Olga Wendling is a business growth advisor. She applies best corporate strategies and frameworks to help startups to scale successfully. Favorite quote: “It always seems impossible until it’s done” (N. Mandela).
Her early career coincided with the fall of the “iron curtain”, propelling Olga towards international opportunities. Having left Russia for Latin America and the US, she learned 3 more languages, graduated from a top MBA in Paris and moved to Geneva, Switzerland.
During 15 years, she worked for a wide range of companies, from Fortune 500 multinationals to startups in food production, commodity trading, IT and technology.
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Table of Contents
We are thrilled to have you join us today, welcome to ValiantCEO Magazine’s exclusive interview! Let’s start off with a little introduction. Tell our readers a bit about yourself and your company.
Olga Wendling: Thank you Jed.
I’m Olga Wendling, a business growth expert and enthusiast.
I spent 20 years in the corporate world, managing business expansion projects such as asset acquisitions, joint ventures and partnerships, market development, strategy, and finally, sales. I had a chance to always work with incredible people from whom I learnt a lot. And the most important learning was that business is fundamentally human. It is all about building relations, trust and making decisions.
So in 2020, I’ve made a decision to found own company called ex-change.space. It’s an experience sharing platform for entrepreneurs and business owners who want to scale their business. The thing is that start-ups cannot go to the next level by doing the same thing they have been doing before. There should be a change in perspective and a new vision for the business. That’s where I step in to help entrepreneurs develop such new approach.
In Advisory program, we work in a partnership with the business founder. I bring the best corporate frameworks, strategies, and tools. At the same time, a founder contributes his deep knowledge of the company, its products, market, customers, competitors. So by working together, we find the best way to apply them in order to make a step change in the business.
I also develop on-line courses on specific topics, such as negotiations, and offer free resources for entrepreneurs who are just starting their business.
2020 and 2021 threw a lot of curve balls into business on a global scale. Based on the experience gleaned in the past couple years, how can businesses thrive in 2022? What lessons have you learned?
Olga Wendling: First of all, focus on the customers. Their needs may have changed, so you will have to adapt. Remember: if you truly care about your customers, if you are passionate about helping them with your products and services, the customers will pay you back. As I said before, business is fundamentally human. Whatever you invest in supporting your customers today, will become a solid foundation for your business tomorrow.
But of course, and this is my second point, you have to ensure your business will have this “tomorrow”. And for that, we all need to stay focused and to prioritize. Current economic situation is tough. So we have to choose where to put our energy and resources, and what do we need to let go of. It’s never an easy choice. It could mean re-structuring, cutting costs, “killing” underperforming projects or products and, unfortunately, laying off some people.
But if you are convinced that you are doing the right thing for the business and you are honest and fair, your employees and customers will follow you.
The pandemic seems to keep on disrupting the economy, what should businesses focus on in 2022? What advice would you share?
Olga Wendling: When we go through difficult times at a personal level, the best thing is to stay true to our values, to who we really are. The same things applies to the businesses. When market conditions change a lot, the business should remain focused on its vision, on its “why”.
At the end, this is what brought the company to where it is now. This is what motivated the owners, the management, the employees to contribute to the company’s success. This is what attracted the customers, apart from products and services themselves.
Company’s vision is its DNA. And I truly believe that following company’s vision and core values will make a difference, notwithstanding market conditions.
How has the pandemic changed your industry and how have you adapted?
Olga Wendling: Well, I’ve changed the industries during the pandemic 😉
In 2019-2020, I was working in sales for a technology provider for an airline industry. As you know, airlines were hit very hard by covid restrictions. I remember the entire market was on stand by, trying to understand how the situation will develop.
So I took advantage of this unexpected pause to reflect on my own vision for the next 5-10 years. I realised that I was ready to take a leap of faith and to found my own business. I always wanted to do it “one day”. And unexpectedly, this “day” came during the pandemic. So I just followed my guts.
What advice do you wish you received when the pandemic started and what do you intend on improving in 2022?
Olga Wendling: I wish someone would told me not to be scared and to act quicker. Of course, it’s normal to feel disoriented and to look for a “safety net” when things get crazy. But I know now that ones the initial dust settled, I should have taken bold decisions faster.
