S&P Agency Investment Risk Management is the only consulting agency in Ukraine specializing in the protection of risky investments. It involves auditing and minimizing risks, resolving corporate conflicts in big business and support of the company after its withdrawal from the crisis. The interview with Nataliia Osadcha is as open-minded as it reveals more in-depth questions than doing business. It is a complete reappraisal of ourselves, our knowledge and skills, the company’s place in the market, taking into account all its competences and applicable instruments. And also, the answer to the question – how a young, beautiful and fragile woman can cope with men’s work. The conversation with Nataliia once again confirmed the rare exception to the rule that it claims that there are people in Ukraine with high values, a clear understanding of their place in life, and also with their 100 % working approach to business.
LD: Please tell us about the idea of creating a company S&P Agency and its transformation.
Nataliia Osadcha: My partner Mykola Siutkin and I established Siutkin and Partners Law firm more than 10 years ago, we specialized in investment protection. We had already had more than 10 years of experience in large foreign companies by that time. We had achieved a lot — large salaries, bonuses, privileges in the corporate world. We grew to the heads of legal departments and deputy directors, were responsible for the investment protection and implementation of large foreign companies. Working in the corporation, we acquired a colossal experience, but we started to feel too limited by corporate frames and wanted to try our power as external advisers.
The main idea of creating the company was to become the right outsourcer and partner for a large foreign and Ukrainian business, to do what we did for our CEOs. An honest advice of an independent consultant from the outside can radically change the vision of any problem simply because when you are inside, you can’t see the full picture, and therefore choose the right vector of movement. A consultant, who can calculate and describe scenarios for the development of complex business projects, lay the right vector of movement and conduct business there, is valuable. And this is also valuable because we have developed our own methodology, which is unlike any other, and this can’t be learned either in universities or in business schools, only a huge number of years of practice and past conflicts give such a chance.
We had existed on the market as Siutkin and Partners for 10 years, but we had realized all these ten years that we are doing much more than jurisprudence in its pure form. This is a completely different service, which of course was originally created on the basis of jurisprudence. Very often such transformations can be observed in different spheres with professionals who started experimenting and “intercrossing” their basic skills and knowledge with different tools. There are many examples, ranging from artists who reached their limits in the classical sphere and moved to the category of “contemporary art”. So, they apply their colossal base experience, but combine it with other, not typical tools. So in our work, legal instruments are, of course, the foundation, without which it is impossible to build a superstructure.
But they have made up only 35-40 % of the total mass of instruments that we have used in our practice for a long period of time. We often asked ourselves last year: “Who are we now? What are we doing? How are we doing this?” And we realized for ourselves that we had not been a legal company in its pure form for a long time. Therefore, we made a rebranding, changed the name partially, defined the market for ourselves, the core competencies and tools that we use. It became much easier inside after that. It looks like when you had searched for yourself for a long time, understood who you really are and you were given a name that corresponds to the inner content.
LD: Tell us, please, about S&P Agency and its distinctive features.
N. Osadcha: The very first and, perhaps the most important thing is that we work as an external advisor and consultant to CEOs and/or business owners. Why at this level, because only at this level we can work with complex business issues and conflicts. Any business structure has a multi-level system of subordination and each segment has its rules, information is submitted to the manager in already initially processed, not in pure form. Therefore, it is of course difficult for the CEO to obtain objective information for a variety of objective and subjective reasons. At the stage at which they contact us, no one understands any more what was cause and how to find a conflict resolution. We give a completely different, alternative vision of the problem to the CEO. Sometimes and even often enough, our conclusions are uncomfortable, since they show mistakes to the business. This, believe me, is very difficult to admit that something is your fault. We can determine with a high probability who is behind the conflict and the strategy of protection is built on this. We are valuable, because we are absolutely objective, our forecasts come true with an accuracy of 99 % and therefore we are effective for business. After all, if you know in advance how events will develop, negative consequences can be prevented, and then there will be no crisis, there will be only a slight touch.
And a very important point: we use only those instruments that are given to us by the current legislation. And believe us we have enough of them.
LD: Is it necessary to go through a crisis in order to move to a new level?
