You Can In Ukraine

Start spreading the news, I’m leaving today.
I want to be a part of it, Ukraine… Ukraine.

These vagabond shoes, are longing to stray.
Right through the very heart of it, Ukraine, Ukraine.

I wanna wake up, In a country that’s come awake
where freedom and democracy’s at stake

Those high tax blues, are going away.
I’ll make a brand new start of it, in the New Ukraine.

If I can make it there,
I’ll make it anywhere.
It’s up to you, Ukraine, Ukraine…

The ease of Doing Business in Ukraine, according to the World Bank, increased 16 points from 2014’s rating of 112 to 2015’s rating of 96. This compares against 189 countries placing Ukraine close to the median in difficulty. A full 16 points is an accomplishment. The World Bank has changed its scoring system since it was first introduced, suffice that Ukraine ten years ago resided in the bottom third of the index of “most difficult” to do business in. Ukraine is improving and it is noticeable.

As a foreign company entering Ukraine’s market in the past, it was necessary to navigate the government’s red tape, not compete with the oligarchs, and likely pay for some “strange things”. It was probably a good idea to precede your entry into Ukraine by a few years of research and developing the social-professional relations to help steer your clear of trouble. Otherwise, it was not unheard of for some (even large companies) come to Ukraine, look around and run back home.

That’s not the case now. That’s not to say getting a business established in Ukraine is easy. The government is on track to make doing business in Ukraine easier. The DCFTA will make it easier for European and Ukrainian businesses to do business together by applying to the same standards. Any influx of foreign companies will automatically serve to facilitate the entry of others, as a cascade effect. Until now, foreign businesses entering Ukraine has not been common – but it leads to the sharing of information which was largely absent ten years ago. Back then, when we ate dirt and walked barefoot uphill both ways, it was “impossible” to find two sources of information that said the same thing about anything.

Still, there’s a lot more to be done and that often requires bridging the language gap – for outgoing and incoming business activity. The following provide some examples of the things that businesses can do to make the path easier:

  • Internships.  If you plan on doing business in Ukraine, start getting at least one or two people up to speed with your company now – college students or those recently graduated. Bear in mind, average wages in Ukraine run less than $300 monthly, though this varies by city. Compare your jobs against those referenced on, but aim to do better than average. Look outside of Kyiv – like Kharkov, Vinnitsa, Dnepropetrovsk and I’m sure you will find enthusiastic, hard-working, smart young aspiring professionals.
  • Regard your multi-lingual staff as strategic, mission-critical people. Everyone working for your business will not need to know English, Ukrainian and Russian. As long as you have someone to collect, organize and translate the information you need to your language, you will be fine. Look at the real job requirements.
  • Encourage ongoing education and training for all staff – relative to your industry and languages. For languages, you would probably do well to find one of the many English TEFL qualified expats already here already to provide company-wide training.
  • Help your staff secure Visas and try to arrange job swaps or work-study programs at your home offices so they can see first-hand how business is done elsewhere.
  • Asset sharing. If you intend to send any of your existing employees to Ukraine, try connecting with other companies interested in doing the same. This could include lawyers, accountants, drivers and transportation, off-hour translators, professional Laundromat services, setting up personal bank accounts, taking care of visa issues, local health care services, health and fitness programs, schooling or daycare for children, etc. It is one thing to visit Ukraine, another thing to live here for a few months, another to completely relocate. An organized approach can help everyone settle in and get comfortable in just a few weeks.
  • Bank Accounts and Payroll. First, forget about personal checks and business checks. Direct deposit options need to be investigated on a per bank basis. Credit cards are reliable. It is best to talk to a professional on these matters where payrolls are concerned – and select a “good bank”.
  • Translation Software. Start exploring different options to see how well they will or will not work for you. Ten years ago, Google Translate sucked, but it is typically good enough now for a decent “gisted” translation. I use it regularly and in a professional capacity for a world-class business without difficulty. For voice translations, some experimentation with Skype Translator (now in beta) could also be worthwhile. The main point here is that even if they are not suitable now – eventually they will be.

These are some of the core issues that would help any business coming into Ukraine.

Most companies are likely to look at Kyiv as their entry point. That’s not necessarily your wisest option – as wages, rent, services, etc. are typically much higher there than anywhere else in Ukraine. Obviously, if your business is concerned with logistics, Odessa is likely to be on your short list for having three port facilities on the Black Sea, a rail hub and international airport. Do your research, don’t just follow what everyone else is doing.