Bohdan Kulchyckyj, 47, and Petro Rondiak, 44
#20 Most Influential
Philadelphian Bohdan Kulchyckyj has run a car dealership in Ukraine since 1992. With backing from U.S. car dealer John Hynansky, Kulchyckyj was the first to import Fords to Ukraine and establish one of the country’s first post-Soviet dealerships.
Today Winner Automotive is Ukraine’s only multi-brand dealership selling Ford, Jaguar, Land Rover, Volvo and Porsche cars.
Dodging government-extorted kickbacks and mafia threats throughout the 1990s, Kulchyckyj said he just kept working hard at his business in what he described as “24-hour chaos.”
“We have kept our word to everyone and kept to our business,” Kulchyckyj told the Kyiv Post about what drives Winner’s success.
Kulchyckyj moved back to the U.S. in 1997 although he did still run the Ukraine-based company. He returned in 2002 where he remains today as the chief operating officer and importer of five car brands with 52 selling points throughout Ukraine where some 3,000 employees work.
Asked to sum up his 17 years of business experience in Ukraine, Kulchytskyj has described the place as “one big perpetual crisis”.
“We kid around that when there’s some peace then we’re in a crisis.”
– Bohdan Kulchyckyj.
“We kid around that when there’s some peace then we’re in a crisis,” he said.
The company made its first million in 1996 but didn’t start making “real money” until 2007, according to Kulchyckyj.
And there’s much more to be made: “There are always untapped market niches out there. This place is still underdeveloped. If you’ve a passion and a belief in something, you will make money.”
But Kulchyckyj warned that the time has long passed for opportunists out to turn a quick buck.
“This kind of approach could get you into trouble, it’s hard to make a quick buck nowadays,” he said.
Along with fellow colleague Petro Rodniak, Kulchyckyj has a few pet charity projects and also donates to the Kyiv Women’s Business Club, Toastmasters and Lion’s Club.
Petro Rondiak hit the ground running when he arrived in Ukraine in 1995 to run the retail operations of a recently established Ford auto dealership. His colleague, Bohdan Kulchyckyj, had already opened the business by the time Rondiak arrived. (John Hynansky, a Ukrainian-American with dealerships in the United States, is the owner.)
Born to Ukrainian parents who left Lviv after World War II, Rondiak moved around a lot as a child because of his father’s U.S. military service.
“I consider myself to be from the East Coast, a combination of Boston, Philadelphia, and Washington. I ended up being a fan of the Bruins, Sixers and Redskins, for example,” Rondiak said.
Rondiak ended up in Ukraine with his wife 15 years ago.
“We decided that the opportunity in Ukraine offered a chance to understand our roots better".
– Petro Rondiak.
“We decided that the opportunity in Ukraine offered a chance to understand our roots better, and for me to leave engineering into entrepreneurial business which I desired. Olya was willing to put her career on hold since mine would be a priority, given our plans for children,” Rondiak told the Kyiv Post.
He had worked with colleague, Kulchyckyj, in the United States at Raytheon, an aerospace systems supplier. The post-Soviet cultural and business environment was a big leap.
“Upon arrival, the learning curve was steep. I was immersed in a completely Ukrainian and often Russian-speaking environment in an industry, the car business, that was completely new to me,” Rondiak said.
“Our challenge was to overcome the pervasive ‘Soviet’ mentality and build a dynamic, can-do company that could handle continuous growth. We fought corruption at every turn, obsessively complying with every rule and obligation, even those we were told we could not possibly comply with. The result was a resilient company with no local partners, able to survive the political upheavals of Ukraine.”
In the last 10 years, he and Kulchyckyj added Volvo, Land Rover, Jaguar and Porsche to the original Ford brand that they represent in Ukraine.
“Personally I am responsible for Winner’s retail operations at the ‘Winner Automotive Dealership’ in Kyiv and for the Porsche Brand in the country,” he said.
Winner Automotive consists of 221 Ukrainian employees with Rondiak as the sole expat. Plans for the future include building a state-of-the-art Porsche center in Kyiv.
Rondiak supports a local school for children living with disabilities, the International Woman’s Club of Kyiv as well as the Lion’s and Rotary clubs of Kyiv.