The full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine has placed unprecedented strains on the Ukrainian economy but Ukrainian businesses have responded by demonstrating remarkable resilience and durability. Ukrainian entrepreneur and business developer Tetyana Golofiyevska believes the experience of the past nineteen months since the onset of Russia’s invasion has confirmed the exceptional entrepreneurial skills and work ethic of the Ukrainian nation.

Golofiyevska began her professional career in the restaurant industry before playing an instrumental role in the revival of winter sports in Dnipropetrovsk Oblast, opening the region’s first privately owned ice-rink in 2007. Over the past decade, her focus has shifted toward international trade and the promotion of Ukrainian products on global markets. In this capacity, she played an integral role in the organization of trade events in Dubai and Shanghai. Looking ahead, Golofiyevska is confident Ukrainian businesses will continue to adapt to the challenges of the Russian invasion while identifying fresh opportunities and entering new global markets.

How have Ukrainian businesses responded to the challenges created by Russia’s full-scale invasion?

Good business is always about balancing risk and responsibility along with a readiness to lead and show entrepreneurial intuition. This has never been more true than in today’s wartime Ukraine. Everyone in Ukraine recognizes that they need to live their lives and run their companies according to the new realities created by Russia’s invasion. Many businesses have faced a significant drain on talent and shrinking markets, while all managers must cope with extreme unpredictability. It has become crucial to prepare for different scenarios and to develop long-term strategies to run your business in a prolonged conflict situation. Managers must look to minimize expenses while maximizing quality and employee impact. Needless to say, responsible companies must also prioritize safety and have resources in place for potential emergencies.

Your career has seen you work in a wide range of industries. In your experience, what are the key principles to success regardless of industry specifics?

This is a very interesting question. For me personally, it has always been important to engage and invest in any given project. As a business developer, I try to remain self-disciplined and resilient while maintaining a high degree of honesty with my partners and myself. However, I believe the most crucial element behind the success of any project is to collect the right team for the specific task in hand. I agree with Steve Jobs that you should always hire the smartest people you can. A leader’s primary task is to assemble a strong team and offer a broad strategic vision. But the team must be able to function without the need for micromanagement.

Another key requirement for success is a clear understanding of the goals, vision, and business culture of the investors or business owners. Sometimes the objective is to maximize profitability or market share, whereas on other occasions the priority is to build a strong brand. It is vital to align your management style with the investor’s goals.

I have been lucky enough to work in a number of international markets with Dutch and Chinese companies, and have organized international events in Dubai and Shanghai. Moving beyond the comfort zone of your own country is a rewarding and enriching experience for any ambitious businessperson. I am currently looking to explore opportunities to build business bridges between Ukrainian and American businesses. The United States offers the world’s most sophisticated consumer market along with cutting edge technologies and access to venture capital, but it is also a highly competitive and complex market. This makes it all the more intriguing for me.

Your background is predominantly in the sports and leisure sectors. Do you see much scope for the development of these sectors in wartime conditions?

Absolutely! Despite the horrors of the Russian invasion, sports centers, gyms, beauty salons, and restaurants across Ukraine are still full of customers. This is even true in areas close to the front lines of the fighting. People want to live their lives and need places where they can escape from the trauma of the war. The luxury segment has been the hardest hit by the invasion, as overall purchasing power has declined, but more mid-level options continue to flourish. New venues are still frequently opening, often featuring innovative formats and services.

Larger venues have faced some logistical challenges, most notably during the frequent blackouts last winter as a result of Russia’s airstrike campaign against Ukraine’s civilian energy infrastructure. Many bigger venues were not able to operate in such conditions. There are concerns that we will face a similar situation once again in the coming months.

Many Ukrainian businesses have become socially responsible following the Russian invasion and contribute in different ways to the country’s war effort. How do you view this trend?

I have always believed that we must all do our best and help others whenever possible. Thousands of Ukrainian businesses have adopted the same philosophy over the past nineteen months of war. This has been very encouraging and inspiring to witness. I don’t personally believe every single Ukrainian male should go to the front lines and fight to defend the country, but I do think it is irresponsible and immature to distance yourself from an existential threat to your nation and claim that it is not your problem. This war has demonstrated how everyone can contribute by volunteering, donating, and even by spreading accurate information.

What has the experience of the past eighteen months taught you about the Ukrainian business community?

It is now clearer than ever that Ukrainians are an exceptionally entrepreneurial and hardworking nation. I have personally seen a number of Ukrainian companies enter new markets during the wartime period, despite the various logistical challenges and rising transportation costs created by the invasion. And of course it is impossible to talk about Ukrainian innovation without mentioning the IT sector, which has performed incredibly well since February 2022. We have a lot to offer the world; I hope my own skills and experience can help create new synergies and more fruitful international cooperation.

About the interviewee: Tetyana Golofiyevska is a Ukrainian entrepreneur and business developer.

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