Top a Business enterprise in Ukraine Through the War

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 hundreds of deaths and the largest 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 environment marks the one-calendar year anniversary of the invasion, we required to realize how businesses in Ukraine have navigated the very last calendar year. To that close, we executed in-depth interviews with a various group of 10 Ukrainian supervisors and executives, symbolizing industries which include recruiting, IT, education, venture cash, wellbeing and health and fitness, agriculture, and oil and fuel.

We requested them about their experiences top in the midst of war, the difficulties they confronted, and the lessons they learned. Their tales — translated and edited for clarity — abide by and get rid of light on many widespread themes.


When the danger of a Russian invasion grew to become actual in early 2022, Ukrainian software package progress firm Ralabs began planning. It designed new HR procedures in scenario employees ended up drafted, created a in-depth relocation prepare for employees across eight different countries, and conducted staff trainings on doing work abroad, initial support, and how to pack an unexpected emergency suitcase. As staff had been becoming ever more pressured (especially when world wide media commenced predicting that if a war started, Kyiv would fall in a number of days), the firm built confident to enhance its tactical assets with psychological wellbeing help, co-founder and COO Roman Rodomansky told us.

Of course, the arrival of war shocked even the most organized corporations. But our interviewees told us that just after the Russian army retreated from Kyiv, they had been mainly able to adapt to their new actuality. When Russian attacks qualified Ukraine’s electrical power infrastructure, they immediately set up new workspaces outfitted with generators and satellite world wide web. When workers experienced to relocate, employers made available assist, training, and methods. To stay afloat whilst clients disappeared and revenues fell, leaders uncovered creative approaches to lower operational expenditures with out laying persons off. Numerous also described how they have been able to make on the adaptability and resilience, notably when it arrived to dispersed function, that their teams experienced by now shown all through the pandemic.

At 4:30 in the early morning on February 24, I woke up to sirens blaring, rockets traveling, explosions all over the place. My neighbor’s dwelling was hit, just 700 meters from me. Thank God, his spouse was nevertheless asleep — the blankets protected her when their bedroom window shattered and covered the area in glass. We all hid in the basement, and when we could escape, we went to stay with kin in Western Ukraine. 6 families stayed in the basement there, food stuff was running out, there were being queues, shifts for anything. I imply, you can’t reside like that.

Eventually, my family was ready to get to Poland, and I went to my hometown close to Odesa. But these 1st handful of months, there was no operate. There were no purchasers. If an individual termed, it was to chat about who was alive and who was not, who was in occupied locations, who had kinfolk in difficulty, who was in the basement, and in what problem.

Then, in Might, small business begun occurring once again. The Russians still left Bucha and Irpin, and I returned to Kyiv — while not devoid of incident. A bridge was blown up, and our minor practice stood there for two hrs, ready for the missile raid to close. I don’t forget Googling the width of the river, and the drinking water temperature, calculating no matter if I’d be capable to make it across if the educate fell from the tracks. I even took off my sneakers and coat, just in scenario, so I’d be all set to swim. But the good news is, they repaired the tracks, and I made it to Kyiv in a single piece.

By now, issues are typically again to ordinary for my firm. We’re a small group, like a guerilla group. We all disbanded, but we’ve all returned. And if I’ve realized just about anything, it is to constantly be geared up. Now I know what to do if there’s an invasion, and I’ve established up everything I can for my business enterprise and my loved ones in case I’m not in this article tomorrow. My record of contingency plans bought lengthier, and I fully grasp much better how to react to these risks. We all do. And, well, if a zombie apocalypse will come, I believe we’d be a large amount a lot more completely ready for it than before.

— Volodymyr, Kyiv
Founding associate, startup advisory firm

Our conversations manufactured it obvious that resilient corporations go hand in hand with resilient leaders. Particular resilience allows the brief conclusion-building, comfort and ease with quick scheduling horizons, and agility necessary to assistance a crew through promptly evolving difficulties. As Yevhen Tytiuk, president of an oil and fuel equipment producer, mirrored, “To be sincere, I have had some awful thoughts. But now, I’m complete of enthusiasm. Of course, we haven’t been equipped to keep pre-war concentrations, and we have had to adapt a lot. But based on the volumes we have now, I think we’re going to be alright.”

The leaders we interviewed described a variety of coping mechanisms to assist them recover from the trauma wrought by the war and fulfill their duties to their workforce, from openly sharing their thoughts with their groups to carving out time for hobbies and mates to intentionally concentrating on humor and optimism.

Today, we contact it “war-lifetime balance” — when missiles are flying overhead people are functioning from bomb shelters, basements, and bathrooms we have no electric power, no net universities are closed, so youngsters are with us at home…the strain and stress are rigorous.

But however, we have to obtain times of joy. We have to discover some way to equilibrium work, volunteering, assisting the armed service, and caring for spouse and children. We have to come across a way to make it all function.

