Step-by-step approach is the key to everything

14 April 2014
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Interview with Bogdan Sadowski, owner of Sabo.

The voiceof Suwałki business must be stronger. Local entrepreneurs have decided to band together and form an organisation. Together they take care of their interests more effectively. They also want to show the local community, how important good conditions for enterprise development are, as they create new jobs. Bogdan Sadowski, owner of Sabo is one of the founders of the association. He has been running his business for 25 years. He is also the chairman of the Economic Council under the President of Suwalki.

Entrepreneurs fromSuwałki decided to band together and form an organisation. How advanced is the whole project?
At present,we have 35 companies that have declared to join us. From these we selected 7 which will deal with the technical side. We do not know what form our associations will take, whether it will be an association or foundation or something else. The companies that declared their participation include both large companies and smaller entities, the StateHigher Vocational School, a municipal company. Various companies from different industries.

The initiativeof creating the association came from the entrepreneurs themselves or was it a top-down proposal of the City authorities?
The City had nothing to do with it.We do not want to identify with any office or any political formation. There is a need for entrepreneurs from Suwalki to meet and talk about their problems. Moreover, you often have to stand up for the interests of entrepreneurs - whether against the city of Suwałki, or against the authorities of the voivodeship, or other municipal services such as those which control the company.

At presentthere is no such body. There is the Guild of Handicraft, but it’s not it.

There wassuch an organisation. It was dissolved, however, about two years ago. Do you know why?
It wasthe Suwalskie Stowarzyszenie Pracodawców (Suwalskie Employers' Association). I was on the board there. It worked for many years. It started to blur when there was a split: the merchants for themselves, craftsmen for themselves. At the end it was believed it focused only on a battle against supermarkets, etc.

There is much more to be done. The new association connects not only traders, but all kinds of companies – construction, contractors and production facilities. There is even a need for schools that educate the young people of various professions to join the project. We need to specify what professions are really needed.

It turns out thatthe human resources available do not fit the requirements. On the other hand, there is unemployment. There is one more problem. People who work in Suwalki companies complain of low wages. How does it look from the perspective of an entrepreneur? What do you think about the current situation on the local labour market?
Manyentrepreneurs will confirm that if they are looking for a concrete, specific employee, they have a problem finding one. This often happens regardless of whether it is a specialist in the manufacture of wood or metal, or a locksmith, you need some specific qualifications. You cannot put a random person to perform the job. You either take a person who has the qualifications, or you have to train that person yourself, and it costs. Everyone would like to have this step behind him, to have a specialist, no matter what the industry. It is the same everywhere.

Those peoplewho would like to make big money immediately, often come and they have it  hard – both in terms of engagement in the work, and in terms of learning. You can talk about money, but first you must earn it. Nothing comes without hard work.

Reading theinternet forums in Suwalki it is hard to resist the impression that there is a dispute on the line employer - employee. What is the biggest problem in these relationships? This inconsistency in mutual expectations?
Earningsresult from the effects of work. You cannot just set wages so high as to make an employee super happy if we have not earned it. You have to take into account the other side. The employer is the person who must balance the cost with what has been produced. For a company to work, it must achieve income. Companies with losses are in trouble and certainly nobody would want to work for them.

Do you seethe lack of understanding for entrepreneurs in the society?
It is not fully shaped yet. These 20 years is still too little for the people, the workers to appreciate that someone starts a company just to hire, give a job. There is only "we do not earn enough there." It's not that simple. Lots of people come to us, people who have already opened their own business, already practiced, something did not work out, and now they are looking for work. They at least have some idea that everything in the company has to balance itself out, that when someone confuses revenue with income it is, unfortunately, a problem.

For many years now activitiesinitiated by the business community are ongoing to improve the image of the entrepreneur - at the national level, most recently at the regional level. Will your association also conduct similar activities at the local level?
Certainlythe association will want to use the media or forums, to show the two sides of the coin. Because sometimes, when you read the forums, you get depressed, what people write about employers. It's like in school - the student should have some respect for the teacher. After all, employers in Suwałki are doing something for this job to be there. Not everyone buys a Mercedes, because he earned something. Most invest in the company, for more people to work, to develop the company. This exact awareness is missing.

