Interview with Anders Johansen

Issue 79, May 2015.

Can we start with an introduction of yourself and an overview of your company?

As a Dane with IT and a book-keeping background I was involved in several projects in textile industry. I have always had an adventurous spirit, so that’s how I ended in Ukraine in 2001. My task was to start a greenfield project for Danish textile company «Joha Ukraine» in Lviv region. After my contract was finished I got few more similar requests. Actually, that position gave me a greater understanding of the issues that my future clients were facing.
Many foreign companies were finding Ukraine of early 2000’s as a new Klondike for their activity. That’s how the idea to create J&L Consulting, a local partner for foreign companies, appeared in 2003. Our first clients where mostly production companies seeking for good outsourcing conditions in Ukraine. The area of our practices included legal and accounting support, but also has been growing with time and today varies from export-import support to HR and business analytics. 14 full-time employees are now working for the company.

I have always wanted to bring the European principles into sphere of business in Ukraine. Therefore, one of my goals was to build a company, which main policy would be a total care for the client and fulfillment of all its needs. Now I can state that 12 years of our activity proves we are successfully achieving this goal.

How do you position your company on the market?

J&L Consulting is a mid-sized consulting firm with a solid background. Mostly we are serving foreign companies, which are operating in Ukraine. Our clients want to be certain that they have access to the most modern and innovative solutions – and they get it – that’s our products and high quality of our services. We can act on many levels meanwhile paying attention to the smallest details of our client’s cases. Whether it is a production unit for 100+ or less, or it is a sales representative office in agriculture or IT, we will handle all the practical things to ensure that our clients are successful in doing business in Ukraine.

What are your top priorities for the next 12 months?

In changing surroundings, where Ukraine is at the moment, it is my top priority to focus on understanding of clients’ needs and provide them with evaluation of their specific businesses and all-round service both with the aim of risk diversification and identification of new opportunities. I therefore will strive to be at the very cutting edge of the consulting industry.

There are a lot of new challenges in front of the company, and therefore I want the company to concentrate on employees’ development and create comfortable and inviting atmosphere for our potential clients. Moreover, I would like to invite our present and prospective clients and business partners to see what our new office is like and celebrate our 12 years anniversary together.

Do you have any plans for expansion? What are your growth ambitions?

Bigger office is already an expansion, isn’t it?

We are always looking for more business, and we have started with expanding our sale/marketing department recently, so I expect a minimum of 25% growth in Euro turnover next year.

Also we are working on business proposals including new services we’ll be offering to our clients. What key market drivers are positively impacting your business?

Ukrainian young people, which go abroad to study and come back to their home country and exchange gained knowledge are making a new fundament of domestic market and contribute to the change of mentality.

Different social initiatives driven by proactive part of the population help to change business climate in Ukraine.

Government policy and for sure more reforms carried out faster will seriously impact investment climate in Ukraine and consulting business particularly.

Which business sectors present the most interesting investment opportunities in today’s Western Ukrainian market?

There are several sectors I can recommend, but mostly I’d stop on IT and Agriculture.

Ukraine still offers the best quality and great fertility black soil (Chornozem) in Europe with plenty of private farmers and food markets willing to cooperate. With world’s striving for organic foods and sustainable farming – Ukraine offers endless opportunities in this field.

As for IT business – it’s not a secret that Lviv is an IT capital of Ukraine offering competitive prices for great quality services and moderate timing. Also the mentality of Ukrainian specialists is close to the western type, which makes it much easier to work with in comparison with Asian competitors.

The EBA focuses its actions on 7 vectors of economic development- Corruption fighting, Court system and Land reform, Currency regulation, VAT refund activation, Customs Procedures simplification and Technical barriers to trade elimination. Which one(s) so you foresee as the most vital and why?

All of them are important, and in order to improve the business climate and attract foreign investors, Ukraine should undertake its utmost to improve these.

However, in my opinion the problem of corruption and Land reform are the biggest barriers for investors right now.

What in your opinion can be done to improve investment attractiveness of Ukraine?

Ukrainians like to make things complicated – investors like to take business easier.

There’s nothing better in the eyes of a client/ a citizen/ a friend than transparency and honesty. Get rid of the corrupt scheme in the justice, tax, customs, education and medical departments, then you will see the growth here.

How do you think what reforms or actions should be made by Ukrainian government in order to improve business climate in Ukraine and Lviv region in particular?

Make things more transparent, lower the tax on work, update your education system, and make sure that investors can buy land.

Could you share your business success story?

Our success is connected with the success of our clients.  If you sit in the car and drive deeper in Lviv, Ternopil and other regions you will see successfully operating factories instead of abandoned former USSR premises or farms. We have established more than 80 companies with foreign investments on the Ukrainian market.

So, taking into consideration the fact that our company has been working in a very specific sphere for more than 12 years - I think that fact speaks for itself. Our success is, first of all, the success of our clients.

What are your personal recommendations for anyone who wants to be successful in business?

There is no 100% success formula, except hard work. You should always keep focus on your goal, be prepared to invest all your time, all your money, efforts and resources. Otherwise, forget about it.

What is the most important management lesson you have learned?

I learned that one should never underestimate the skills and energy of people - if you provide them with the right tools and resources, you will reach the success. And always be ready to invest in people.

What drives you in your professional and personal life?

Despite promising and developing market, Ukraine still remains quite complex and bureaucratic for the new entrants. Nevertheless, I like to observe the development of both the country and people that are around me. I like and appreciate working with professionals and also eager to share my knowledge and experience.

It is crucial to remain up-to-date with constantly changing dynamic business environment and that’s also what we did last month by moving into new and modern office at 33A Lychakivska street.

If speaking about my personal life, I am both a happy husband and father of two beautiful daughters. That is one of the driven forces – to know that I am responsible for my children and a wonderful wife, their development and happiness.

Also I am talking about harmonization of Ukrainian legislation with EU norms that would open opportunities for Ukrainian goods and services to become competitive and enter new markets, namely European markets that will promote the economic development.