Leo Gorie of Alty: Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Uncertain &…

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Leo Gorie of Alty: Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Uncertain & Turbulent Times

Always have a strategy based on the main goal and possible risks that can be met on the path to success.

As part of our series about the “Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent Times”, we had the pleasure of interviewing Leo Goriev, Co-founder and CEO of Alty.

Leo is an accomplished executive with over 16 years of experience in entrepreneurship. He is currently a Co-founder and CEO of Alty, an award-winning IT product outsourcing software company that consults, designs and engineers for fintech, banking and crypto clients worldwide. Leo’s wide expertise in fintech and banking inspired him to create his own innovative fintech startup — Card Blanch. With Card Blanch, Leo aims to introduce a new multifunctional solution that combines credit/debit payments, crypto, as well as loyalty and reward cards in one place.

Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us about your backstory and how you got started?

After the darkest night comes the brightest day!

This is what each Ukrainian believes today, and this is exactly what I stick to in my everyday life and business.

My name is Leo Goriev, I am Ukrainian, a Co-Founder and a CEO of Alty — software product development outsourcing company headquartered in the US, Delaware with an R&D office in Ukraine. The company engineers, designs and consults for banking, fintech and crypto clients worldwide. Today I’m gonna share a story of running a business in a country which faces Russian aggression each day. How to manage business under the shelling, how to stay focused and motivated and how to motivate a team, working from the bomb shelters — we are to discuss these “3 Hows” and many more in my story for Authority Magazine.

Back in the days, my first online business — sushi delivery — suffered a lot, when the Global crisis struck in 2008. I fell into heavy debt and was forced to sell it in 2012. I recall that I just got married and at that time I didn’t even have a possibility to go to the cinema with my wife. I said goodbye to my car — sold it to cover my debt — but at the same time I faced my new way of life with dignity.

Today, I run the company with more than 100+ clients portfolio, #1 in its segment in CEMEA having almost 50 employees and it is hard to believe that 13 years ago I had nothing to lose.

I noticed that such challenges find me every 6 or 7 years and I thought that I have learnt to overcome them with minimum impact on my life and business. Until a full-scale war in my country started on February 24th, 2022…

It has been said that our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you’ve learned from that?

When I was in the sushi delivery business, I was responsible for everything: I made product purchases, organized photoshoots, created new dishes, designed a website, managed orders, and even delivered those orders to clients. I recall one story that still makes me laugh out loud. We’ve received a huge preorder (around 1 thousand dollars — huge money for that time) for some sushi party and were so excited about it. The very day of the delivery it was raining heavily and my partner brought the order outside, slipped, and fell down the stairs with all the sushi scattering around the entrance door in pouring rain. It was a disaster, but we remade the order from scratch and delivered it to the party with a 2,5 hours delay, bonus cards, and a million apologies.

What I’ve learnt from this case is to never panic even in the most terrifying situations (it was quite a terrifying and an incredibly funny situation to me). Remember that each problem is only a task you have to solve. Therehow, the problem itself becomes smaller and less intimidating and you can feel that you have the strength to manage it faster. We only grow professionally and individually when we can solve bigger tasks.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are now? Can you share the story?

As many say: success has many fathers, while failure is an orphan. But I am lucky enough, as there were people along my path who shared with me both the success and the failure. The first person who I am grateful to is my father.

Whatever the situation in my life was, he always was by my side, helping, supporting and believing in me. When he was the same age as I am now, he also lost almost everything he earned and saved for his life. He perfectly knows what a dead end looks like.

The second person who I consider my mentor is my business partner and my childhood friend Viacheslav Bushtruk, who once accompanied me in our childhood messy shenanigans and years later guided me into IT. Viacheslav founded Alty in 2009 and in 2017 he stepped away from the operational processes and completely passed the role of CEO and Co-Founder of the company into my hands. Some will say: it’s a bad idea to run a business together with a friend. But I say: everything is up to your skill — to always split work and friendship. Such a skill can help you grow your business and retain your relationship in either situation.

Extensive research suggests that “purpose-driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. When your organization started, what was its vision, what was its purpose?

It may sound awkward but in 2009, when the business just started, there was no purpose at all. We experimented and had fun. No strategy, mission or vision were in focus. There were 5 of us: 2 iOS developers, 1 project manager, 1 frontend developer, and 1 designer. But in 2014 the market got filled with the Asian competitors whose services were cheap. We understood that it was not enough to just be cool developers with exceptional quality, so to continue our existence (not even growth) we critically needed transformation.

