26 December 2008

Christmas Party & Year End 2008

We held our Christmas party at the Radisson SAS Hotel in Kyiv on 23 December and we had another record turnout. We had 87 on the list, but many turned up on the night (we never turn our friends away). It was another great success and everyone enjoyed the night even breaking into song together. It was a great way to celebrate the year end and help everyone to start relaxing for the hoidays.

As we draw to a close for 2008, I would like to thank many of the people who make things happen at the BBCU. My thanks go to - Richard Brady, who always keeps things going and ensures that members and guests get to know each other. Moreover, Richard has great public speaking skills and has become very popular among our members. My thanks to PeterFlanaghan, who makes sure we stay on track for our "Britishness". Thanks to Tony Wood for his ideas and thinking on his feet at all times and his positive attitude. Thanks to Tanya Voropai for organising all the admin and making sure things get done on time.
A big thanks to my wife Alina for putting up with me and helping me to do things better all the time. Alina is just amazing.

Looking forward to 2009, we will be drawing up a list of our activities very soon for the new year. Ukraine will be facing tough times in 2009 and the business environment is going to see many changes.

Finally, I would like to thank all our members who have supported the development of the BBCU this year and by working together I hope we can all survive the tough challenges ahead.

12 December 2008

Credit Crisis Meeting - November

Our November went much better than expected with 68 attending.
We had an alternative 'low price' venue and our catering was low price but with plenty to drink.
Guess what? People really enjoyed it, probably because it was for real and people we not afraid to talk about the issues that concern everyone right now.

The event was different in that we invited members to share their experiences with us.
So thanks go to: Clive Hunter Dunne, Tony Wood, Jim Hydzik, Terry Pickard for their predictions about the start into 2009.

Unfortunately many of us share the view that in Ukraine the economic situation may get WORSE as the new year gets underway. (Which in Ukraine starts around February as people get back from the long holidays)

2009 promises to be an interested year.

15 November 2008

November - Credit Crisis - British Viewpoint

Our next meeting will be on 27 November.
This meeting will focus on the impacts on the current economic situation
We have invited various British expats to come and share their views on what it means for their businesses in Ukraine.
For example, in my business of property, we actually think the positive outcome will be that many Ukrainians will now understand that they MUST learn the importance of negotiating on price. Gone are the days of demanding a price and expecting to get it.

This will be an interesting meeting.

09 November 2008

Another Success for the BBCU

Our meeting on 30 October was very well attended, 83 people (even I was suprised).
Our theme of Business Services Outsourcing went down well, sponsored in part by UCMS - Workforce Management Soluction, they did a great job plus I think many of the people came to find out whats happening in these interesting times we are all facing.
It was noted that many people stayed late and all the drink was consumed!!!!.

So onwards to the success of the BBCU, I am sure we can get to the end of the year in great shape (or at least much better than last year)

Must organise a Christmas event before its too late.

26 October 2008

Ukraine current situation + October Meeting

Sunday 26 October 2008
During the past few weeks Ukraine has had a few ups and downs, mainly downs.
The national currency, the Hryvna (UAH) has fallen against the USD and other currencies.
The IMF are considering granting a loan to the country of around $15billion.
Some Ukrainian banks suffered from a 'run on' by depositors about fears of a banking collapse.
Indeed many banks have restricted the flow of funds on instructions from the National Bank of Ukraine.(NBU)
Many Ukrainains have enjoyed the ease of obtaining mortages in hard currency, usually USD.
Now they have the problem of significantly higher repayments, as they are obliged to repay in USD and not UAH.
If the NBU allows the UAH to float freely on the exchange market it could be the end to the good old days of when the UAH was sat nicely at 4.85 to USD 1

Moreover, we have the added opportunity and problem of an impending parliamentary election on 15th December. The President has called an early election and the country is facing a third set of elections in as many years. Probably the last things Ukraine needs right now is another election. The people are tired of the political situation and many forecast the turnout will be low.

