obtain our subsequent tranche of funding on February 28, and naturally, that didn’t become within the playing cards. Plus, we gave college students free entry to our platform as quickly because the conflict began, to assist households who could also be displaced. So, effectively, money move has been a problem.

But some days, I’m nonetheless simply overwhelmed with gratitude. Take this morning: I’m in my home, and an exquisite winter day is throughout me. I’m with my husband, we simply completed breakfast, and the morning seems like a small vacation, simply because we’re alive, and we are able to see these stunning environment, and I’ve my staff and my household with me. And now we have the chance to assist so many individuals via our work, to encourage individuals and help college students and lecturers all around the globe. Typically, I’ve days like that: superb days.

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



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here


Related articles

Music labels sue nonprofit Internet Archive for copyright infringement

Sony Music Entertainment and five other major music companies sued the non-profit Internet Archive, saying that its posting...

Best outdoor tech deal: HD Digital Camera Binoculars on sale for $122

TL;DR: As of August 12, you can get HD Digital Camera Binoculars for only $121.99 instead of...

Prepared for a stock market rally? The FTSE 100 could top 9,000 within a year!

Proceed with caution While a potential 26% upside is indeed appealing, investors should exercise caution. Prudent...

SolarEdge is among most oversold stocks in S&P 500. Here are others

After slumping 38% this year, shares of SolarEdge Technologies are looking to bounce back, at least according...