That’s what I’m improving in 2022. Current political and economical situation is unpredictable, but I’m not waiting until the certainty come back. I guess we just have to leave with uncertainty and incorporate it in our lives and businesses. The most important thing is not to freeze. So I’m continuing to develop my business, work with partners, build new products, such as on-line courses, and strategies about next steps.
Online business surged higher than ever, B2B, B2C, online shopping, virtual meetings, remote work, Zoom medical consultations, what are your expectations for 2022?
Olga Wendling: Whether we like it or not, I believe that we are gradually moving to living in the Metaverse. Maybe not our children, but certainly grandchildren will be mostly living on-line. But we are not there yet 😉
So in 2022, despite continuous growth of virtual space, I believe people will strive for human connection. Since covid restrictions have gradually eased, I feel so much joy when I meet my clients, colleagues, friends and family in person! And I know that many people feel the same. This is good for business which can combine human interaction with the flexibility of on-line space.
How many hours a day do you spend in front of a screen?
Olga Wendling: Too much ,-) I need to be more disciplined with the social media during the breaks. But those algorithms are genius to keep us stuck to the screen.
The majority of executives use stories to persuade and communicate in the workplace. Can you share with our readers examples of how you implement that in your business to communicate effectively with your team?
Olga Wendling: At ex-change.space, I have a business storytelling vlog. Usually, I choose a trending business topic and invite professional from different backgrounds who deal with such topic on a daily basis. For example, for the “Change” interview mini-series, I spoke with a doctor, a trader, an improvisation actress and an entrepreneur.
I asked them to share their strategies for managing unexpected changes in professional and personal circumstances. And their stories were fascinating! I also recorded “Start-up” and “Negotiations” interviews that could all be found via the following link: https://ex-change.space/business-storytelling-vlog/.
Business is all about overcoming obstacles and creating opportunities for growth. What do you see as the real challenge right now?
Olga Wendling: Overcoming fear and uncertainty. On a daily basis, we are overloaded with bad news, frightening forecasts and pessimistic viewpoints. It is difficult to stay focused on the positive outcome. But it is absolutely necessary. Businesses cannot lose sight of their positive vision for the future, as otherwise they will not survive.
In 2022, what are you most interested in learning about? Crypto, NFTs, online marketing, or any other skill sets? Please share your motivations.
Olga Wendling: I’d say crypto and NFTs. Those will become more and more integrated in our lives and business, as we are heading towards virtualised world. So it’s better to educate yourself now and to develop business and personal strategies accordingly.
A record 4.4 million Americans left their jobs in September in 2021, accelerating a trend that has become known as the Great Resignation. 47% of people plan to leave their job during 2022. Most are leaving because of their boss or their company culture. 82% of people feel unheard, undervalued and misunderstood in the workplace. Do you think leaders see the data and think “that’s not me – I’m not that boss they don’t want to work for? What changes do you think need to happen?
Olga Wendling: Recently I read an interesting article. It talked about Gen X not being able to arrive to the top of their careers because the leaders of previous generation holding to their jobs longer. Life is too uncertain at the moment. Unfortunately, that prevents the “new blood”, the new generations of leaders to contribute to the company direction. That’s a pity because they could bring a new perspective and necessary changes to the corporate culture.
So I think the companies need to promote proportional representation of different generations at the top level. And obviously, bring more women and minorities to the top positions as well. Not just “convenient” seat-keepers to save face, but real champions who can promote change.
On a lighter note, if you had the ability to pick any business superpower, what would it be and how would you put it into practice?
Olga Wendling: Time extension! I tend to overbook my agenda, so would be nice to be able to stretch the time a bit, so that I can easily finish all the projects I’ve started 😉
What does “success” in 2022 mean to you? It could be on a personal or business level, please share your vision.
Olga Wendling: Success is not a seasonal thing for me. It’s more of a long-term vision. I can fix yearly goals, but they are all just stepping stones to my vision of success. And this vision is to live my life and to build my business in accordance with my values: integrity, curiosity, respect, courage and freedom.
Jed Morley, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Olga Wendling for taking the time to do this interview and share her knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Olga Wendling or her company, you can do it through her – Linkedin Page
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