Anyhow.....the next BBCU meeting will be on Thursday 30 October in our usual meeting place in Kyiv. The theme: Business Services Outsourcing.

27 September 2008

Real Estate in Ukraine

Our September meeting last night was another great success.
Kindly sponsored by EFG Property Services Ukraine and NAI Pickard, presentations were made regarding the current state of the property market in Ukraine, plus the importance of obtaining accurate valuations.
93 people attended and the formal part of the evening was as usual followed by drinks and buffet and lively discussions.

It was commonly agreed by many members that the residential property market has cooled down in Kyiv and in the middle segment we may seem some price reductions next year as a result of more people looking to buy in "Cottage Housing" in the far suburbs or in villages.
Better value for money and a real garden are some of the reasons why people are moving "outward from the city centre".

However, Kyiv city centre prices for prime locations will probably remain the same. Housing in the heart of Kyiv will continue to be attractive as a safe investment.

Regarding commercial property, it was agreed that we will continue to see the boom across office, retail, industrial (mainly warehousing) and land. The demand for offices and retail sites continues to outstrip supply even after the recent political events.

Political instability is now a norm in Ukraine and doe snot appear to be of great concern to the vast majority of Ukrainians. Perhaps it is we foreigners who worry about it more. But foreign companies are continuing to enter Ukraine as it is still seen as one of the few remaining economies offering high returns. The risks are still here. But what would life be without risks?

31 August 2008

Summer Ends- Hello September

Well, what an interesting August. Like many people I spent a lot of time watching the events in Georgia via TV. The 24 August Independence Day celebrations here in Kyiv were unusual as we saw a display of Ukrainains miltary machines along the main streets.

There is much talk about how the EU will deal with the "Georgian crisis" and how they will react to Russia. Tomorrow, 1 Sept, a special EU Summit will be held to discuss this.

Many people now think its right o consider offering Ukraine speedy EU membership, as fears grow about possible conflicts between Russia and Ukraine.

Personally, I think EU membership can only benefit Ukraine, however I still think it is a long shot and it will be many years before Ukraine would join the EU. But who knows? Life is full of suprises. It would certainly help to do business easier in Ukraine if it ever does happen.

03 August 2008

Onwards to September

Just as I thought. We asked many members about the next meeting and most people will be away on holiday during August. So our next meeting will be on 25 Sept - Theme - Real Estate in Ukraine.

One of the good things about living in Kyiv is that for the month of August the city is light on traffic as many people have gone away for the whole month.

Talking of holidays. I will be back in the UK from 5-18 August, so will try to enjoy the summer also.

20 July 2008

Our best event yet...just happened

The turnout for our July meeting was tremendous with over 125 people attending.
I think the subject of Golf did the trick, as people were really wanting to find out if it was true.
The good news is yes, it is for true and our members were impressed by the presentation from GV Group about heir plans for the development of 'Europe City" just outside Kyiv and of courtse the firsdt phase of the Golf Project willbe the opening of a 9 hole "Academy Course" in September followed by the full 18 hole course sometime in 2009.

The big question now is should we go ahead and hod the summer party in late August or will most people still be away on holiday?

06 July 2008

Royal Kyiv Golf Club and Europe City

At long last I am pleased to announce that Kyiv will soon have a real professional golf course.
Thanks to the efforts of BBCU members GV Group Consulting a 9 hole Academy course will open in Sept 2008 followed later by the full 18 hole course.

To launch this event we are holding a SPECIAL meeting on 17 July to present the golf course and its associated property project -Europe City, to our members and as many 'golfers' as possible.

This is a great step forward in Ukraine as many people in the expat community have long complained about the lack of a golf course in Ukraine. Plus many Ukrainians want to learn to play the game and are eager to get started.

This meeting will be back at our normal place at INTER TV and we hope to attract a great number of people.

30 June 2008

Insurance can be interesting.....

