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How to lead startup through crisis — Competera CEO Galkin

When a business is experiencing a crisis, it’s the job of true leaders to help their team remain productive and take care of each of its members. Founder & CEO at Competera Alex Galkin knows it firsthand.

Leading his startup, which develops an AI-based pricing platform for retailers, through the pandemic and then the war in Ukraine, Galkin has shown resilience and dedication to move his company forward, while caring about his colleagues and managing business risks.

In this article, we share Galkin’s insights on how he leads the team in times of crisis.

Care about your team’s health, safety

A big part of Competera’s team is based in Kyiv, and Ukraine’s capital has been a frequent target for Russia’s missile and drone strikes. Constantly worried, the staffers need to be reassured and supported — and that’s what Galkin tries to provide.

The company has always tried to care about its team members, providing them with medical insurance. During the war in Ukraine, Competera has organized safe workplaces, continuous electricity supply, as well as a stable internet and mobile connection in the office. Upon request, the startup leadership helps team members as much as they need.

Have a Plan B

Under any circumstances, people expect certainty from a leader. They also need to know that their company will help them.

It’s vital for any company working in Ukraine to come up with a Plan B to avoid total system breakdown. Many startups relocate their teams to safer regions in Ukraine, buy generators and Starlinks to get through rolling blackouts, and rethink their business models so that they work on the go.

A recent study shows 92% of IT companies in Ukraine have developed relocation plans even before the all-out invasion in February, and most of them have evacuated their staffers. Competera, for example, developed such a plan in August 2022 and relocated most of its team in February mostly to Portugal, Poland, and Cyprus.

“Every mature organization must have a business contingency plan,” Galkin says. “We realized it during the first weeks of the pandemic and implemented a system where each key function can be executed by at least two people, in case someone is not in a safe location or condition.”

Maybe because of this, the tech sector remains the only industry in Ukraine that grows amid the war. Ukraine’s export of IT services increased by 23% during the first half of 2022, bringing almost $3 billion to the state coffers.

Rely on company’s values

According to Galkin, when people can lean on strong beliefs, it’s easier for them to weather the storm. That’s where the startup’s values can help.

In difficult times, a true leader always focuses on a company’s values and looks forward, building the company’s future with a team — even when nobody can see that future clearly.

Look at Ukrainians

Ukrainian companies have already shown — and still actively demonstrate — that there are many strong leaders in this country. No matter what, they continue to work and succeed.

“I constantly get feedback from our clients that if they hadn’t heard the news from Ukraine, they would never even have thought something happened, as they don’t experience any delays or quality decrease in our results or cooperation,” Galkin says.

“Ukrainians are very brave, resilient, and adaptable. As it appears, we can work successfully even in such hard stressful conditions. It shows the will and inner strength of our nation.”

Cover photo by William Hook on Unsplash

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