In 2018 there were two major cases that completely changed our company. In one year I witnessed two people who spoke highly about our recent works, that felt very special, so I decided that we needed to change. My team and I would feel it more and more. We understood our aspiration and mission — create products that people love!

We understood that we had to be experts, to have more mature clients, but we knew that we couldn’t be experts in everything. So we reassessed our opportunities, held big market research, and started working under the strategy. We gave up bitty projects, employed new skilled specialists, and took a direction towards fintech and banking. We identified this niche as the most prospective as it was supposed to grow. And there we won. We attracted mature banking clients and filled our portfolio with meaningful cases. Many of them became award-winning.

Thank you for all that. Let’s now turn to the main focus of our discussion. Can you share with our readers a story from your own experience about how you lead your team during uncertain or difficult times?

I think each leader considers themselves ready for any crisis in life until they meet it face-to-face. You never know what to expect from life in the next moment, but you definitely can build an attitude to this situation and this can help you overcome any challenges in life.

In my life I’ve faced crisises several times and in each case I had a team that I had to lead. In my life and in business I always lead with heart, and this is what I teach my team too — to motivate themselves towards success but not escape the failure. I try to keep balance and watch the people’s behavior around me. You have to be a dreamer and a realist at the same time. These two habits are the most important in turbulent times as you can keep motivating people while being honest and supportive simultaneously.

Have you ever considered giving up? Where did you get the motivation to push through your challenges? What sustains your drive?

“I’ve got a hundred million reasons to walk away

But baby, I just need one good one to stay” —

sings Lady Gaga, and this is what an ordinary entrepreneur experience is almost every day. However, many of them find at least one reason to stay. And I’m among them, having a hundred million reasons which do not let me give up in my business.

For me giving up is a self betrayal. I cannot give up my business also because of the people working here. They believed in me once and I trust them a lot. I hope to build such a team that will be able to pass the company through generations. I expect to retire one day, staying a board member and watching my company grow from the side.

In the meantime, my motivation comes from an intermediary success.This type of success is vital in business as it enables you to feel the ground and understand whether you move in the right direction towards your aim. The fate of an entrepreneur is to be your own motivator and to find your inner pillars that drive you. I keep the belief in myself, I know that I have an assignment and I need to secure the deadline.

I’m an author and I believe that books have the power to change lives. Do you have a book in your life that impacted you and inspired you to be an effective leader? Can you share the story?

Some prefer reading about the specific tools which lead to success — marketing, sales, innovation tips, etc. I also have this literature in my library, but it is not my favorite. I prefer real stories, with real examples, ups and downs. I was captivated by the “Exclusive Biography of Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson”. It goes into such detail, it’s so inspirational and really teaches moral life lessons on how to be a better person while also taking charge. I also can add “Shoe Dog” by Nike co-founder Phil Knight and “Delivering happiness” by Tony Hsieh to the list — they uncover the real stories of underdogs. It is always better to follow the example of such experienced people. And even if you cannot avoid all the challenges in your life, you can definitely learn how to react to them and make the right decisions. I want to believe that Alty is an underdog and maybe one day I will dedicate a book to this business.

What would you say is the most critical role of a leader during challenging times?

For me it’s team motivation. A leader should take care of the employees as business success totally depends on their operation. A good team remains good all the time and it is crucial to keep people involved, engaged, and motivated.

When the future seems so uncertain, what is the best way to boost morale? What can a leader do to inspire, motivate and engage their team?

Anyone who passed through turbulent times knows that the best thing a leader and a team should do is to unite. The last thing to do in uncertain times is to look for the guilty or just complain. These are the things you obviously should investigate, but later.

The best example for me in this case is the leader of Ukraine — President Volodymyr Zelenskyi. When the war came to Ukraine, the first thing the President urged Ukrainians to do was to unionize and support. He sincerely shared the real situation, action points and asked the nation to be patient. During 270+ days of war the President of Ukraine has been addressing the Ukrainians on a daily basis, communicating on the current situation, challenges and successes that the Ukrainian army managed to gain. Thanks to his open position towards both his nation and the world, Mr. Zelenskyi is supported by millions of people around the globe. This tough lesson of the Ukraine’s leader taught me and my team to unite and support each other despite all the challenges, be sincere and conscious about the situation, take actions and never be static.

What is the best way to communicate difficult news to one’s team and customers?

