A pioneer of post-Soviet Era of Real Estate market in Ukraine, Terry Pickard founded his company way back in 1992. During those 25 years, Pickard Real Estate & Asset Services has opened a line of specialized divisions, offering services in brokerage, leasing, and property management. Sure enough, Mr. Pickard faced multiple challenges of opening and sustaining business in a foreign country, yet he managed not only to overcome those, but find one more passion in his life. By founding The Connoisseur Club, Terry Pickard gathered fans of exquisite fine dining, who review various cuisine restaurants in Kyiv. Now he shares his challenges and achivements while living in Ukraine as well as his expectations about the future.
Mr. Pickard, your company has entered the Ukrainian market more than 20 years ago. How do you feel about witnessing (and writing) history, and seeing how Ukraine has been changing day by day?
I actually first visited Ukraine the year before you voted to be an independent country with a British business delegation headed by our then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. So for anyone who thinks Ukraine hasn't changed during the following 28 years must have a very short memory.
I established my business here in September 1992 so we have just celebrated 25 years of activity in the Ukrainian real estate market, continuously from Prorizna street, which means we are the oldest western real estate consultancy in this country.
However I am well aware that age is not the sole criteria on which to judge but it should at least have given us knowledge and experience. Certainly 25 years of doing business here has been challenging and exciting and definitely never dull but generally rewarding both financially and personally.
Do you feel that business environment in Ukraine has become favorable in the latest years?
For the 10 years since the world financial crisis of 2008 life here has been really tough. The financial crisis was followed by political crisis and only in the past 12 months have the 'green shoots' of some optimism started to appear.
What are the perspectives of Real Estate market in Ukraine in the nearest future? What is your forecast?
Your question asks about 'the real estate market' but 'the market' is made up of several sectors some of which are looking positive in the immediate future but some are worrying. One of the principal reasons we have survived is because my company operates in 4 divisions; commercial, residential, agriculture and valuation, so there is nearly always one or two that are doing okay. However generally the real estate market is looking positive.
Which main difficulties and rewarding sides of being a businessman in Ukraine would you name?
Having worked in several countries during my career I usually say that the sum of the problems is the same but the mix differs from country to country. However Ukraine did pose some problems that were specific to a country that was a new democracy and the learning process that this necessitated. Twenty five years later we are only now nearly there where the populace actually takes the power and influence seriously.
What would you advice foreign investors who consider a Ukrainian project or company for investment?
For new individuals or companies considering entering the Ukrainian market in whatever sector seek lots of information from those already operating in the sector you are considering. What was the most challenging moment in your career? The most frightening moment for me was when back in the mid nineties a significant mafia boss thought I was cheating him. Two rather hefty pistol carrying individuals knocked on my door and requested that I should accompany them to meet their boss. The misunderstanding was sorted and I returned safely home and never saw them again.
Oh, that was scary. I think you could write a book about your adventures in Ukraine. But let us move to more pleasant things. You are the founder of The Ukrainian Connoisseur Club. What inspired you to create this organization?
I started TUCC over 15 years ago when we had a magazine publishing division with a magazine called The Ukrainian. The main aim of TUCC was to have a true way of reflecting the quality of restaurants and the cuisine they served by publishing our own award system based on the opinions of all the diners at our organized dining events in Kyiv. Who are the connoisseurs in Kyiv? The members of TUCC are a mixture of many nationalities (8 at our most recent event) from the business and diplomatic community. Can you recall a restaurant that impressed you the most at the numerous events held by TUCC?
Over our 15 years of operations we have visited many restaurants over the years with many different types of cuisines so to pick one or two particular favourites would be particularly difficult plus there are few that have survived for 16 years as tastes change. However one thing that does surprise me is that with English chefs being some of the best known in the world and with English restaurants being voted as some of the best that there is no English restaurant in Kyiv.
I would like to ask you a kind of private question. Often international marriages are called a unique fusion of cultures and national traits. Is it the case with your Ukrainian wife?
Sveta and I live and work together with very little conflict primarily I think because we respect each others 'space'. But culturally we are no different.
How do you feel about modern Ukraine and Ukrainians?
I love living in Kyiv otherwise I wouldn't still be here after 25 years. However I must admit that I'm not keen on winter with all that white stuff but the summer is great with beach BBQ's, wonderful forests in which to go mushroom picking.
What are your expectations of the country's development within the next 5 years?
Ukraine is possibly the country in Europe with best economic growth potential over the next decade if only your politicians could be more statesmen like and not so greedy. Let's hope.
Interviewed by Kate Pryliuk
Photos provided by Terry Pickard