Expat CEO in the business of a Ukrainian owner: why we succeeded
Fortunato Guadalupi, CEO TERRA FOOD
Today in Ukraine you will hardly surprise anyone with the foreigners at the head of Ukrainian companies. Banks, law firms, retail, FMCG companies are willing to invite expats for management positions. Business owners rely on international expertise, experience in managing well-known Western companies and the unbiased approach to local staff.
Of course, not all practices of attracting expats to Ukraine are successful - everyone remembers the loud failed cases from business and politics. Foreigners may not sense the Ukrainian market, be nable to work under conditions of economic instability and uncertainty, or never adapt to a different mentality of the people.
If we talk about me, back in the mid-90s, having arrived from Italy to Ukraine for the first time as a top manager of the famous dairy company Parmalat, I fell in love with this country and its capabilities, with people and their openness. That is why, when 6 years ago Stanislav Voitovich, the owner of the TERRA FOOD group of companies, invited me to head the dairy division of his company, I willingly agreed. Today I can state that in our case the combination of two different cultures, characters, expertise and achievements created added value for TERRA FOOD.
Why did we succeed
1. Nothing "lost in translation"
It's not about knowing the language of the employer's country. If you want to be an independent and effective manager, a foreign language is a must. It is about the “language” of the market, common priorities and values.
Stanislav Voitovich is an entrepreneur with a broad outlook, excellent business intuition and winning psychology. My life path is 30 years of international expertise. We have both been in the dairy business for years. He built a leading company from the scratch; I first ran a family-owned dairy business in Italy and then led large dairy businesses around the world. We are of the same age, have many common themes and common values. All this, combined with our passion for “flying high” in business, gives the result that we have now: TERRA FOOD has been a leader in key segments of the Ukrainian dairy market for many years.
2. Attitude to the crisis
"Anything that doesn't kill us makes us stronger." This is me about crises, which, unfortunately, are regular companions of any business. Both Stanislav and I went through not a single economic crisis - both separately, long before our meeting, and already being one team. At the same time, we always prefer the second meaning of the word "crisis" - opportunities. Our position is to be proactive and develop, see prospects and create trends. And this is how we emerged stronger from each turbulent period. It is unlikely that this would be possible if the owner had a passive position of "sitting out", there was no long-term vision of the company's development, even if a saving mode is needed in the short term.
3. Out-of-the-box - out of routine
If you continue with the old methods, you will get the old results. The desire to think out-of-the-box unites us with the owner. However, this does not mean thinking in the same way. Rather, it is about complementing each other, sharing values, and great respect. By exchanging views, arguing, we form a vision of the business space in 3-5 years and form a market for it today.
Our portfolio contains quite successful cases, when we formed demand and consumer habits from scratch. For example, the consumption of feta and white cheeses in general in Ukraine, and this is just the beginning.
4. Freedom to decide
Stanislav Voitovich is not involved in the operational management of the company. At the same time, he is actively involved in strategic issues. He knows market trends, offers ideas, although he does not put us into a framework, and does not expect to agree with him in everything simply because he is the owner of this business.
The important thing here, perhaps, is that Stanislav Andreevich values and trusts people who know how to take responsibility. Of course, this trust is based on achievements and victories, on a sufficient number of projects that hit the bull's-eye. So for the sake of this feeling, when the owner is ready to trust his top management, you can move mountains. It motivates me very much and makes me act, grow and develop.
5. The open door rule
"Welcome to smart proposals" - so says the inscription on the door of my office. I do my best to encourage and stimulate those who come to me with ideas, initiatives and are ready to take responsibility for their implementation. This approach comes, of course, from the top. Stanislav Voitovich is open to dialogue and absolutely all members of our team know about it. As practice shows, often the best offers come from people inside the company. And a proactive attitude to keep the door open and your attention to such ideas is extremely important.