There can be no doubt that since communism collapsed in 1989, after the hecatomb of the 1939-1945 war and almost half a century of Soviet domination, Poland has experienced a remarkable reversal of fortune – regaining independence, a booming economy and re-integration with the rest of Europe.
One may marvel at Poland’s achievements in establishing the fundamentals of a democratic system and productive free market economy in such a short period of time. Let’s take a closer look at what role Sika plays in the Polish construction market after 25 years of democracy. We were able to talk to Maciej Horaček, the General Manager for Sika Poland.
Mr Horaček - you’ve been Sika Poland’s General Manager for over 10 years, during which time the company has witnessed enormous growth. What are your personal secrets in leading a successful team?
I truly believe that the key to success lies mainly in the human factor and proper management of people’s talents, and in clarity and transparency of the structure. It is essential to establish a clear set of responsibilities and goals as well as providing tools for achieving them. If employees have freedom of action within a certain framework, they are likely to find optimal paths to work effectively and responsibly.
The ongoing monitoring of the whole process is also significant. It helps to react relatively fast, revise and adjust the framework if necessary. Most of our leading sales engineers have worked with us for over 10 – 15 years now, which means they must have found their own paths within the offered structure which give them confidence and satisfaction.
Sika is currently one of the leading specialty chemicals suppliers in Poland. What are the targets of Sika Poland now? Where is it heading?
I like the definition “leading specialty chemicals supplier” as it exactly reflects our strengths as well as a potential future direction. It’s true that Sika Poland has a leading position in SPECIALTY chemicals, which is very significant in the current golden age of the Polish construction market. Never before has Poland received such substantial financial support for infrastructure construction as it is obtaining now from numerous EU development programs.
As a result, for the last 10 years enormous infrastructure investments have been spreading across the country. As a specialty chemicals supplier, Sika Poland owns the lion’s share of that market. However, one has to bear in mind that EU financial support will one day come to an end and it is of the utmost importance to find new, profitable sectors within the construction market.
Sika Poland’s chance for future growth can be found in “mass” chemicals, including such products as silicones, caulking foams and cementitious mortars. However, if we want to offer competitive pricing and boost our market share in this particular segment, launching a local production operation is inevitable. Sika is the only construction chemicals supplier with no local production base in Poland.
Another opportunity for growth lies in a continuously expanding residential construction market. Sales in this sector are based on a distribution channel; therefore Sika Poland needs to develop a solid and coherent distribution strategy over the next couple of years.
Construction market in Poland
What is the condition of the construction market in Poland? Where exactly does Poland need Sika?
The current situation of the Polish construction market is complicated. There are numerous gaps in regulations and weak points in tender principles where price is still the main issue. All these may result in poor construction projects where quality is often pushed out by low price. Even today a number of structures completed not long ago already require some refurbishment.
Sika Poland supplies high-quality technologies, but there is much more to do. We actively participate in the development of construction regulations and cooperate with technical universities. Thanks to strong cooperation between our specialists and acclaimed academic institutions (the Concrete Producers Association, Building Research Institute, Road and Bridge Research Institute, etc.) new European harmonized norms and quality standards are being widely introduced and applied.
We have made our mark especially in the propagation within Poland of concrete standard EN 206-1 and of concrete refurbishment standard EN 1504, to name the main activities in this field.
This year Sika Poland is working jointly with the Building Research Institute on technical directives regarding the application of waterproofing systems and construction strengthening. Hopefully our fruitful cooperation with the Building Research Institute can improve the quality standards of the construction market in Poland.
You’ve mentioned that Sika Poland supplies only high-quality products. Can you tell us something about recent key projects in Poland?
Sika Poland participates in the most significant projects all around the country. Completed last year, Kraków Arena is the biggest sports and entertainment venue to which Sika has supplied roofing and flooring solutions. At the other end of Poland, in Gdańsk, the first car tunnel under the river is being built – all 7.7 thousand precast tubing for this project were produced with Sika concrete admixtures.
Moreover, 110 km of the brand new concrete A2 highway, together with several bridges and engineering structures, were almost exclusively completed using various Sika technologies. Every year Sika plays a part in almost all key infrastructure projects in Poland.
Nevertheless, we have achieved great things in the industry segment too. It is worth underlining that no bus or train is produced in Poland without Sika Industry products – we supply our solutions to the key vehicle producers like Volvo, MAN, Solaris, etc.
Before the late-2000s recession Poland recorded a yearly growth rate of over 6.0%. In 2010 Poland’s economic growth rate was 3.9%, which was one of the best results in Europe. It is expected to grow by 3.7% in 2015. That seems like a positive outlook, doesn’t it?
It may seem positive on the surface, but the current situation of the Polish economy is much more complex. The economic growth rate of 3.7% is definitely not enough to catch up with the world at large. The fact that at this point we are getting a little bit closer to the Western countries is a result of the crisis in Europe and lower results there.
However, one has to take into account the source of the growth in Poland. First, the financial support from the EU is probably helping to stimulate our economy but, as I mentioned before, this will eventually come to an end. Second, the low salaries and labor costs in Poland have recently attracted numerous production factories.
This may have decreased the unemployment rate for a while, but what Poland is aspiring to is to get closer to an average European salary. It’s just a matter of time until these companies move their factories to other locations with a cheaper workforce and lower labor costs.
Hence, changes in our local law should be proposed to ensure fast economic growth. There is too much redundant bureaucracy and a complicated tax system, which discourages potential investors and young, well-qualified and energetic people, who prefer to move their businesses abroad.
Nevertheless I believe that Poland is a beautiful place to live and has much to offer. We just have to address our local regulations and simplify the law in order to unlock the dormant potential for entrepreneurial activities and innovation.