The Ukrainian army may be currently achieving some substantial victories on the battlefield, but military triumph is only one aspect of war. After all, wars influence society and the economy as well. The crisis in Ukraine has already taken its toll on economies around the globe. For example, its precious farmland, which accounts for 10% of the world’s wheat market, has been producing much less wheat for export, due to the limited ability to maintain it in these times. Can you imagine how badly harmed the economy of Ukraine itself is? How can a local business manage, or survive, when no one knows what tomorrow will bring with it?
I am Ofir Bar, an investor with two decades of experience and a special interest in entrepreneurship. As I believe many of you have, I’ve been following the events in Eastern Europe closely, but from an economic point of view. Since I myself have never been in such a horrible situation, I decided to conduct research on Ukrainian businesses that managed to maintain themselves so far during the Russian invasion. What can we learn from those businesses?
A business’ supporting pillar
It’s essential to understand that a business’ personnel is its supporting pillar. For this reason, employees should be a manager’s priority during wartime more than ever. Being empathetic towards your employees is likely to motivate them to give 110% of themselves for the benefit of the workplace.
Empathy towards your workers begins with being flexible with them. Be open to the option of worker rotation, allowing some time off for employees who need it. If possible, give them the option to work remotely when they need to.
Wartime is not only an economic challenge but also a mental one. Supporting your personnel with employee assistance programs is more than welcome — psychological and legal aid can help them through these challenging times.
Try to predict future economic developments. If it’s completely unclear, you may want to consider paying your employees upfront, and maybe even in cash, so they still get their salaries in case banks stop functioning.
Note that while your employees are working, their family members or friends may be risking their lives on the battlefield. This can make them feel as if they don’t contribute to the national effort, and lower their motivation. This issue can be confronted by donating some portion of your business’ revenue profits to the army, local medical services, etc.
More than anything else, be transparent with your employees. Let them know what the challenges the business is facing are, and how you plan on meeting these challenges. If they feel involved, they are likely to contribute more and be more motivated to perform at work.
Distribute the eggs
Maintaining transparency towards your clients is as important as towards your employees. Let them know how you are planning to run the business during wartime, and what actions you will take to minimize the economic damage they will experience. Exposing them to how your business contributes to the national effort can furthermore help you keep customers on your side.
As mentioned earlier, trying to predict future events may help you in many aspects, including client-wise. Create a business plan for all possible scenarios you can think of. Preparing for adverse scenarios may include multiple actions, but start with this: Make an effort to have suppliers and clients from various regions, so even if something goes horribly wrong in one place, you won’t go out of business.
After that, think about strengthening cybersecurity to secure reserve capital, which will be of great aid during an emergency. Moving all data into a cloud may be of help, so you have less to worry about in case your office is damaged.
Taking part in the national effort
Let’s keep our feet on the ground: Even in case all businesses in Ukraine implement these principles, it’s clear that many of them won’t survive economically past this war. Some business owners may be tempted to freeze business till the security situation subsides, but they should take this into consideration before they do so: Continuing a business’s operation during war supports a country’s economy, thus helping the national effort in an indirect manner. I hope this will motivate business owners to keep running their businesses as long as they can.