How can this be changed?
It takes yearsand education - at school, at home, and in the company you are working for. Those who did not have a communist economy, the period after the war, as we did, could never understand such an approach against the entrepreneur. In America, in the West it would be unthinkable. Earnings there are also quite varied. Not all can afford to buy a home, a house, a car, but the approach to a person, entity, which provides the work is quite different.

Today,when you talk to young people who have completed high school, after graduation, you see that they want to immediately be able to afford a decent car, buy a flat, etc. This does not happen, you need to work for everything. As I started my company 25 years ago, each of us started step by step. I bought a new car after 17-18 years of the company. When I said this to young people from the Suwalki technical school, they did not believe me. I bought new cars, but trucks, delivery vans. If someone wants to achieve something in life, they need to understand this.

Of course, suchan association of entrepreneurs can carry out educational activities. There is money for training. We will be able to bring to Suwalki people who might say something interesting – to entrepreneurs and the young people who are learning and maybe will work for us in the future or set up their own business. Money for this purpose cannot be acquired by a governmental unit. It must be an organisation.

Large resources are allocated to pro-entrepreneurship activities in the current EU financial perspective. For example, in the ROP. Is it why now, at this time it was decided to create the association?
It isone of thecauses. This financial period will devote the largest amount of EU funds just for training, to specialise, etc.

Wehave been talking about the association for six months, maybe a year. Time is not important. It is important that there is such a need and people want to somehow get involved. We do not have the person who will lead yet, because I do not see that it can be led by some president or owner of one of the existing companies, because they would simply not have the time. Therefore we are looking around for the right person.

Can everyentrepreneur become a member of the association?
At this point,we have not put any limits. We will talk to anyone interested.

I remember thatduring the presentation of the draft of this year's city budget the President announced that at the request of the transport companies and because of the difficult situation of the industry he will not be raising taxes on means of transport. Is this how concrete actions of associated businesses would look like?
For example.The eternal struggle with the authorities. One-sided. No one can accomplish anything alone. These are mainly the property tax levies. Every major company in Suwalki pays a lot of money. There a limit to which it can be lifted, but you can also discuss when the times are worse not lift it. The last large mismatch between the City Hall and entrepreneurs concerned perpetual fees and property valuation. The fees were a percentage of property valuation. These valuations were different when done at different times and set quite freely. Not everyone liked it, and many companies, although each separately, assumed its own case.

Will there beany platform for the exchange of information, communication, web portal of the association?
It's the next step.

Pleasetell us also, as within the planned development strategy for Suwalki smart specialisation were stressed, what do you think about finding our chance in the timber industry?
Timber industry is there, I myself engage insuch activities, it needs work. Science and Technology Park could develop some laboratories, etc., to meet these needs. Providing certificates. It is possible that there would be still some playing field to be used.

Timber industry is also aderivative of our old plants that once operated here. Suwalska furniture factory was a large and thriving, and the people who worked there were scattered around the grounds. Many of them are doing something else in this direction, they produce. There are alot of plants both in  Suwalki, and the surrounding area. This is a chance for us.

Finally, let meask what actions, in what area, should be taken to improve the lives of Suwalki businesses or what makes it difficult to run a business here?
That'swhat we all know - transport. When it comes to communication, we are at the tail end. We do not have a good rail connection it is difficult to transport by road too.

It is greatly talked about, our communication exclusion is stressed at every opportunity. Is it actually felt so much in practice?
It is, because it means time. If I do something somewhere, I have to go by car, because I do not have a good train. If I could catch the train that would go to Warsaw in three hours, I would have this time to work, read, "do my homework", it's me who gets the time. If I drive, I'm tired because I'm going this way and not another, I look out for trucks not to get "smashed", and I have lost 4 hours.

Can the planned Suwalkilocal airport be the answer to this problem?
I think itis a good idea. For little money, if there is no train, let it be a plane. If the price of communication between Warsawand Suwalki is decent, and communication is efficient, many people can use it.

You need to think about it. Not of any major airports, because we do not need it, just a normal air taxi, which we will use to travel between Suwalki and Warsaw.

Perhapssuch a positive note for the future of the business in Suwalki is a good way to finish the interview. Thank you for your time.

Agnieszka Zdankiewicz

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