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An online panel discussion on crisis management hosted by CEO Club Ukraine was held recently. Under the moderation of Serhii Haidaichuk and Yana Matviichuk, Ukrainian businessmen and CEOs shared anticrisis strategies and compared it to previous ones. Some of the participants’ theses were noted:
Yevhenii Shevchenko, CEO Carlsberg Ukraine and member of CEO Club:
Back in 2014, I developed the following personal strategy: the future is usually better than we imagine it in the darkest days. My recommendation for everyone is to rely on facts when making decisions.
We were quite prepared for the quarantine, as Carlsberg is a large international company, so our colleagues from China shared their experience of doing business in such conditions. However, remote work is very different from office: there are still problems with discipline and a sense of involvement.
The 2020 crisis is different from the previous ones by the opportunity to obtain advice. Another difference is that the 2014 crisis was localized in Ukraine, while global supply chains were operating. The main challenge today is reduced demand against the background of public impoverishment.
Ukraine has chosen a balanced approach to combating the epidemic and is implementing a very reasonable package of restrictions.
Carlsberg Ukraine’s priorities today are protection and safety of staff, as well as brands, partners and customers.
Borys Shestopalov, co-owner of HD-group and member of CEO Club:
This crisis is characterized by unprecedented amount of communication with colleagues, business communities and partners. It became evident, which new technologies should be introduced in the company. This period has clearly demonstrated what real business involvement is. Hopefully, after the quarantine and return to offline, all this will be transformed into something more: new business rules that can be communicated to the state.
Regarding the impact of the crisis on business: at first, there was great demand for basic necessities, which has now declined. Volumes of production of ready-to-eat food, fresh fruit and frozen products have about halved.
We met the crisis as much ready as possible. The key challenge was infectious safety at production, because it had not been encountered before. We also faced problems with digital transformation: we were not prepared for such a load.
The Group’s task is to preserve human potential. We track all employees with SARS/influenza, support people during the illness: no one will be set adrift.
Yehor Hrebennikov, co-owner of ТІS port, founder of ‘Green Theater’ and ‘Impact Hub Odessa’ projects, member of CEO Club:
The history we are living in will change the world forever. The crisis offers many opportunities: two months ago, it was difficult to even imagine that 40 people will meet at an online conference, will work productively, discuss business and successfully achieve results.
In terms of the container business, we see increased demand for damaged cars, which our compatriots buy at auctions in the USA. Regarding consumer goods, we see a decrease of 17-20%. In the raw materials group, we are gradually “spreading our wings” as exporters.
For us, the current crisis is very similar to that of 2014. However, one of the difficult problems is to explain to people that it is in their best interest to wear masks and take care of themselves. One month ago, we invited an anti-epidemic team to develop an action plan tailored to our production.
We cannot stop work, because medicines, food, children’s goods, etc. are delivered to the country through TIS. Grain, sometimes clay is exported mainly through us. Therefore, we have a goal: not more than 15% of coronavirus patients and convalescents. Our company has already spent about $ 400,000 to solve this problem and we understand that this is not the end.
Andrii Horokhov, CEO at UMG Investments, member of CEO Club:
During a crisis, it is extremely important to stay calm, think critically, constructively, remain clear-headed and assess the situation cold-bloodedly so that emotions do not prevail.
One needs to have access to information, preferably not media. This opportunity can be provided only by a chain of contacts built over years via networking. It is always worth remembering that you are not alone, there is a strong team that can support and help through collective creative thinking.
There is a good phrase: “Money combined with courage is priceless during a crisis.” A true leader must first of all have courage.
I would very much like that our state is as much wise and competent as possible. I believe that we will not allow default, restructuring and printing of money and hope that the state will fight for a decent, civilized perception of the country, business and us – Ukrainians in the world.
UMG Investments is an investment company with about 4,000 employees in its portfolio companies. In Ukraine’s economy, metallurgy, raw materials, agricultural and chemical industries form a significant part of GDP, so now we feel confident, as our portfolio assets belong to these industries. The sinking of net income and cash flow is less than that of sales.
To date, we have not suspended any of our planned projects. In April, we closed one deal and are progressing on several more. The investment team is fully loaded. What may change in the next 6 months is the value of many assets, which is declining due to the new economic reality in which we will work for the next 2-3 years.
Andrii Zdesenko, owner and CEO of Biosphere Corporation, founder of Charisma F.G., co-owner of Vapiano chain of restaurants:
In these difficult times, I profess optimism, the ability to listen and hear people, weigh risks and monitor reputation. This is also what supports me.
Our business areas are catering, fashion, home care and personal hygiene products. We did not expect and were not ready for the crisis. Wuhan seemed very distant and out of reach.
Our production is a combination of sophisticated technology and highly professional people living in different cities. When all public transport stopped, there was a situation when people could not arrive to shifts and we could not bring production together.
The decision had to be made very quickly; our office was quarantined almost instantly. I believe that Biosphere worked very well, as there was not a single day of downtime: all plants and logistics centers operate 24/7.
The most important thing now is the health of our beloved ones, team, partners and everyone around us. With health, all other ideas can be put into practice.
The main challenge is lack of coordination among people. There is no energy, it is impossible to gather everyone in one room and feel everyone. It is difficult to understand who, where and how works, at what pace, where there are gaps in processes.
Vadym Morokhovskyi, Chair of Bank Vostok, co-founder of Odessa Business Club:
There is a formula: “Treat others the way you want to be treated.” During crisis, it is very important to adhere to it and understand that the main thing today is to ensure ongoing dialog with the staff, partners and customers. People today are extremely vulnerable and emotional, so you should support them and assure them that you can be relied on.
Reputation is something worth fighting for and valuing. The crisis will pass and the memory of your image and decisions taken will remain.
It is important today that the state does not interfere with business. We must all be good partners and forecasters, as we are on the verge of a lengthy crisis. Banking business does not consider the future in a very positive scenario, which will last for 2-3 years.
Our company has the experience of crises since 1994, so we started preparing for the crisis as far back as in February 2020. The main lesson of all previous crises is that you need to face them with liquidity. Anyone encountering a crisis with good liquidity will survive it, no matter how harsh it may be.
The current crisis is completely different from the previous ones. In February, we could not even imagine that it would be so profound. All crises in Ukraine were of two types: cyclical or related to Ukraine’s being cut off from the world financial system. Today, the crisis began simultaneously in all countries and was caused rather by psychological than financial factors.
Therefore, having entered the crisis with good liquidity, we set ourselves the main task: to survive the first wave of stress that occurred about three weeks ago. The wave was quite short, lasted only one week and now there are new inflows of deposits.
In the corporate business today, currency sale indicators are better than purchase. This is due to the fact that many workers returned to the country and brought currency, which they sell just to live.
The unemployment situation is deteriorating: according to our analysts, this figure is about 2 million people, although the official number differs considerably. Today, the government is preparing programs to address it, but we do not see any that could really work so far.
CEO Club Ukraine
CEO Club Ukraine is a closed business club that brings together CEOs and owners of medium and large businesses for development, communication and cooperation.