Navigating Business Operations During Crisis: Lessons from a Leader’s Experience in War-Torn Ukraine

Ukraine crisis

Surviving the War: A Leader’s Perspective on Navigating Business Operations During Crisis

Paul Okhrem is a dimensional partner at eLogic Commerce, delivering turnkey e-commerce solutions on SFCC, Magento, BigCommerce, and Shopify Plus; a company with its roots in Ukraine, although they recently moved their headquarters to Estonia.

Paul Okhrem and I discussed the impact of the Ukraine war on his company and how they are trying to recover from this crisis.

Most of its 150 employees, a talented pool of engineers, are located in Ukraine. The company was rapidly expanding and planning to open another office in the western part of the country.

Then, one morning, Paul receives a call from his childhood friend at 5:00 AM. His voice was shaking, and he told Paul that the war had begun. Paul immediately checked the news and saw that the country was under attack. His next instinct was to prepare for the worst by gathering all of his documents, money, and power banks in case he needed to leave quickly.

Despite their prior preparations, the reality of the war hitting close to home was still shocking. He had to consider where to go, as there were no rules in a warzone. He had employees located all over the country, but most were in the western side. His initial thought was to head towards the border since thye had already relocated some team members to Romania, but the fear of his car being burned made him reconsider.

After a few hours of reading the news and assessing the situation, he realized that the western part of the country was still relatively safe. As a leader, it was crucial for him to reassure his employees and provide them with a clear plan of action. With the immediate panic subsided, he began to focus on continuity and the safety of his employees on the ground.

He has many managers who are based outside of the country, as his office is in Tallinn, Estonia. The human resource managers are responsible for coordinating the different units, and they also have chat groups for the heads of delivery centers and managers where they coordinate together.

However, as a leader, it is still essential for Paul to communicate directly with the team to ensure they receive the message clearly.

Supporting the Community in Times of Crisis

The company was on the verge of signing some contracts, but a few of them were put on hold for a few weeks. However, they are now back in action because they opened temporary offices in Romania, and some of their team members are stationed there. This has reassured their partners that everything will proceed as planned.

They are also hiring to support those who have been affected by the recent events in Ukraine. Some people in Kiev and other affected regions have lost their jobs, and they want to help them out.

There were different types of companies that were impacted by the events. Some had offices in the cities where the war began, and they had to evacuate their employees. Others did not have a clear stance on what was happening, which is crucial during times of crisis. Paul and his team made sure to communicate their mission statement and took immediate action to support their employees and the army.

Some companies did not have a proper emergency plan in place and simply disappeared, leaving their employees and customers in a lurch. It is important to support one another during such difficult times, even if it means helping competitors. They offered some of Their friends and acquaintances who were losing customers in Kharkiv some free projects and leads. Overall, Paul wants to do his part to support the community and help those in need.

The Complexity of Business Relationships in Russia: Balancing Individual Autonomy and Political Situations

Paul has many relatives in Russia, but unfortunately, some of them disappointed him because they seemed to blindly follow propaganda.

On the other hand, Paul has a close friend who is an architect and consultant for a large American company. Despite having a Russian passport, he has a clear understanding of the situation and does not work with Russian companies.

There are also companies that struggle with navigating the political situation. One prominent software engineering company in Russia refused to call the conflict with Ukraine a war and did not want to fire any employees in their Russian office.

As a result, many Ukrainian employees quit the company. However, it is also unfair to simply fire all Russian employees or contractors, as they are individuals with their own opinions and positions.

Some people argue that working with Russian companies contributes to the war effort by funding taxes, while others believe it is still okay to work with them if the individuals have a clear understanding of the situation.

It is a tricky situation, and while some people may choose to stay quiet for fear of repercussions, it is important to prioritize democracy and individual autonomy.

Mitigating Risks and Maximizing Talent: The Benefits of a Hybrid Business Model with Diverse Geographies

There are a few critical factors to consider in business. Firstly, losing customers or having them seek engineering services elsewhere is a major risk that cannot be ignored. Therefore, it is essential to adopt a hybrid model where a company has offices in different regions, such as Europe and Ukraine, to minimize this risk.

An excellent example is Israel, which has been in a state of war for years but still manages to retain its engineering talent and companies. However, safety depends on the region, as some areas, like Key, may not be safe. Nonetheless, regions that were previously unsafe, like Ariv, are now secure.

In Ariv’s case, a significant portion of their engineering talent was located in the western part of the country, but some were also in Europe.

Dennis Yu
Dennis Yu
Dennis Yu is co-author of the #1 best-selling book on Amazon in social media, The Definitive Guide to TikTok Ads.  He has spent a billion dollars on Facebook ads across his agencies and agencies he advises. Mr. Yu is the "million jobs" guy-- on a mission to create one million jobs via hands-on social media training, partnering with universities and professional organizations.You can find him quoted in major publications and on television such as CNN, the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, NPR, and LA Times. Clients have included Nike, Red Bull, the Golden State Warriors, Ashley Furniture, Quiznos-- down to local service businesses like real estate agents and dentists. He's spoken at over 750 conferences in 20 countries, having flown over 6 million miles in the last 30 years to train up young adults and business owners. He speaks for free as long as the organization believes in the job-creation mission and covers business class travel.You can find him hiking tall mountains, eating chicken wings, and taking Kaqun oxygen baths-- likely in a city near you.