OLSOM’s Journey: Growing with Trust from a Small Team to a Multinational Company

19 Jun 2024

Humble Beginnings and Growing Ambitions

Everything has a beginning. Just as many startups in the USA begin in garages, Ukrainian startups often find their beginnings in small apartments within residential buildings. What now stands as a mature, multifunctional product of a successful company started 15 years ago in a Kyiv apartment with just a few passionate individuals. This small team was dedicated to Industry 4.0, dreaming of creating something useful, interesting, and competitive. There was no need for politics or rules; no one cared about dividing roles or responsibilities. The team worked together like a single, living organism, united by a shared goal and driven by a collective passion. 

The environment seemed perfect, but as success grew, so did the ambition for greater goals. Achieving these required more resources and experience, so we needed to expand the team. The pleasant chaos could no longer exist, as different perspectives, opinions, experiences, and knowledge had to be organized, conflicts managed, and minimal processes established for transparency. 

Building Structure and Nurturing Culture

This was not easy. Those who were there from the beginning often reminisced, “it was better before,” while newcomers with fresh perspectives criticized and sought changes, wondering how anything worked at all. Synergy seemed impossible at times, and mistakes were made. However, we learned the importance of recognizing when to let someone go for a “win-win” outcome or offer them new roles within different teams. We created support programs and fostered a culture of knowledge sharing. Sometimes, people simply needed a break—so we introduced sabbatical leave, allowing employees to take up to six months off with the option to return. 

Step by step, we moved towards greater structure without losing transparency and ease. We formed a mission, vision, and values: the mission and vision united people around a common goal and inspired them, while the values served as the foundation for our processes. 

By gathering insights from our people about what OLSOM meant to them and why they stayed, we identified shared values and nurtured our culture to preserve what mattered most to our team. Trust and support guide every process, decision-making, and the company’s global strategy. Everyone in the company can realize their potential, openly disagree with the CEO by arguing their position, initiate new projects and lead their development, try new roles or teams, and if it doesn’t work out, return to their usual role.

We value sincerity and openness. Every two weeks, we discuss the status of each team and the business, openly addressing problems and risks, seeking solutions, and celebrating individual and team successes. Mistakes are made, so lessons learned are an essential part of our culture. At our annual strategic session, the leadership team analyzes business success indicators, achievements, and mistakes, and reviews the alignment of our culture with our values. We bring our values to life through storytelling: team leaders reflect on memorable moments, sharing stories from the teams and daily work, revealing a common modus operandi, making it clear what drives us and what is essential.

Flexibility, Adaptability, and People-Centric Philosophy

We advocate flexibility and adaptability, continuously refining our goals and reassessing our values to ensure they are meaningful and impactful rather than just buzzwords. By openly sharing our strategies and including everyone in key decisions and discussions, we create an environment where the best ideas often emerge. When we set goals for our teams, everyone can join an initiative that appeals to them, where they can hone their skills or learn something new as part of their individual development plan. 

To maintain our “unique living organism” state, we focus on documentation. It might not be our favorite process, but it allows people to take vacations or sick leave without worries, knowing that the world will not stop without them. Our teams are versatile, and our BCP reduces dependencies between people and teams while also supporting our Ukrainian team.

At OLSOM, we value listening to and respecting people. We choose people, and people choose us. Since work is a big part of our lives, we aim to make it a warm, safe place where people can feel strong and refreshed, creating pleasant memories and lasting connections.