N. Osadcha: Yes, very often. The transition to a qualitatively new level always happens through a crisis. This is true to both a person and a company. If a person has not gone through a crisis, this person has not changed, and if he/she has not changed, he/she will remain at the same place where he/she was. What we can see very often: if a company has ambitious goals, it will necessarily go through a crisis. The crisis, as a rule, appears with one aim only — to make the business and its owners better and stronger. It is clear that, passing through the crisis, the company will have to change itself, change the business processes, thinking, principles of work.
Sometimes, business has to be changed in a rather short time. Some changes must be made by the company already during the conflict, but the most significant changes are made, of course, after the conflict resolution, taking into account “corrections of mistakes”.
LD: Is it true that the task of S&P Agency is to make business stronger?
N. Osadcha: I would not say that. We can be compared to a drafting instructor. We help business to get to the planned point and get through a stormy route as whole and healthy. We are guides that help the business to feel more free in difficult situations. And most likely, as a result of our cooperation, business begins to feel really stronger, its market position strengthens, it gets the image of a really strong company. And you know, we noted a regularity that business starts to invest only when the situation becomes controlled and it feels free.
LD: Can someone in Ukraine compete with the S&P Agency?
N. Osadcha: I find it difficult to talk about it, because the S&P Agency has created its own unique model and formula that has been transformed and refined over a very long time. In addition, the cases of our clients are so complex and the level of conflict is so high that it’s difficult to say about the large number of people willing to take classes in such specific cases.
LD: How do CEO assess changes caused by your cooperation?
N. Osadcha: Very positive. Everyone understands that the business is very good at counting and thinking in figures, and therefore our effectiveness is also measured in figures. And when there is an understanding of how much we have saved for the company and / or the company through our cooperation, our economic efficiency and value of our business cooperation are already emerging. But at the same time, besides the cost, our customers get a lot of valuable, not in the form of intangible assets.
LD: When I looking at you it’s really hard to believe that you are involved in complex business conflicts. Do you consider your work as a “work for men” and how do you deal with it?
N. Osadcha: Appearance is often deceptive (smiles). Do I think that my work is “work for men” — partly yes. I really learned how to combine incompatible things in some incomprehensible way. I should thank our CEO and my partner Mykola Siutkin, who not only won the Ironman title in sport, but also honestly proves this status in business. He has really become our core, which is necessary for the successful conflict resolution. But when I need to do my part of the work and defend the client, I somehow get an internal resource, and then I stop being a “sweet lady” and I become a “tough warrior”. It’s just that at first there were difficulties with “switching this status off”, especially at home, but I coped with it. If you ask me if I like my work, I will answer without hesitation, that I love it very much. This is one of the main missions of my life and this is boundless creativity and flow.
LD: I know that you have a PhD degree, and in addition to basic education, you also received an MBA degree in the American University almost 10 years ago, have you ever thought about a teaching career?
N. Osadcha: To be honest with you, the teaching career, in its pure form, is not very attractive to me. I see my main value in a practical area where there are real people, cases, businesses, that need our help. At the same time, our company conducts management training for CEO and CFO quite often. For example, we recently, in cooperation with the Swiss Embassy, trained Swiss company managers at Swiss Business Meeting. Reviews were very positive. There were about 40 chiefs, we presented management training on Conflicts. We wanted to show our vision of a conflict to the business, to show what mistakes a CEO makes and how to get out of it. These were practical tips. We wanted to expand our business vision, because according to our experience, conflict definition is much wider than the business knows. In accordance with our systematization, a conflict is any situation that may have negative consequences for business in the future (and not only property, but also reputation, business, personal, etc.). And believe me, this is a fairly large sector of problems. For example, a criminal case against a company on “fictitious” grounds is, according to our classification, already under the definition of conflict, not returned in time VAT, as well as the stoppage of a vessel in the port and the company’s losses in hundreds of thousands of Euros, — all these problems are qualified as a conflict. One thing that can be said with certainty is that such management training are useful for business, because they have a great practical value, especially for a foreign investor, for whom the “rules of the game” in Ukraine are not clear.
LD: The last but not the least question: What are your basic values?
N. Osadcha: The first thing for me is honesty. This is the main credo for me, both in personal life and in business. The second is trust and respect. We work only on full trust with the client. It is impossible to save neither business nor company without trust, faith and respect. And, of course, freedom, freedom of choice, freedom of will. That’s why our clients come to us, and we help them to find freedom.
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