Giving Thanks for Thank You: Ukraine’s Business Community Embraces Gratitude

As McDonalds prepared to open its first restaurant in the Soviet Union in 1990, the fast food company embarked on a program to train its future staff to smile and thank customers. During the training session one of the young new hamburger restaurant recruits raised his hand and asked the American instructor: Why should I say thank you? I’m the one with the meat!’

Soviet customer service was notorious for showing no gratitude. Much of that is now history.

Saying thank you has become such an important component in business, thanking customers, staff, and commercial partners. US President John F. Kennedy wrote, “We must find time to stop and thank the people who make a difference in our lives,” and he’s spot on.  

Four years ago, the American Chamber of Commerce in Ukraine launched a Thanksgiving event that has become an annual ritual. In autumn AmCham members are asked to nominate projects or individuals that have made an outstanding contribution to the development of business in Ukraine, or promoting the country internationally. The Thanksgiving award is then presented onstage at an exclusive black-tie dinner ceremony in mid-November with a turkey and all the fixings.

In 2015, the year after Ukraine’s Revolution of Dignity, Minister of Finance Natalie Jaresko who was instrumental in restructuring the country’s post-Yanukovych era debts, received the first award, as did Minister of Trade and Economy Aivaras Abromavicius, who, with his team, introduced ProZorro, a public e-procurement system that has made government procurement more transparent and competitive. Ukraine’s mobile phone operators, who had just launched third generation mobile communications in the country, also got an award, as did the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, Ukraine’s largest investor, for boosting investment into the local economy.

In November 2016, US Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker received the award for her continuous support of Ukraine. The Business Ombudsman Council, a first point of contact for companies seeking redress against unfair government treatment, was awarded for simplifying bureaucracy. The highlight of the 2016 ceremony was the presentation of the award to Ukraine’s Paralympic Team for their unbelievable will to win; they had returned from the Rio Olympics with a record 41 gold medals.

Dr. Ulana Suprun, the passionate and professional acting minister of health, was awarded in 2017 for revamping Ukraine’s healthcare system. Last year we also presented a special award to Morgan Williams, president of the US-Ukraine Business Council for ten years of outstanding leadership and dedicated service promoting US–Ukrainian business relations.

This year, on November 17, we recognized Ukraine’s National Investment Council and Ukraine Invest, two investment promotion agencies established to advance Ukraine as an investment destination. Acting Minister of Finance Oksana Markarova was recognized for reinforcing Ukraine’s macroeconomic stability.  

The American Chamber of Commerce in Ukraine has many people it is grateful to, people who are changing Ukraine each day, every day. Thanksgiving is a time to thank all those making Ukraine a better place to do business.

In 2019, the Thanksgiving feast will take place after Ukraine’s spring presidential elections and right after the October parliamentary elections. We hope that we will have plenty to be thankful for.

Andy Hunder is president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Ukraine. He tweets @AndyHunder

Image: American Chamber of Commerce in Ukraine President Andy Hunder (center) and America House Kyiv Director Christi Anne Hofland unveil the turkey at the annual Thanksgiving Dinner in Kyiv, Ukraine, November 17. Credit: American Chamber of Commerce in Ukraine