Of program, our management team had a business continuity plan. But we never ever believed that we would want to activate it. In the quick aftermath of the invasion, our to start with challenge was guaranteeing the bodily safety of our personnel. We managed to relocate many to Lviv, in which the war was nonetheless distressing, but company could carry on to operate. Precedence number two was producing confident we could maintain shelling out our folks.

And surprisingly, just a couple of days soon after the invasion, 90% of our employees were being currently back to perform. Their commitment was remarkable, and it intended we ended up capable to maintain the greater part of our customers, mainly because in the long run, they also want to get their work accomplished.

Of program, there had been times that have been emotionally devastating. I experienced a colleague who lost her father in the war. Other people experienced near family who ended up captured in the occupied territories. One particular has a brother who’s been imprisoned for 6 months with no term on exactly where he is or when he may be unveiled.

When we hear these tales, or when we see the images of the brutalities fully commited in the liberated territories, we all come to feel good suffering, and we can’t hope to be as effective as standard. But as a chief, I uncover that sharing my vulnerabilities brazenly and joining volunteer initiatives will help me and my workforce to transfer ahead. I know I can’t entirely safeguard all people, and I know that some uncertainty is inescapable, but we do our ideal to give regardless of what guidance we can.

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


The leaders we spoke with identified a shared perception of reason in continuing business enterprise functions that have been supporting the war effort and hard work by employing people and paying taxes in volunteering and donating to health-related aid attempts, refugee resettlement packages, and navy help resources and in acquiring products that could aid each day Ukrainians.

For illustration, CEO of ed-tech platform GIOS, Nataliia Limonova, shared that she begun which includes a call for donations to a Ukraine reduction fund when pitching her business to buyers, enabling her to fundraise for her business although setting up worldwide support for her place. Her emotion was palpable when she described looking at donations from fellow company leaders start off to pour in.

GIOS was also one particular of a number of Ukrainian businesses that chose to present their goods and products and services to Ukrainians for free of charge. These leaders shared that even with sizeable hurdles, a potent sense of goal aided inspire and unite their individuals — even in their darkest hrs.

In accordance to modern estimates, 90% of Ukrainians nowadays exhibit signs and symptoms of PTSD. And you know, this mental wellbeing stuff, it is not as common right here as it is in the U.S. and Europe. A good deal of folks are unwilling to confess they have to have aid. So, when we’re able to make a change, when we get feed-back that a customer was lastly capable to get a very good night’s slumber right after completing 1 of our packages, when we’re in a position to give free accessibility to resources that assist with pressure, anxiousness, and melancholy, that helps our workforce seriously really feel the great importance of our mission.

Nonetheless, when the war commenced, I experienced to come across and articulate a new vision for the enterprise, for why we ought to move ahead even as bombs fell all close to us. We know that our army fights for navy victory on the entrance line, but we battle on the economic front line. This isn’t just a enterprise, it is a way to assist our region. When our corporation is stable and successful, we of course boost our customers’ life, but we also donate to the army, spend taxes and salaries, and make work that make it doable for the outstanding minds of Ukraine to stay below, instead than leaving to find function overseas. I’m additional practical to my country with a notebook than with a weapon.

My title may well be CEO, but recently, I’m much more like chief vitality officer. My job is to keep morale up, hold the team’s batteries charged, and encourage absolutely everyone to assistance every single other, our business enterprise, and our nation — in whatever methods we can.

— Victoria Repa, Kyiv
CEO, BetterMe (health and health and fitness system)

The leaders we spoke with also explained locating objective in helping establish the country’s foreseeable future by retaining and acquiring talent, rebuilding the economic system, and fostering new industries to fill the gaps remaining by areas of Ukraine’s overall economy, this sort of as the agriculture sector, that have been severely weakened.

This is a huge tragedy for the for the Ukrainian persons, for the nation. But it is also a distinctive prospect, because the country has in no way been so united. It is a probability to force our nation forward, to make investments in our country, to make absolutely sure that when this war ends, we’re poised to be part of the ranks of certainly designed nations.

We all realize that we have a qualified army, and they’re doing their work. So we have to do our task, here. Once my crew and I understood this, we became extra targeted, extra driven to discover inventive means to help the founders we function with and adapt our systems to satisfy new demand from customers. Following the war, we’re heading to need a lot of sensible folks right here in Ukraine, and I see our perform as supporting to get ready the following era of youthful business owners to guide our region forward.

— Ivan Petrenko, Lviv
Taking care of lover, Angel Just one Undertaking Fund and CEO, CfE Accelerator


The leaders we interviewed consistently emphasized how empathy experienced grow to be central to their technique, irrespective of whether by giving money aid to struggling personnel, insisting burned-out workers just take time off, or just listening to employees. One particular executive, who explained on a regular basis getting time to hear to his driver converse about his son, who was serving on the front line in Jap Ukraine, joked that his position was equivalent to that of that a priest.

At the same time, the leaders we spoke with also observed the boundaries of empathy. A lot of reflected that except they went by way of a equivalent expertise on their own, they could by no means completely fully grasp a person who had lost a residence or a cherished just one.

