EBA Personality: Sophia Opatska, CEO of Lviv Business School of the Ukrainian Catholic University (LvBS)
Could you start to introduce yourself and your company? How do you position yourselves in the market?
I have been in business education for over 12 years now. In 2008, three companies operating nationally and internationally and headquatered in Lviv (Softserve, Galnaftogas and Trotolla) offered to Ukrainian Catholic University to launch a business school in Lviv within its premises. Since I had experienced with other business schools and in building corporate learning and educational system I was offered to lead the LvBS.
Business education is a very interesting and new area for Ukraine. All business schools in the market today have to work quite actively to create demand for our services. Dynamics and tendencies of business education in Ukraine are also a bit different from the global ones, thus it makes us work in both directions – to follow international trends as well as monitor the needs of Ukrainian business environment and respond to them.
Do you have any plans for expansion? What are your growth ambitions?
Our clients (participants of the programs) represent all regions of Ukraine. Due to the specificity of the filed we have numerous international projects – on some programs we have 30% of international faculty, we take participants of Executive MBA to Learning tours to China and Hong Kong as well as to Central European University in Budapest. Unfortunately, no Ukrainian business school has international students (or appropriete ratio of international students) at the moment.
What key market drivers have a positive impact on your business?
It is the growth of global economy, and national economy in particular. The first line cut in the budgets of companies in 2008 was training and development. While in short term prospects saving money is the right decision, in long term plans companies looking for growth and development need to invest in their human resources.
What is your top priorities for the next 12 months?
This September we start a new program: ‘MS in Innovations and Entrepreneurship’. It is meant for young entrepreneurs and professionals willing to develop their start-up projects or to work with innovative projects within companies. The group we have enrolled are very inspiring and ambitious so we are looking forward to some breakthrough in this area. Also, LvBS launched a very interesting project with IT cluster in Lviv and Lviv City council to develop and implement low cost value innovation for IT sector development in Lviv. Next steps for the school include the increase the number of Excellence Centers. For example, Value Innovations Center is one of them. Now, we are engaged with the topic of Succession and Family Business. Due to our connections in China, we expand our Asia Center. All these knowledge areas are crucial for Ukrainian companies if they want to be competitive on global and national markets.
Which business sectors present the most interesting investment opportunities in today’s Western Ukrainian market?
IT and agriculture.
What is the most important management lesson you have learned?
Every manager needs a strong and challenging team. If you don’t have such, you become complacent and lazy. While a company willing to be successful can not have a lazy and satisfied leader.
The EBA focuses its activity on 7 vectors of economic development – Combatting Corruption, Court System and Land Reform, Currency Regulation, VAT Refund Activation, Customs Procedures Simplification and Technical Barriers to Trade Elimination. In your opinion, which of these will soon become the most vital and why?
Combating Corruption as corruption ruins all principles and values in business and destroys the very notion of human dignity. I think that most of business people would like to work in a transparent environment and it is not true that business got used to work in corrupt conditions. As for me, Georgia is a prominent example in combating corruption. I had an opportunity to see myself how much they managed to achieve in the last years, moving step by step.
In your opinion, what can be done to improve investment attractiveness of Ukraine?
These are exactly the areas EBA is working in – combating corruption, court system and tax regulation improvement. Of course, there is an issue of brand building of the country. However, if there is no legal structure at place, investors will head for the abundant choices globally.
How do you see the future for your field of activity in Western Ukraine? What are the prospects in this sphere in general? Can the infrastructure support the growth planned?
I hope that many mature companies thinking strategically and long term will grow. We will have more business leaders with ambitions for national and global competition. If that happens there will be a great need for high quality business education.
What would you advise to those willing to be successful in business?
As a Chair of LvBS Advisory Board Pavlo Sheremeta says: Expect nothing. Blame nobody. Do something.