Leading a Business in Ukraine During the War


As the world marks the 1 year anniversary of Russia’s intrusion of Ukraine, this short article shares first-hand stories from a varied group of Ukrainian magnate. Their experiences offer a look into the obstacles of leading in the middle of war, and deal lessons on the power of strength, function, compassion, and appreciation– no matter how helpless things might appear.

On February 24, 2022, Russian soldiers attacked Ukraine. This remarkable escalation of a dispute that started 2014 stimulated a continuous war that has actually resulted in 10s of countless deaths and the biggest European refugee crisis because World War II. It’s been condemned by 141 nations as a crime of aggressiveness.

As the world marks the 1 year anniversary of the intrusion, we wished to comprehend how companies in Ukraine have actually browsed the in 2015. To that end, we carried out extensive interviews with a varied group of 10 Ukrainian supervisors and executives, representing markets consisting of recruiting, IT, education, equity capital, health and wellness, farming, and oil and gas.

We asked about their experiences leading in the middle of war, the obstacles they dealt with, and the lessons they found out. Their stories– equated and modified for clearness– follow and clarify a number of typical styles.


When the hazard of a Russian intrusion ended up being genuine in early 2022, Ukrainian software application advancement business Ralabs started preparing. It produced brand-new HR policies in case workers were prepared, established a comprehensive moving prepare for workers throughout 8 various nations, and performed worker trainings on working abroad, emergency treatment, and how to load an emergency situation travel suitcase. As workers were ending up being significantly stressed out (particularly when worldwide media started forecasting that if a war started, Kyiv would fall in a couple of days), the business made certain to match its tactical resources with psychological health assistance, co-founder and COO Roman Rodomansky informed us.

Of course, the arrival of war surprised even the most ready companies. Our interviewees informed us that after the Russian army pulled back from Kyiv, they were mostly able to adjust to their brand-new truth. When Russian attacks targeted Ukraine’s power facilities, they rapidly established brand-new offices geared up with generators and satellite web. When staff members needed to transfer, companies used assistance, training, and resources. To survive while customers vanished and incomes fell, leaders discovered innovative methods to cut functional expenses without laying individuals off. Numerous likewise explained how they had the ability to develop on the versatility and strength, especially when it concerned dispersed work, that their groups had actually currently shown throughout the pandemic.

At 4: 30 in the early morning on February 24, I got up to sirens roaring, rockets flying, surges all over. My next-door neighbor’s home was struck, simply 700 meters from me. Thank God, his spouse was still asleep– the blankets safeguarded her when their bed room window shattered and covered the space in glass. All of us concealed in the basement, and when we might leave, we went to stick with family members in Western Ukraine. 6 households remained in the basement there, food was going out, there were lines, shifts for whatever. I indicate, you can’t live like that.

Eventually, my household had the ability to get to Poland, and I went to my home town near Odesa. Those very first couple of months, there was no work. There were no customers. If somebody called, it was to speak about who lived and who was not, who remained in occupied locations, who had loved ones in difficulty, who remained in the basement, and in what condition.

Then, in May, organization began taking place once again. The Russians left Bucha and Irpin, and I went back to Kyiv — though not without occurrence. A bridge was exploded, and our little train stood there for 2 hours, awaiting the rocket raid to end. I keep in mind Googling the width of the river, and the water temperature level, determining whether I ‘d have the ability to make it throughout if the train fell from the tracks. I even removed my shoes and coat, simply in case, so I ‘d be prepared to swim. Thankfully, they fixed the tracks, and I made it to Kyiv in one piece.

By now, things are mainly back to regular for my business. We’re a little group, like a guerilla group. All of us dissolved, however we’ve all returned. And if I’ve found out anything, it’s to constantly be prepared. Now I understand what to do if there’s an intrusion, and I’ve established whatever I can for my company and my household in case I’m not here tomorrow. My list of contingency strategies got longer, and I comprehend much better how to respond to these threats. All of us do. And, well, if a zombie armageddon comes, I believe we ‘d be a lot more all set for it than in the past.

— Volodymyr, Kyiv
Founding partner, start-up advisory company

Our discussions made it clear that resistant companies go hand in hand with durable leaders. Individual strength allows the fast decision-making, convenience with brief preparation horizons, and dexterity needed to support a group through quickly developing obstacles. As Yevhen Tytiuk, president of an oil and gas devices manufacturer, showed, “To be sincere, I’ve had some horrible ideas. Now, I’m complete of interest. Obviously, we have not had the ability to keep pre-war levels, and we’ve needed to adjust a lot. Based on the volumes we have now, I believe we’re going to be alright.”

The leaders we talked to explained a range of coping systems to assist them recuperate from the injury wrought by the war and satisfy their obligations to their workers, from freely sharing their sensations with their groups to taking time for pastimes and buddies to deliberately concentrating on humor and optimism.

