23 May 2022

Vitalii Deynega, founder of the Come Back Alive, the largest charity foundation that helps the Armed Forces of Ukraine and Ukrainian Witness media and the MIM-Kyiv MBA project believes in long-term planning even during the war. He shared his ideas about how Ukraine can fare in the war and crisis and who are Ukraine’s true friends. He also told us about his main lessons of studying at MIM-Kyiv. 

- It is difficult to think strategically now because we are overwhelmed with immediate challenges. However, we should think about our strategy, e.g. what air fighters we will need in half a year. We must keep a long-term perspective in mind unless we are ready to be defeated. We have to contemplate the relocation of military plants or think about sourcing the ammunition.

- Should the same people switch between short- and long-term priorities?

- I think most of the executives have to switch. But they also need to delegate short-term priorities. Our country’s and Army leadership must switch whereas others can afford to focus on either short or long. However, accounting for both long and short is a true challenge. Those are very different phenomena and very different people. 

Asymmetry is very important as well. It is like the tank and the Javelin. The Javelin is expensive but the tank is more expensive. 

- Who or what influenced your modus operandi?

- I always think about Lina Khasan-Bek's advice: “Think about your exit plan before you start the business.” It is very wise because at the beginning people are driven and often more emotional than rational. They often neglect planning and thus create a lot of future problems. 

They forget about burnout. I accounted for my burnout and could quit the Foundation at the right time. My advice is to think about the internal resources for the exit and the life after the exit. 

I sold my first business when I was 20. I exited businesses easily but leaving the Come Back Alive was different. The Foundation performs well. Although I should have had more resources to effectively help the successors and pass the culture of the organization on. 

- Could you say that the russia’s full-scale war is the result of ignoring the exit strategy?

- That’s exactly what they were telling our diplomats when they communicated. It’s what they have been doing throughout their history. They have started things and have never had the endgame idea. 

They have only one scenario – victory. Now they are trying the attrition war. However, they have no idea of their next steps. They are in a trap. They are facing one of the most difficult situations when they have to admit their mistakes. The problems are aggravating unless they recognize the mistakes. 

They do not know what to do, they did not assess the risks, and they have no exit plan. That’s why they are attacking at a huge expense. They are making the mistake of 2014. If they were buying us instead of fighting against us, we could have been melted. But we were lucky that they have not had the exit plan. Thus we preserved our identity. This war is the result of despair. 

- Business people like looking at the crisis as an opportunity. Can we benefit from the war?

- We have to be opportunistic. We are amid the crisis created by others. We have faced any bad consequences of the war. We should deal with those consequences and plan for a 20 – 15-year long perspective. 

We are facing enormous opportunities that we have never had. We have paid the price, so let’s claim the rewards. For example, we can completely re-arm our Army. We should do it quickly while we are fighting. We can reform our Army. 

We should build better homes and infrastructure instead of the ruined ones. It is up to us to finish the war destitute or ready to rebuild. 

Planning our future and making our strategy is one of our priorities. Today we are laying the foundation of our future. We need to be brave and wise.