It’s a BAD idea to announce BAD news in Email or simply in a message. We are all aware of those examples, when hundreds of people of one international corporation were informed about their dismissal by mail and what a huge resonance it created. My team, my clients and I all adhere to personal announcements. When bad news is on the agenda, a leader should sound it out. Both to the team and to the clients — this should be an internal meeting, where people can see the leader, feel their emotions, be able to ask additional questions. Total transparency is vital in announcing bad news. But at the same time, when communicating difficult news a leader should have a clear call-to-action at the end of their speech. People should have a plan instead of emptiness and regret inside their heads. And this is what a good leader is responsible for.

How can a leader make plans when the future is so unpredictable?

Proper planning is not only about what to achieve, but also about planning risks and opportunities as well. A leader obviously should have great plans for the future but also consider even greater risks. For example, when we at Alty were planning the strategy for 2022 in November 2021, we already included the war into the list of possible risks. However this scenario at that time was the minimum viable and only a few people believed in its realization. We also struggled with inner feelings, but common sense made us include war to that list as well. Due to this we have formed general algorithms and the first steps towards ensuring the security of the business and the employees. It helped us to overcome the first stroke when the war actually started. We were ready if not morally, but operationally on 70%.

Next year, 2023, the world is getting ready to meet global recession and we have to consider both war and recession in our case. That is why we are already planning the strategy corresponding to the local and world agenda. Dream big, but also have a Plan B and Plan C — this is what I stick to in my business. And this is what helps me lead my business even in such hard times as in Ukraine today.

Is there a “number one principle” that can help guide a company through the ups and downs of turbulent times?

Based on my own experience, a number one principle that can help guide a company through the ups and downs of turbulent times — is to adjust to conditions as quickly as possible. Adaptation should be held in all departments simultaneously and your team should be super-flexible. Flexibility in turbulent times may help you to avoid the sharp angles and keep the business flow.

Can you share 3 or 4 of the most common mistakes you have seen other businesses make during difficult times? What should one keep in mind to avoid that?

I’m used to relying solely on my experience and I do have my own list of personal mistakes which I try to escape in my business. Hopefully this list may help someone else to escape them too:

  1. Slow responsiveness
  2. Bad planning
  3. Lack of financial knowledge background

The company should be agile in order to avoid the first mistake. Slow responsiveness is a curse for companies which have no internal culture, sustainable politics and absence of an agile approach. In order to escape this mistake you should apply fundamental changes in your business. The second mistake is connected to bad planning and risks consideration. Make sure all your plans strictly include aims and risks, hypotheses and solutions, backups and rules. The third mistake often leads businessmen to miss out and go into debt. Bad financial planning can be avoided only by complying with the conditions of the previous paragraphs.

Here is the main question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things a business leader should do to lead effectively during uncertain and turbulent times?

To sum up everything mentioned before I would like to once again draw your attention to these points:

  1. Treat a problem as one more task in your life. It will help you concentrate, avoid burnouts, and keep moving forward.
  2. Always have a strategy based on the main goal and possible risks that can be met on the path to success.
  3. Set intermediary goals and move to your main aim step-by-step, assessing the results on each stage.
  4. Be transparent with your team and your clients. Clarity and vision are the best motivation in turbulent times.
  5. Consider your financial opportunities to escape dead ends and dismissals.

Can you please give us your favorite “life lesson quote” ? Can you share how that has been relevant to you in your life?

There is an infinite number of inspiring life lesson quotes I’ve met through my life that made me think, but I would like to talk about one that became my motto, despite the fact that I don’t totally agree with it. This quote is by William Shakespeare and sounds like this: “Life is too short, so live your life to the fullest. Every second of your life just treasure it.”

I totally share the idea that we should enjoy our lives. But I would dare to disagree with the thought that life is too short and that each day you have to spend as if it would be the last one in your life. When people live like this, they are actually exposed to making mistakes, as they hurry to live. No, your life is long and you have plenty of time not to miss out in many ways, like family, business, travels, self education, etc. This road is wide and long enough to meet different people who were supposed to be impermanent in your life and one day played a pivotal role in your destiny. That is what I stick to in my life journey and treat all the people in my life equally. Choosing to live fast can make life seem too short.

How can our readers further follow your work?

I’m not a big fan of social media but sometimes Elon Musk’s announcements make me come and see what’s going on on Twitter 🙂 I am trying to highlight my personal life moments on my Instagram and hold business conversations on Linkedin.

Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!

Leo Gorie of Alty: Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Uncertain &… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.