You know, most of the time, when I speak to my colleagues, I don’t just discuss about function. I discuss to them as people. And I feel they can see that the discussion isn’t just about enterprise, that I’m also contemplating about them on a own level, and so they just normally open up a minimal additional. It inspires a type of hope, a kind of positivity.

For case in point, right before the war, I had sold my car or truck to a single of my workforce on credit rating. She was heading to pay out me back again in installments, but at the time the war commenced, I instructed her it was not needed to spend me back. And it turned out that the car finished up serving to her and her partner a good offer, due to the fact it was a four-wheel generate, and without having it, they could not have been equipped to escape Kyiv. Factors like this carry individuals alongside one another about you.

I was consistently in contact with my colleagues, my associates. I understood what all people was experiencing, and because I realized about their lives, I was usually primarily anxious with their safety — questions of company may have been there someplace, but they had been in the history.

— Yevhen, Kyiv
Founder and standard manager, grain and oil seeds investing corporation


You just have to have to pay attention to your people. You need to seriously hear — really don’t just hear what they say, but tune in to how they’re really performing.

I experienced a team lead with two compact little ones, and her mom lived in the vicinity of Mykolaiv, in an space that was occupied by Russia. She was a wonderful woman, a genuinely robust manager, but I could see that with almost everything likely on, she was progressively pressured. But often individuals aren’t often capable to choose their possess temperature. At first, she insisted that she was okay, but we talked more, and I just listened, and sooner or later she recognized just how taxing it had all been for her. From there, we have been in a position to do the job jointly to figure out how the business could help and how we could move forward as a workforce.

No make a difference what, that’s my method: We are all one workforce. I never think in dealing with individuals differently, whether or not they are a freelancer or comprehensive time, junior or senior, marketer or engineer. Often, when there were being blackouts, some of our freelancers could not find a put to do their do the job, due to the fact all the cafes and free of charge areas were being absolutely whole, so I requested my group to arrange some workspaces for them. 1 of my clientele was shocked, due to the fact he thought it wasn’t our obligation to do all that. But I really don’t consider you can start splitting the group, as if some men and women are additional significant than others. We’re all individuals, we all care about each other, and we’re all going through these troubles alongside one another.

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


The leaders we interviewed almost universally shared times of deep gratitude in the midst of tragedy. They described how they would choose just a temporary pause to admit the positives in their life, supplying them the strength, drive, and optimism to have on. Without a doubt, investigate has demonstrated that simple expressions of gratitude can reduce tension, increase interpersonal relationships, and even boost bodily wellbeing.

I run a recruiting company that can help global firms seek the services of tech expertise in Ukraine. Before the war, our pitch was effectively, “Hey, Individuals, we know what you fork out for developers — appear to Ukraine and you can get the same quality for fifty percent the selling price.”

But when the war began, several of our clients felt it was too risky to employ the service of Ukrainian builders, or open Ukrainian workplaces, so we dropped a ton of enterprise. It was a definitely hard time, there was a ton of uncertainty, but it also showed me how substantially I have to be grateful for. My group was amazing, ready to do whatever necessary to be done to maintain the business afloat. And of program, I’m actually grateful for the people safeguarding our country on the front strains, providing us the possibility to hold performing and making price for our prospects. We have faced some challenging times, but really, I’m so privileged to be the place I am. For me to complain just wouldn’t make feeling, not when there are men and women who are truly giving up their lives for our state each working day.

Even small items, I figured out to enjoy to a new stage. For the to start with handful of times, for instance, the entire financial system stopped, supermarket cabinets had been vacant, I couldn’t even obtain diapers for my one particular-calendar year-outdated. Then a single working day, I was able to get some, and I felt this sort of pleasure at being capable to get anything I made use of to choose for granted.

I try to remember a different time, I was going to mattress following a lengthy, 16-hour workday, and I explained to my wife, “I really feel seriously happy appropriate now.” I was spent, fatigued, but I felt that I had supplied my get the job done and my family anything I could that working day, no far more, no considerably less. And I keep in mind contemplating, if I could stay my complete lifetime that way, I would die pleased.

— Bogdan, Lviv
CEO, tech expertise recruitment company


I guide an ed-tech startup, and equally our in-home group and the instructors on our system had been remarkable. Absolutely everyone tailored to the difficulties, some even teaching from their basements in the course of the blackouts.

But we were being intended to obtain our subsequent tranche of expense on February 28, and of training course, that didn’t transform out to be in the cards. Furthermore, we gave pupils totally free access to our system as shortly as the war commenced, to enable people who may well be displaced. So, well, cash flow has been a problem.

But some times, I’m however just overcome with gratitude. Take this morning: I’m in my dwelling, and a wonderful wintertime working day is all all-around me. I’m with my spouse, we just finished breakfast, and the early morning feels like a compact holiday getaway, just simply because we are alive, and we can see these gorgeous environment, and I have my workforce and my household with me. And we have the prospect to support so many people by our operate, to inspire persons and help college students and academics all all-around the globe. Occasionally, I have days like that: incredible days.

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