Role of the CFO

CFO Roman Kozyr is helping Ukrainian businesses navigate the war

‘We can only forecast for one day...’
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· 5 min read

Roman Kozyr is a fractional CFO and manager of the advisory service department at Baker Tilly Ukraine and head of finance for United for Ukraine, a nonprofit organization helping distribute funds to Ukrainian businesses. He lives and works in Kyiv.

*This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Where were you when the war started?

I was in Kyiv with my family. The beginning of the war was a half hour before I was on my way to take my daughter to school. On that first day, we moved to the central part of Ukraine, to my hometown. It was a safe place for my family. I returned to Kyiv. I didn’t know what was happening—and this might be an emotional part—but I thought I should be with my neighbors, my colleagues.

We had small groups of guys who were going to protect, to do something. That first week, we collected infrastructure to stop heavy machines. My key responsibility was to find fuel from the petrol station and to find beer bottles to make Molotov cocktails. We prepared thousands of those Molotov cocktails just to protect ourselves. We took those to the checkpoints. Those were our two tasks at the beginning.

How did your business prepare for the war?

At the beginning of the year, during our budgeting process, we definitely placed reserves. Every well-structured, predictable company adds this reserve amount of cash. The best practice was to have two to three months of reserves to cover operational expenses without any cash income or revenue stream. This was our basic plan. We tried to keep calm and not panic but…we predicted something could happen. That’s why we added that amount.

We also created an emergency plan…where we collected documents from the accounting department and IT [checked] the settings of the IT structure to make sure that we were not on a server in Russia. It was not perfect. In the beginning, this emergency plan didn’t work. Everything that was happening was a different, strange situation and it was difficult to predict.

We were partially ready for this process. During the first two or three weeks, all of our processes, all of our consulting activities, our financial activities were on hold. A month [later] we started our operational activities, [but they were] significantly decreased. We understood that we should move forward and started to collect all possible cash reserves and receivables. All business activities changed from post-payment to pre-payment. Everyone negotiated and agreed, “We can provide you goods, but money first,” because everyone understood that post-payment wouldn’t work in the war period.

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So our first month’s key task was to collect all possible receivables and to understand what the current situation was with our counterparties—if they’re stable, if they’re going to continue our projects.

What does the forecasting and budgeting process look like as the war progresses?

This is a tricky question because we can only forecast for one day. We have weekly cash flow planning for our incoming payment requests. That’s best practice for every company.

Regarding the budgets, [we] tried them for the year, but one month was the scale [that we could] predict. Everyone tried to reserve money for the worst times and everyone squeezed all the air out of their expenses. Everyone tried to identify those expenses, those costs that were [necessary] for the survival of the business.

To what do you attribute the survival of your business over the last year, and how do you see the future of your business?

We definitely had a decrease in revenue. Nevertheless, we stayed and even showed some minimum profit during this year. How do we survive? We start new activities. During the spring and summer, we start coordinating with international offices to start new services. We have a core audit department and we rapidly start to develop CFO services for small and medium-sized companies.

The consulting department has increased their activity. Even in this unstable period of time, the M&A process doesn’t stop. I completed one project in June when a US company purchased a Ukrainian company that specialized in video production.

Even during war time, I understand that it’s the best time to buy if you’re a risk acceptable investor. This is a good time for you to buy unicorn Ukrainian companies, especially if they are international. So we also focused on those activities like due diligence support and M&A.

[At first], we were looking for new clients with new opportunities, but in the middle of summer, companies started coming to us and asking for support in attracting new financing for recovery. We help companies with relocation from the eastern part of Ukraine to the western part. We helped businesses that were closer to the war zone to transit their facilities to the more peaceful areas.

This was like a new trend. Everyone started to diversify their activities. So, we tried new services and this will help us to survive.—DA

News built for finance pros

CFO Brew helps finance pros navigate their roles with insights into risk management, compliance, and strategy through our newsletter, virtual events, and digital guides.