Who are the inhabitants of the Sądeckie region, and how did their character affect their trade of choice? What challenges will WIŚNIOWSKI face? Is Andrzej Wiśniowski planning to move the company abroad? Or rather expand the business where it is now? Krystyna Baran, President of the Management Board of WIŚNIOWSKI, answers these questions.
Looking at the list of the most thriving businesses in the Sądeckie region, one may think that construction companies are the top players. Is the construction industry a local speciality?
Yes, I suppose so, and in my opinion not by accident. I think. For decades, Sądeckie had been a region of small, fragmented farms, and of people working hard in the local fields, gardens and orchards. Back in those days, the local people had two choices: emigrate or take on the harsh realities of life and win. Those challenging years have taught them hard work and industriousness, also in construction; once the state allowed private entrepreneurship, the local people followed the vocations they knew from practice. This is probably the most straightforward reason as to why the construction industry is now booming here. There is a simple rule: business begets business, so large production enterprises operate in an environment of smaller businesses, specialising in finishing, measurements, assembly, and more. This is how a local ‘Silicon Valley of construction’ was born.
Is industriousness the defining quality of the people of Sądeckie?
A major one, for sure. Smallholder’s way of thinking is another important trait of the local people. There are many large families that had to get by in a very harsh reality; those people have learned how to make money, how to develop, and how to make their life better. I talked about this with someone, and he said that it hadn’t been an easy life, but that hard work makes the life of every next generation easier. So, the work of fathers and grandfathers has not gone to waste? Here is my own example. Decades ago my father dreamed of building his own house and then buying some land. He always wanted to make things better, to make them grow. He believed that they would bear fruit in the future. And they did. Still, even back in those days, we had friends and acquaintances who, instead of investing in their future and the future of their children, would rather spend the money on expensive holidays.
The boom in the construction industry – has it satisfied the Polish people’s wolfish hunger for homes of their own?
I’m not certain if the hunger has been fully appeased. When you look around and see how much the landscape of Sądeckie has changed over the last 25 years, and how many homes have been built, you might just recognise how great the hunger for construction was. Let’s look at the pictures from 20 to 25 years ago. You do not need to be a specialist in the field to see how Poland has transformed right before our eyes. The demand for construction services will always be there, big or small. Everyone wants to live safely and in comfort. Companies like ours provide that extra touch: they help people live in more attractive homes. This is our challenge for the coming years: not just functionality, but design that will satisfy the increasingly refined tastes of our customers. The world keeps changing, and the product portfolios of the construction industry, including ours, need to follow. We have to keep up with the challenges; and we often do much more – we make our products set new trends. If you want to conquer fforeign markets, you need to make sure your products comply with international regulations. This is somewhat difficult, but it makes your product range more diverse.
What direction will the construction companies such as WISNIOWSKI follow in the next few years, especially that the industry players already need to jostle around on the domestic market?
This might sound like a paradox to many, but our location is excellent. The relatively fast transport routes to Berlin and Szczecin provide us with great access to Western Europe. We sit close to the southern markets, which are now strategic to us: Bulgaria, Romania, and Italy. I am convinced that the southern markets will be far more prospective than the Eastern region has been so far.
In his interview on the 25th anniversary of the company, Andrzej Wiśniowski said that his view of the future of the business usually spanned ten years. A while ago he had a vision that in order for the company to grow, it would need more space, and this could be done by, for example, moving hundreds of cars to an underground garage.
Being the company owner, Andrzej Wiśniowski adopts a long-term perspective when it comes to business planning. We are the Management Board, a team of people who turn the owner’s vision into reality, and we focus on plans which span two or three years. Let me give you an example: we had two serious and enticing proposals for moving our factory to a special tax exempt zone in Bochnia, or to Slovakia. The motorway is near, so a move would help us to increase our profits, but instead we chose to buy more land and extend the production floor in Wielogłowy. What tipped the scales was the sense of local business patriotism shared by Andrzej Wiśniowski and the Board. We had proposals for hefty tax exemptions we’ve never enjoyed here, but the decision to stay was unambiguous. WIŚNIOWSKI will continue to grow in Sądeckie, and this is where it sees its future.
And new jobs?
Yes, that too. We had 112 new hires in 2015, and it is about 10% of our personnel, a large number given the size of our company. The expansion of the production floor will require another 100 new employees. As for the underground garages, we have been studying this solution for some time, and mindful of the fact that our facility is close to the Dunajec River, the underground hydrology is an issue for us, especially in the years of high water. Other plans? We have been thinking about a new head office building. We commissioned the current one in 2000, and it seemed much too big for our needs back then. But now it’s simply too small! Over a decade ago, the local gmina regulations prohibited us from constructing a taller building; however, Andrzej Wiśniowski always thinks a decade ahead and has left what we call “the stairway to heaven”, so we can always add more floors. If I was to guess the direction of our growth, it would be up, with a taller office building, rather than down, with an underground garage.
Are trade shows, like the one currently taking place in Nowy Sącz, still considered a major event for a global company that WIŚNIOWSKI has become?
Without a doubt! We attend all trade shows specific to the industry in Poland. Even if we cannot make it somewhere personally, we are always proudly represented by our agents. Our customers appreciate our focus on promoting the brand and our presence at large international shows. I am always happy to participate, although I do it less often now. I value trade shows, as these venues lend us a different perspective on our industry. We employ many young, well educated, ambitious and committed people who are responsible for specific markets. No one can say with a straight face that the President would do their job better. Quite the contrary. It would be naive to think that I could outperform our dedicated specialists in their fields. It is reassuring to have a team of the best in the trade behind the whole brand. All people need is the freedom to fulfill their potential by professional work, and we give them this opportunity.
An interview by Wojciech Molendowicz