In February 2022, as the world watched the escalating tension in Ukraine, Nataliya Horbachevska, CEO of Task Force linguistic services company, found herself facing an uncertain future. With a family to protect and a business to safeguard, she embarked on a journey that would redefine her company’s mission and direction.
Nataliya’s story begins at Munich airport, where she arrived with her children, seeking refuge from the looming threat of war. As she faced the stern gaze of the border officer, the purpose of her visit to Germany was met with a compassionate response. “Visiting relatives,” she said, her voice reflecting the anxiety that had gripped her family. “We’re afraid of the war; everyone says it can start any day… hopefully it won’t.”
“Hopefully it won’t,” echoed the officer, and her comforting words marked the beginning of Nataliya’s journey, one that would see her pivot her business, adapt to new challenges, and embrace change with resilience.
The Sign That Changed Everything
The signs of impending crisis became apparent when a German friend casually mentioned that Lufthansa would stop flying from Kyiv “just starting from Monday.” Nataliya’s intuition kicked in; she was fortunate enough to secure tickets for the very last Lufthansa flight out of Kyiv on February 20th, just days before the outbreak of war.
As the war unfolded back in Ukraine, Nataliya found herself in Germany, free from immediate danger. With her newfound perspective, she shifted her focus to helping her fellow Ukrainians and reimagining her company’s future.
Changing Strategies, New Opportunities
Task Force, once a primarily local company, had to swiftly adapt its strategy to face the challenges of a changing landscape. Nataliya and her team began offering Ukrainian and Russian language services to larger language service providers (LSPs), including global giants. This marked a significant shift in their client segment, with LSPs becoming a vital part of their business.
The company’s strategy evolved further, as they diversified their language pairs offering to cater to a broader clientele. An office in Warsaw was established, complementing their Kyiv office. Task Force maximized cost efficiency by maintaining a substantial presence in Ukraine, bolstering their support to Ukrainian team members.
“I was trying to rethink our strategies and think to whom to offer our expertise which lies primarily in Eastern European languages, with Ukrainian, Russian, and Polish being native to our team. Very soon, approaching various companies and larger LSPs, we got such a huge positive response and work that the hope came back again. I understood we are not alone and that we have all possible support. Not meaning politics, but rather real people. Real businesses and people behind them. Our team was grateful to keep busy with work and projects, as it helped them concentrate on something useful, instead of counterproductive fear and hysterics,” comments Nataliya.
Overcoming Challenges, Ensuring Resilience
Operating in the midst of a crisis presented its share of challenges. Task Force went to great lengths to secure its Ukrainian operations, investing in critical infrastructure such as Starlink internet and backup generators. The safety of team members became a priority, with discussions on whether to go to the bomb shelters during sirens or relocate to Warsaw or to some safer regions of Ukraine. Ultimately, the choice was left to individual team members. In the end, the entire Ukrainian team opted to stay in Ukraine, occasionally complaining about the quality of Wifi in the bomb shelter but continuing to work from all possible and impossible places. So, the Warsaw team was hired from scratch.
Adversity fostered adaptability, making Task Force more flexible and resilient. The company established specialized teams outside Ukraine to address concerns some clients had about employing linguists in the country. This diversification ensured continuity in service delivery and strengthened Task Force’s ability to weather the storm.
At the same time, AI and LLMs are not yet implemented in the company’s operations. There’s still a way to go, and the research is being done. “When the technology became widely available in the world, we were very busy with keeping our business afloat, and are a bit behind. But we are running quickly now,” comments Nataliya.
At the same time, she believes strong corporate governance within the company is the key to its success and resilience. The structure not only appeared to be stable enough to help Task Force live through the crisis, but also supports the steady growth of the company. “Corporate governance education for both owners was definitely the right thing to do,” she adds.
A Dual Approach: Going global and becoming local in Poland
While Nataliya focused on selling services to global companies, her husband Stanislav concentrated on developing Task Force’s business in the Polish market. Poland had been a steadfast supporter of Ukraine in many ways, welcoming the largest number of Ukrainians. Ukrainian businesses, trying to adapt and diversify, started exporting goods and services into the EU, naturally starting from Poland. For Task Force, it meant a lot of work in terms of localization for those Ukrainian companies. Certain international organizations supporting Ukraine needed linguistic services the other way around — for their operations in Ukraine.
“Poland is our second home, and we are grateful to the country and its people. It’s great that we can be grateful in a very practical and down-to-Earth way: by employing people here, paying taxes, and helping the country’s GDP grow,” comments Stanislav. “At the same time, the pipeline of orders is contributing to the growth of Ukraine’s economy, as the Ukrainian team is very involved in almost every stage.”
Task Force’s journey through Ukraine’s war is a testament to resilience and adaptability. Nataliya and Stanislav Horbachevsky’s ability to pivot their business in the face of adversity, while also providing support to their team and clients, is a remarkable example of leadership in challenging times.