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january 2015 year
january 2015 year
Managing Partner Alexander Saus
exclusively for Forbes
How Can Ukrainian Businessmen, Western MBA Alumni and Management Consultants Co-Operate Successfully?
Managing Partner Alexander Saus
exclusively for Forbes

Interest towards hiring MBA alumni and management consultants from well-known brands has doubled recently on the brink of Ukraine’s economy longed-for renaissance.  Therefore sharing personal experience of working with both might be relevant.

Actually I am a full-time MBA alumnus myself meaning that I attended classes at London University during 1999-2000. Afterwards I had to adapt to the organizational structure of international company which I left few years later to open my own business which involved hiring both MBA alumni and consultants.

Not all of MBA alumni work as consultants just like not all management consultants possess MBA degree. I’d prefer to look at them at two completely different categories of potential employees. Besides, I would like to dwell on Ukrainian businessmen who represent employers in this relationship with their particular attitude towards consultants and MBA as well.   

First category is MBA alumni. When hiring such employees you should know that they are able to work well and hard. However their approach to intracompany relations is based on western European system of values within western community of labor force. Each MBA alumnus has been carefully examined before being accepted into the program and had to go to great lengths in order to graduate. What is more important is that they were being told that they were the best every step of the way.

When MBA alumnus is looking for a job in Ukrainian labor market this means that he has gone through one more difficulty which is finding a place in the western labor market.  It is like the time bomb when employees are full of themselves but cannot find suitable job for a long time.

It’s worth remembering that there is a great number of lower and middle management experts willing to deliver hard and quality service in the West, especially in Anglo-Saxon society. Therefore management needs to face other challenges such as loyalty, retention etc.

MBA alumni will have to level with their employees to win their respect and, subsequently, receive decent performance results from the underlings.  To be fair, it should be noted that MBA alumni often encounter prejudice as they are being considered arrogant, even in the West. 

Second category is comprised of management consultants.  Sharing personal detail is in place here. Besides dealing with ex-management consultants in the course of business, a lot of my former classmates currently work as such. However, the biggest discoveries regarding the psychology of management consultants were derived from my marriage. The thing is that my wife worked in the top consulting company specializing in projects for Western Europe for a long time.

What strikes me the most is that the consultant focuses on analysis. Analysis lasts as long as possible. Sleep, food and everything else is being sacrificed in favor of this process. But once the first panel of choice options is definite, consultant tends to step aside and leave the final decision to the businessman.

Consultant is literally not fit to decision making. That is not his craft. The consultants I had pleasure of working with, were good at this. I’d say even extraordinary good. Nevertheless you wouldn’t want to delegate a business task to them. Their job is to assess possibilities and offer the thought through choice options.  

To sum it up, both MBA alumni and management consultants possess broad-based business knowledge and ability to master new specific aspects of business. Just keep in mind that they are not purely businessmen but typical employees of western corporations.  

Let’s turn to psychology of Ukrainian businessmen from the point of view of people who are familiar with western principles of doing business next.

First of all, entrepreneurs are impatient. They are gifted with foresight. That’s why they can see the way their business should be in a few years time and do not tolerate employees focused on short-term prospective.

Businessmen are manipulative. It’s natural for them to charm people and encourage them for new achievements. However this charm rarely has continuation. I am sure that all of you have such person among your fellow businessman who would answer your call abroad exclaiming: “It’s so good you called! We are missing out in tons of business opportunities. Come here at once. See you tomorrow”. Don’t be surprised when he doesn’t meet you at the airport as he is in completely different country already. 

Entrepreneur mostly lack focus. It’s typical of them to start a business project today, but continue with another one tomorrow. At the same time they manage to do the hardest part alone and only then hire someone to cope with the boring part.

In fact, successful business is never built by a single person. Key persons responsible for finance, sales, marketing, logistics etc. are usually also some extraordinary professionals and contribute to the success of their leader who is known more in business circles
What is the most important, Ukrainians stick to the point of view that entrepreneurs are mostly one-man bands. In fact, successful business is never built by a single person. Key persons responsible for finance, sales, marketing, logistics etc. are usually also some extraordinary professionals and contribute to the success of their leader who is known more in business circles.

To wrap it up, I would like to share the story which I was told by the wife of one successful Ukrainian businessman.

It happened in the Carpathians. By that time my friend has already sold the share of his business to a large corporation and once joined his new top manager colleagues for the team building event somewhere in the mountains.

So, the bus was occupied by two dozen people half of which were MBA alumni from Harvard and other fancy schools while the other half built their career in McKinsey and other prominent companies. My friend, on the contrary, had neither of those attributes. All that he had was a 15-year old experience of managing his own business in Ukraine.

At some point a seeding machine with a drunk driver suddenly appeared in the way of the bus. Everyone froze, and the prospects for teambuilding suddenly began to vapor.  Almost an hour went by but no one (!) took any action to solve the problem.

Of course, you can guess what happened next. My friend was the only one who went out of the bus and used coarse language and physical threats to get the seeder out of the way. The trip then resumed.

Does it mean that one of the abovementioned categories of people is more effective that two other ones? Naturally, it does not. My friend was not invited to the next trip as his business was totally bought out, and his entrepreneurial skills were no longer needed in huge and still functioning holding.

Judging by all of the above, we can conclude that entrepreneurs are not the best people to achieve predictable but average results. At the same time do not expect that professionals with western diplomas will become entrepreneurs meaning the leaders of internal groups able to manage own budgets and risks. Ukrainian professionals would be more suitable for this this purpose.