Well, our event on 26 June was a success, although we only attracted 47 people, probably due to the clash with the Euro 2008 football.
Thanks to Busin Ins and Willis Insurance for presenting an interesting subject on Directors and Officers Liability Insurance, a growth market in Ukraine I am sure.
Plus this was our first meeting at MASTERKLASS and many thanks go to Frank McGovern.
MASTERKLASS are also our members now.

Our next meeting will also be at the same venue when we will be promoting the Royal Kyiv Golf Club on 17 July. At last we will have a golf club in Kyiv, (construction is already underway) developed by GV Group Consulting together with a British Golf course designer, this is GREAT news and we hope to attract a bigger crowd to this event.

This is a great year inUkraine

14 June 2008

Summer is here

Our next event will be on 26 June at the new MASTERKLASS facilities in Kyiv.
Presentations wil be given by two insurance companies on the liabilities of directors in Ukraine.

Plus we are also planning our July event which will be VERY SPECIAL, we are bringing together all those people who have ben waiting a long time to play golf in Ukraine, but we are not ready to offer the golf course just yet, but construction is underway and we want to present the project to as many people as we can.

We have decided to offer more services through the BBCU, since the arrival of Tony Wood who has a reputation as a banking consultant. Banking is a significant growth sector in Ukraine and needs alot of help as the sector develops. So, we are launching a Banking Forum to help senior banking professionals discuss the issues that need to be addressed in Ukraine and feedback in very positive.

Plus we are offering a new series of training courses to banks in a whole range of subjects designed to help retain and motivate staff.

Finally today is another special day in Kyiv as Sir Paul McCartney performs live in Kyiv later today to an expected record crowd in Independence Square.

So, summer is here and the next few months are going to be exciting.

26 April 2008

We are getting bigger and better...I think!

Our April networking meeting - Banking and Finance was another successful event.
56 people attended and our guest speaker was Oleg Strynzha, Head of Finance, Universal Bank.

I must give special thanks to my wife Alina for doing all the organising for the catering. Alina did a great job in true Ukrainian tradition borrowing glasses from a friend who owns a resturant and buying and preparing all the food herself.

Plus we now have Nicholas Kokuciak as our Development Manager for the BBCU. Nik is British and has lived in Ukraine for some time. He also speaks Russian and Ukrainian.

As always I continue to meet some very interesting people at each meeting. I want to follow up talking to Yuriy Vaskevych, President of Royal Kyiv Golf Club, (project under development). The sooner we can have a real golf course in Kyiv the better.

Finally, I must also thank Vlad Sigalov from Inter Media Group (owners of Inter TV) for allowing us to use their excellent facilities for our meetings.

Spring is here and Kyiv is looking green again. We are now entering the traditional May holiday season and most businesses will close all next week and many people will take 'extended holidays' of 2-3 weeks. This is Ukraine.

30 March 2008

March 2008 - Networking Event - Legal Services

Our March event on 27th was another success, the theme was -Legal Services.
We invited a whole 'pack' of lawyers (about 52 of them) from around Kyiv and our guest speaker was Oleg Vysochynskyy, Partner from the law firm Grischenko & Partners, who privided a speech on bank takeovers and mergers in Ukraine.

I think my jokes about lawyers went down OK. None of them threatened legal action against me, so I guess it was acceptable. My favourite joke has to be: What's black and brown and looks good on a lawyer?.....A Doberman Pinscher!! (But some jokes just don't translate so well).

We changed the catering company and were provided with better service, I hope they can maintain the standard. Plus I want to say thanks to Peter Flanaghan who has stepped forward and volunteered to help organise our events and maybe start cleaning up our web site to improve our image. Peter has lived in Ukraine for about 12 years and knows alot about 'The Ukrainian way' of doing things.

Plus we have had more new members joining this month, so things are going according to plan.
Onward and forward.

02 March 2008

February Meeting EVEN BETTER

The BBCU February meeting on 28th was a great success, moreover it was a joint meeting with the British Ukranian Society (BUS). We had over 100 people packed into the top floor at INTER TV and our two VIP guests Nicholas Soames MP and Richard Spring MP demonstrated the very high level of professionalism people expected from British members of parliament.