Nowadays, we call it “war-life balance”– when rockets are flying overhead; individuals are working from air-raid shelter, basements, and restrooms; we have no power, no web; schools are closed, so kids are with us in the house … the tension and stress and anxiety are extreme.

But still, we need to discover minutes of happiness. We need to discover some method to balance work, offering, assisting the military, and taking care of household. We need to discover a method to make it all work.

Of course, our management group had an organization connection strategy. We never ever thought that we would require to trigger it. In the instant after-effects of the intrusion, our very first obstacle was guaranteeing the physical security of our workers. We handled to transfer lots of to Lviv, where the war was still unpleasant, however organization might continue to run. Concern second was making certain we might keep paying our individuals.

And astonishingly, simply a couple of days after the intrusion, 90% of our workers were currently back to work. Their dedication was amazing, and it implied we had the ability to keep most of our customers, since eventually, they likewise require to get their tasks done.

Of course, there were minutes that were mentally terrible. I had a coworker who lost her daddy in the war. Others had close loved ones who were recorded in the occupied areas. One has a bro who’s been sent to prison for 6 months without any word on where he is or when he might be launched.

When we hear these stories, or when we see the images of the cruelties devoted in the liberated areas, all of us feel terrific suffering, and we can’t anticipate to be as efficient as typical. As a leader, I discover that sharing my vulnerabilities freely and signing up with volunteer efforts assists me and my group to move forward. I understand I can’t totally safeguard everybody, and I understand that some unpredictability is inevitable, however we do our finest to supply whatever assistance we can.

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


The leaders we spoke to discovered a shared sense of function in continuing company operations that were supporting the war effort by using individuals and paying taxes; in offering and contributing to medical relief efforts, refugee resettlement programs, and military assistance funds; and in establishing items that might assist daily Ukrainians.

For example, CEO of ed-tech platform GIOS, Nataliia Limonova, shared that she began consisting of a require contributions to a Ukraine relief fund when pitching her company to financiers, allowing her to fundraise for her business while developing worldwide assistance for her nation. Her feeling was palpable when she explained seeing contributions from fellow magnate begin to gather.

GIOS was likewise among a number of Ukrainian business that picked to provide their services and products to Ukrainians totally free. These leaders shared that in spite of significant difficulties, a strong sense of function assisted encourage and unify their individuals– even in their darkest hours.

According to current price quotes, 90% of Ukrainians today show signs of PTSD. And you understand, this psychological health things, it’s not as popular here as it remains in the U.S. and Europe. A great deal of individuals hesitate to confess they require assistance. When we’re able to make a distinction, when we get feedback that a consumer was lastly able to get an excellent night’s sleep after finishing one of our programs, when we’re able to use complimentary access to resources that assist with tension, stress and anxiety, and anxiety, that assists our group actually feel the value of our objective.

Still, when the war began, I needed to discover and articulate a brand-new vision for the business, for why we need to move on even as bombs fell all around us. We understand that our army defend military success on the cutting edge, however we combat on the financial cutting edge. This isn’t simply a company, it’s a method to support our nation. When our business is steady and effective, we obviously enhance our clients’ lives, however we likewise contribute to the army, pay taxes and incomes, and produce tasks that make it possible for the dazzling minds of Ukraine to remain here, instead of delegating discover work abroad. I’m better to my nation with a laptop computer than with a weapon.

My title may be CEO, however just recently, I’m more like primary energy officer. My task is to keep spirits up, keep the group’s batteries charged, and motivate everybody to assist each other, our organization, and our nation– in whatever methods we can.

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

The leaders we talked to likewise explained discovering function in assisting construct the nation’s future by maintaining and establishing skill, reconstructing the economy, and promoting brand-new markets to fill the spaces left by parts of Ukraine’s economy, such as the farming sector, that have actually been seriously harmed.

This is a substantial disaster for the for the Ukrainian individuals, for the country. It’s likewise a special chance, since the country has actually never ever been so joined. It’s an opportunity to press our nation forward, to purchase our nation, to make certain that when this war ends, we’re poised to sign up with the ranks of really established countries.

We all comprehend that we have an expert army, and they’re doing their task. We have to do our task, here. When my group and I comprehended this, we ended up being more focused, more driven to discover imaginative methods to assist the creators we deal with and adjust our programs to satisfy brand-new need. After the war, we’re going to require a great deal of clever individuals here in Ukraine, and I see our work as assisting to prepare the next generation of young business owners to lead our nation forward.

— Ivan Petrenko, Lviv
Managing partner, Angel One Venture Fund and CEO, CfE Accelerator


The leaders we spoke with regularly highlighted how compassion had actually ended up being main to their method, whether by using financial backing to having a hard time staff members, firmly insisting burned-out employees take some time off, or just listening to workers. One executive, who explained frequently taking some time to listen to his chauffeur speak about his boy, who was serving on the cutting edge in Eastern Ukraine, joked that his function resembled that of that a priest.

At the exact same time, the leaders we talked to likewise kept in mind the limitations of compassion. Lots of shown that unless they went through a comparable experience themselves, they might never ever completely comprehend somebody who had actually lost a house or a liked one.

