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Interview by Frank Pucelik for EBA

What kind of repetitive errors are common for Top-management in Ukrainian companies?What can they do to avoid them?

As far as I know Ukrainian managers believe that in business they have to make quick decisions often. Typically quick decisions use the minimal amount of information and often these decisions are made without careful consideration of the consequences of these decisions. I believe this kind of quick decision process comes from business habits of the past market structure and might actually be necessary once in a while today but this idea and habit needs to be broken. In a competitive business environment quick decisions are generally bad decisions. Leaders here often make decisions without talking to other people, reading reports, talking to their experts, and so forth. If questioned about this practice, their excuses are often the belief that you have to do things quick here because quick is good business and this market place demands speed. Well, in fact, quick is bad business. To avoid this repetitive error, our leaders must study professional competitive market business practices intensely, and use them carefully inside your companies.

You have been living in Ukraine for many years, before that you had experience to live in Russia since the Soviet Union times.What advice would you give to those foreign businessmen who have just started working in the country?

First; intensively study the language. Until the foreign businessmen can speak the language relatively comfortably they are going to have a difficult time doing good work here. Two; Study the closed system, find out how meetings worked, how decisions were made, what was considered power, what the purpose of companies was, and how they accomplished goals. Without the knowledge of how things used to work and why the employees have what foreigners believe are incredibly bad business behaviors, they will not be able to transform their organizations effectively. These ‘bad habits’ are in fact not bad habits, they are very good habits from the wrong market structure and until foreigners understand that and figure out how to help people transition from the old market habits to the new market habits they are not going to have much success here. Without a competent understanding of the language and a thorough understanding of how things worked here, it’s very difficult to be successful here.

What do you think about the future of Ukraine?Are you more positive or negative about it?

I am extremely positive about it. Ukraine is changing fast, companies are changing fast, people are changing fast. This country is transitioning quickly and very, very well. There are a lot of effective organizations here now. They are succeeding, making money, helping people with the quality of their lives, and doing all the things they should be doing. I am incredibly happy about progress being made, and, proud and excited to be small part of the creation of the future here. I am glad to be here and enjoy being to observe this incredible change and development.

Your assessment of training and consulting market in Ukraine

My honest assessment of training and consulting market in Ukraine is that it is building, it is learning. There are, in my opinion, very few knowledgeable, competent consultants/trainers in this country. The majority of them, as far as I can tell, have learned some model, read some book, or gone to somebody else’s program and become trainers and consultants, without having a deep personal history and knowledge of competitive systems. They didn’t grow up there, they don’t understand the system they are trying to teach and it’s very difficult for them to help people transition, learn, or change. They are learning, they are developing, they are spending more time out of the country, working in great organizations and the expertise is building. It has a very long way to go.

What changes are occurring in companies that are trained by PCG?

It depends upon the level of commitment of the companies we worked with. When we have a contract and a serious commitment from the leadership of a company we go inside a company and work with that company. The changes that are occurring are profound at every level of that company and impact those companies in a very powerful and concrete way. We have lots of past clients who can document that. We change their attitudes, we change their behaviors, we institute meetings systems, strategic systems that are much more effective than they used before our involvement. I think the simplest way I can put it is to tell you what one of my past clients told me, I met him at the airport 6 months ago, and he said: “you know, even though we haven’t worked together for 6 or 7 years, the changes that you helped happen in our company were profound. The company today, 6 years later, is calmer, more effective, more professional and people are still doing carefully the things that they learned from you. I believe honestly you are responsible for saving our company”. And he said: “you know, I don’t know how to thank you for that.” I thanked him very much and told him I was really glad to hear that. That’s the kind of feedback, of course, that I really like to hear. And that is what I think we do with companies that seriously commit to systemic development or change.

We know that Pucelik Consulting Group has more than 8 years of experience in the establishment and coordination of the Centers of re-socialization young drug addicts in the CIS countries.Why do you do this in these countries?

I live here. I work here. My life is here. I am responsible for what happens here. I believe that as a citizen of Russia, as a citizen of CIS, as a citizen of Ukraine, that it is not appropriate for me to see things that need to change, if I know how to do something about those things and not do anything. This country supports me, this country listens to me, this country provides me with great quality life and I believe that for me to be an honorable visitor/citizen of this country, I must help when I can in the places that need help. This country has many areas that need attention and development and 2 of the most obvious, from my perspective, are the pensioners and the young people. Because of my skill areas I have chosen to work with the young people of the CIS. The young people for many different reasons are turning to drugs and alcohol. Today many young people are ruining their lives and need our help desperately. I worked with drug rehabilitation programs for young people in America. I helped treatment centers become effective, and learned after many years of work and careful study to create effective drug treatment programs for young drug and alcohol addicted people. So, I believe that it is my personal responsibility to help in a social problem that I see in the best way that I know how. My friends and colleges now have 5 centers. They are effective and functioning. 2 are in the Ukraine and 3 in Russia. We hope to have many, many more. The problem is huge and it needs to be approached with a systematic structure and a great proven program. My colleges and I are doing the best we can. Join us. Our kids are worth the effort.

If you could give only one advice to investors who are thinking of investing their money in Ukraine, what would it be?

Track record! Invest money with companies or agents who can prove they have made successful investments before, recently. See the documents, visit the places, talk to different people, ask and receive real evidence of successful track record. There is no substitute for that. There is no way to come here, especially for an investor, and to pick a group to trust. Here trust is something that is developed over a period of years and, is not free, and can’t be done haphazardly. Verified references from somebody you do trust, preferably a foreigner, who has been here for a period of time, and who has a track record of being successfully involved with companies. Then, start small and be involved. Be involved. You have no choice. Investing here is very dangerous but very profitable if done correctly. It’s a great investment environment but you have to know how to invest here.

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