Most of the formal part of the event revolved around the future expectations of Ukraine and future membership of both NATO and the EU. Both speakers made it clear that it was up to UKRAINE to decide its own future and that no pressure was being put on anyone or any government to join or not to join. But we were all happy to see from a raise of hands amongst our Ukrainian members that THEY thought Ukraine could over come the hurdles to one day join the EU.

I have now found two more people who are interested in helping to promote the BBCU and increase the membership, so the March meeting may even prove to be equally interesting.

09 February 2008

Positive Steps Forward - WTO Membership for Ukraine

Well done to Ukraine. Its official, this week Ukraine joined the World Trade Organisation. Like many, I hope this brings benefits to businesses in Ukraine, but also allows for many restrictions to be lifted on doing business WITH Ukraine.

Just this week, I was contacted by a British company who were having problems getting paid by a Ukrainian company. I explained the long beaucratic process businesses must endure in order to make payments outside of Ukraine. (Translation of invoices and then approved by a lawyer etc)

But maybe good news is that from next week, residents and non residents can transfer higher amounts of money to other countries. But expats (if they are non residents) will still have to prove where they got the money from. I still transfer spending money to my daughters in England by Western Union, because its easier than using a bank. (Actually my wife sends it, as she is Ukrainian, I being a 'foreigner' cannot send money so easily)

Like many I am optimistic about the future and changes will come eventually. One problem we still have in Ukraine is that laws are passed by Parliament, but there is no real system for dissemination of law. It takes along time for the people on the ground (at customs posts etc) to become aware of the laws and procedures.

03 February 2008

Should Ukraine join the EU?

Its going to be very interesting this year in Ukraine with a lot of discussion about the possibilities of Ukraine joining the EU- ONE DAY in the future.

So to help the process our next BBCU event will be a debate/audience participation meeting with that subject in mind. Thursday 28 February will be a joint event together with the British Ukrainian Society. Plus we hope that Nicholas Soames MP will attend together with Richard Spring MP

Details should now be available on the web site: www.bbcu.com.ua

25 January 2008

First Event was a Success - 24 January

Our first event for 2008 went down well with the membership and guests.
As usual we held our monthly networking meeting on the 6th floor at 25 Turgenivska, Kyiv
(Administration of INTER TV Channel)

The turnout was very good with 76 people registering. Unfortunately I had to start the evening by giving people the bad news that our VIP guest speaker (A British MP) could not attend due to a vote taking place in the British House of Commons. So Richard Brady and I had to put together a double act, quickly and I think we held it together.

We pushed the boat out this time and ordered EXTRA drink and of course as usual it all went and a good time time was had by all. Although, I still find myself trying to explain to our support team that its not good when one of the catering staff replies "shas" (wait) everytime someone asks for more wine or food. (We still have a long way to go on the customer service front in Ukraine).

The live music (Violin & Sax, but not at the same time!!) was OK, but the real enthusiasm was for the 'Stars of the East" exotic dancers to liven the place up at the end.

Our small team put in a lot of hard work and I made sure that this was greatly appreciated.
I think some of the British expats find it hard to understand that we do this for the hell of it.
I hope we can persuade a few more expat volunteers to help out in the future.

Well, thats 2008 off to a good start, now lets get the web site updated.
Need to find a new member of staff who can promote the BBCU to potential new members, do the admin, take care of the web site, plan the monthly meetings and speak fluent English.
Anyone interested?

14 January 2008

Monday 14 January - Great News

The good news - The BBCU has a sponsor for the event on 24 January confirmed.
Two members of our small team Tanya and Elena are already busy sending out invitations to the contacts on our database and we hope to attract 50 or more people to our first event in 2008.

Richard Brady and I had lunch today with a 'new guy' from the Kyiv Post.
Jonathan B Holmberg - a Staff Writer, appears to be a smart guy who is interested in writing about what we are doing through the BBCU in Kyiv. We invited Jonathan to the event also.

