«A clean future in the clean present». This is the motto with which the Ukrainian company Anton Service has been working since 2004. The firm consists of more than 40 employees and specializes in the development and manufacture of filtering equipment and aspiration systems for various industries, such as metal, woodworking, agricultural, light, chemical, et cetera. Anton Service products aim to purify polluted air from dust and gases generated during the operation of various equipment in production.
Having been in business for over 19 years, Aton Service has gained substantial experience in the industry and has become a leader in the Ukrainian market. However, even for powerful and stable companies, the coronavirus pandemic along with the full-scale war, that unfolded a few years later, have become difficult complications.
Challenges of the war
«The full-scale war has painfully affected small and medium-sized business in Ukraine, so it is difficult to compare the results of work in 2022 with the same period in 2021. Instead of industrial start-ups that could bring new orders, the Ukrainian economy has suffered from physical destruction of facilities, relocation of production and closure of businesses across the country. Therefore, where it could have been positive growth, we experienced a decline. After our relocation, less than 40 employees remained at the company. Now the staff shortage is 10-15 specialists. The merit of our business is that we negotiate with each potential client for up to six months on average before we sell them equipment for the first time», summarizes Eduard Lebedev, owner and director of the Aton Service LLC.
Aton Service succeeded to move its high-tech production from Kyiv region to Zakarpattia in a short time and to retain its key skilled personnel. The relocation solved the company's security issues, but it also brought some new challenges, for instance the resumption of production and related complex issues, primarily connected with the organization of supply and sales logistics. However, new opportunities have emerged as well. The geographical proximity to the border with European countries has opened up potentially new markets. It has become more convenient to receive equipment from abroad. After all, Aton Service orders all components in Europe.
With the decrease of demand for products in the Ukrainian market, the company faced the issue of intensifying sales to foreign markets. Despite certain favorable conditions, such as a reduction in logistics leverage due to relocation, traditional marketing activities did not always work in that situation. Before the war, specialized industrial exhibitions were the main tool for selling equipment, but with the war and restrictions on employees traveling abroad, there was a need to look for some other options.
Consultations within EU4Business
In order to overcome all these challenges, Aton Service turned to the international cooperation programme “EU4Business” for help. The whole team worked to identify the problem under the coordination of a business consultant. A huge number of company specialists gathered to form a list of issues and to work out all possible solutions. Together they visited the German foreign trade promotion platform iXPOS, the website of the German exhibition industry AUMA, and other European information resources, thanks to which some pressing questions received the necessary specific answers.
As a result, Aton Service earned:
- SWOT analysis of the company.
- Analytics on the priority of sales markets.
- Suggestions on the sources of information for finding potential partners.
- Suggestions on an algorithm for working with databases of potential clients.
- A templates of emails by personal managers to correspond with potential foreign clients, organizers and exhibitors.
- Suggestions on the company's absentee participation in foreign exhibitionsю.
During the consultations, the company had already started to resume its full-fledged operations and received orders for the next 3 months.
«At every turn, we analyse the business efficiency of our company with the help of external business consultants. The experience and knowledge of our team members allow us to diversify our activities if necessary. However, we try to deliberately avoid this and strive to provide our clients with the highest level of solutions in the narrow market segment where we operate. The long-term success of our company in Ukraine confirms that we are on the right way. I hope that soon Western customers will be convinced of the high quality of Aton Service's products and services», says Mr. Lebedev. «At the same time, we have really benefited from the templates of letters to potential customers and partners developed as part of EU4Business assistance. It is likely that without them, the level of sales would have been lower. We are so grateful to all the taxpayers of the European Union and Germany for supporting Ukrainian entrepreneurs in such difficult time, especially by funding educational programmes such as EU4Business. As a company that is determined to maintain its position in the medium-sized business segment, we would be interested in more in-depth consultations in the nearest future. Therefore, we will keep tracking grant calls and try to take the advantage of all available opportunities».
36 SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises) received 10 days of deep business consultations under the international cooperation programme “EU4Business: SME Recovery, Competitiveness and Internationalisation”. The cost of the service for one company was up to UAH 100,000 (equivalent to EUR 3,200), 10% of which was paid by the company itself and 90% was covered by the European Union and the German Government. The strategic implementer of the programme is the German federal company “Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH” ,and the direct performer of the consultancy was the international consulting company “Civitta”.
EU4Business is an umbrella initiative that includes all EU support to small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) in the Eastern Partnership countries. Read more: www.eu4business.org.ua
The contents are the sole responsibility of GIZ and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union and the German Government.