You understand, the majority of the time, when I talk with my coworkers, I do not simply speak about work. I speak with them as individuals. And I believe they can see that the discussion isn’t almost company, that I’m likewise thinking of them on an individual level, therefore they simply naturally open a little bit more. It influences a type of hope, a type of positivity.

For example, prior to the war, I had actually offered my vehicle to among my workers on credit. She was going to pay me back in installations, once the war began, I informed her it wasn’t essential to pay me back. And it ended up that the cars and truck wound up assisting her and her hubby a lot, since it was a 4×4, and without it, they may not have actually had the ability to get away Kyiv. Things like this bring individuals together around you.

I was continuously in touch with my coworkers, my partners. I understood what everybody was dealing with, and due to the fact that I learnt about their lives, I was constantly primarily interested in their security– concerns of service may have existed someplace, however they remained in the background.

— Yevhen, Kyiv
Founder and basic supervisor, grain and oil seeds trading business

You simply require to listen to your individuals. You require to actually listen– do not simply hear what they state, however tune in to how they’re actually doing.

I had a group lead with 2 kids, and her mom lived near Mykolaiv, in a location that was inhabited by Russia. She was a fantastic female, an actually strong supervisor, however I might see that with whatever going on, she was progressively stressed out. Often individuals aren’t constantly able to take their own temperature level. In the beginning, she firmly insisted that she was alright, however we talked more, and I simply listened, and ultimately she recognized simply how taxing it had actually all been for her. From there, we had the ability to interact to determine how the business might assist and how we might progress as a group.

No matter what, that’s my technique: We are all one group. I do not think in dealing with individuals in a different way, whether they’re a freelancer or full-time, junior or senior, online marketer or engineer. In some cases, when there were blackouts, a few of our freelancers could not discover a location to do their work, given that all the coffee shops and totally free areas were completely complete, so I asked my group to arrange some offices for them. Among my customers was shocked, due to the fact that he believed it wasn’t our duty to do all that. I do not think you can begin splitting the group, as if some individuals are more crucial than others. We’re all individuals, all of us appreciate each other, and we’re all dealing with these difficulties together.

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


The leaders we spoke with nearly widely shared minutes of deep appreciation in the middle of disaster. They explained how they would take simply a quick time out to acknowledge the positives in their lives, providing the energy, inspiration, and optimism to continue. research study has actually revealed that basic expressions of thankfulness can lower tension, enhance social relationships, and even improve physical health

I run a recruiting firm that assists global business work with tech skill in Ukraine. Prior to the war, our pitch was basically, “Hey, Americans, we understand what you spend for designers– pertained to Ukraine and you can get the exact same quality for half the rate.”

But when the war began, a number of our clients felt it was too dangerous to work with Ukrainian designers, or open Ukrainian workplaces, so we lost a great deal of service. It was a truly difficult time, there was a great deal of unpredictability, however it likewise revealed me just how much I need to be grateful for. My group was unbelievable, happy to do whatever required to be done to keep the business afloat. And naturally, I’m actually grateful for the folks securing our nation on the cutting edge, providing us the chance to keep working and developing worth for our clients. We’ve dealt with some difficult times, however actually, I’m so lucky to be where I am. For me to grumble simply would not make good sense, not when there are individuals who are really quiting their lives for our nation every day.

Even little things, I found out to value to a brand-new level. For the very first couple of days, for example, the entire economy stopped, grocery store racks were empty, I could not even purchase diapers for my one-year-old. One day, I was able to get some, and I felt such pleasure at being able to get something I utilized to take for given.

I keep in mind another time, I was going to sleep after a long, 16- hour workday, and I stated to my other half, “I feel truly delighted today.” I was invested, tired, however I felt that I had actually offered my work and my household whatever I might that day, no more, no less. And I keep in mind believing, if I might live my entire life that method, I would pass away delighted.

— Bogdan, Lviv
CEO, tech skill recruitment company

I lead an ed-tech start-up, and both our internal group and the instructors on our platform were fantastic. Everybody adjusted to the difficulties, some even teaching from their basements throughout the blackouts.

But we were expected to get our next tranche of financial investment on February 28, and obviously, that didn’t end up being in the cards. Plus, we provided trainees open door to our platform as quickly as the war began, to assist households who might be displaced. Well, money circulation has actually been a difficulty.

Yet some days, I’m still simply overwhelmed with thankfulness. Take today: I’m in my home, and a stunning winter season day is all around me. I’m with my hubby, we simply ended up breakfast, and the early morning seems like a little vacation, even if we live, and we can see these gorgeous environments, and I have my group and my household with me. And we have the chance to assist many individuals through our work, to influence individuals and assistance trainees and instructors all around the world. Often, I have days like that: remarkable days.

— Nataliia Limonova, Kyiv
Founder and CEO, GIOS (interactive mathematics platform for trainees and instructors)

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