Decided that we need to recruit a really smart new member to our team to take care of the promotion and upkeep of the BBCU web site, plus also to communicate with potential members.
We both have day jobs and its not easy trying to do everything via email.

We need to get that web site updated fast and place an advert in the Kyiv Post.

09 January 2008

January 2008 - Joint Meeting with BUS

To start the year off on the right foot, our first meeting will be a joint meeting with the British Ukrainian Society. We have invited John Grogan MP to the event and we hope to attract many local expats and Ukrainian companies to the event.

Plus we have a sponsor: Grishenko & Partners (Well known law firm) who have kindly offered to help promote the BBCU and themselves of course, to the business community.

We are also looking at a joint BBCU and BUS event in February where we hope to attract Nicholas Soames MP and Richard Spring MP on 28 February.

I must remember to ask our administrator Tanya to update the BBCU web site ASAP.

So, here ends my first attempt at blogging. Maybe I have said too much and maybe I have rambled on a bit. (I didn't read any of those 'how to blog' links, I must admit.)
I certainly hope this is going to be a great year for the BBCU and its members.

My holiday ends today, so its back to the office in the morning. I hope my time management skills allow me to keep this blog going.

The BBCU will really take off in 2008

I decided to start writing this blog as a way of helping me to clarify my thoughts. I write many emails to one of my old friends who now lives in France and I think the process of writing really does help you think about what you are doing with your life. So maybe the same will help with a little business support organisation called the BBCU.

So for 2008, I have decided that the BBCU must become a success. Hence the business plan for 2008 and some really interesting new 'products' for the BBCU. This year we will provide INBOUND and OUTBOUND Trade missions into and out of Ukraine.

Ukraine is STILL an unknown place for most Brits and anyone who lives here knows that many business opportunities are available. I have gone through the process of setting up my own company here in Ukraine and the experience was interesting but rewarding. With the 'in country' expereince I now have, plus with Richard Brady and many other expats, we can now offer our services to help others 'enter' Uktaine and make the most of the business opportunities on offer.

What about the British Embassy? We have a great relationship with the staff at the British Embassy in Kyiv. We know the Ambassador Tim Barrow and his team, and we also understand that they cannot do everything. They can only do so much and we will continue to help support them as they support us.

Last year we saw the launch of the British Ukrainian Society (BUS), which is supported by many well known and connected political figures. We have established a close working relationship with their team and I happy to say it will only benefit both organisations. We will concentrate on the business support side and they will promote wider issues like the arts, culture, government realtions etc.

My First Blog....well here goes

I spent some time over the Christmas and New Year holidays playing around on the internet and found myself reading blogs created by many people around the world, but mainly reading stuff relating to Ukraine. I also spent maybe too much time on my wifes laptop, much to her anger, creating a business plan and new materials for the British Business Club in Ukraine.

Why did I create the BBCU? Well mainly because, being a Brit living in Ukraine, I felt that not enough was being done to encourage and help British companies and British people to do business in Ukraine. Likewise, I wanted to help Ukrainian people and their companies in meeting and maybe doing business together with contacts from The United Kingdom. Plus.. to be honest I thought it would be a great way for Brits and Ukrainians to get together at least once per month and 'network'. (I still hate that word) But you know what I mean.

During its first year, the BBCU cost me a small fortune. I say we, because my colleague Richard Brady decided to also put in alot of work into making the BBCU a success. Richard has done a great job in coordinating most of the monthly meetings and finding new members. Although we attracted many members to join and actually pay membership fees, the running costs and the costs of the monthly meetings were in excess of the income. But, I knew this was not a money making venture from the beginning and we quickly decided we would have to find sponsors for the monthly meetings. Thankfully through our relationship with those wonderful people at INTER TV Channel in Kyiv, we were provided with the use of the 6th floor of their administration building for our monthly meetings.

We also launched a web site: www.bbcu.com.ua and we can say that the BBCU has become a success but also an expensive hobby. So why did I decided to write this blog?
See next entry.