INTERVIEW WITH MAŁGORZATA WOJTASIK IN “FORUM BRANŻOWE” MAGAZINE
In the March issue of “Forum Branżowe” magazine Małgorzata Wojtasik, Chief Commercial Officer for Aluprof, talks to journalist Robert Klos in an interview “A system from a distant land”. Click the link below to read the full article.
A SYSTEM FROM A DISTANT LAND
Małgorzata Wojtasik, Chief Commercial Officer for Aluprof, talks to Robert Klos
graduated from the Faculty of Philology at the University of Silesia, going on to complete post-graduate studies in management at the same institution. She then worked for CHZ Centrozap, followed by a twelve-year stint at Hydro Aluminium Chrzanów. She joined Aluprof in January 2010. She enjoys cycling and Nordic walking and appreciates good books, especially about the world’s religions and cultures.
My sincere congratulations on your stand at the Bau 2019 Trade Fair. There was enormous interest in it. How do you evaluate the results of that kind of ‘trading’ and the company’s presence in Munich?
Thank you for the congratulations! It’s my pleasure to accept them, first and foremost, on behalf of the marketing and sales team. I’m filled with appreciation of their work, and not just at the trade fair, either. For us, this year’s event was the crowning moment of many years of hard work by our sales specialists, particularly in our branches abroad. For years now, we’ve been a presence at trade fairs all over the world. This year’s Bau was exceptional for us, though. I think it’s probably the first event of that scale and status where we weren’t asked ’where are you from and what do you do’!
Does that mean that your visitors there were predominantly familiar faces?
Well, yes, of course we knew our visitors in a way, because they were sector specialists and professionals and we either work with them or we’d previously made moves to establish collaboration with them. This time, it turned out that they came looking for us, their visits to our stand were a planned part of their schedules for the fair, they made concrete declarations and left us their business cards with requests for us to make contact and visit them. All of that is the fruit of the work put in by our sales teams on individual markets where we’ve steadily built up relationships with potential clients. It’s given us a tremendous sense of satisfaction and a massive shot of energy to channel into continuing our efforts. At the same time, it’s also worth emphasising the role of our Polish clients, who are achieving major export successes and are extremely active in promoting and offering Aluprof solutions and Polish technological thinking to their international customers. A great visits to our stand were made at the recommendation of our long-standing clients.
Can a common-or-garden business card received at a trade fair really provide so much satisfaction?
Imagine what it's like when you spend years knocking on someone’s door, phoning them, sending them offers and waiting for results and then, finally, there comes a day when they get in touch, request a moment of your time and make an appointment to visit you at a trade fair. Could there be anything more satisfying for a sales specialist? We had dozens, if not hundreds, of meetings like that in Munich. I have the feeling that Bau 2019 was a turning point in our collaboration with the German and European markets alike. For the first time, rather than simply being a supplier on foreign markets, I think that Aluprof was admitted into the business partner group, in terms of both our spheres of activity; in other words, not only architectural systems, but also roller shutter and gates.
After your American successes, I had the impression that you’re now a partner for architects’ studios and general contractors.
In the USA, the process went exceptionally smoothly, mainly thanks to our partners there, who introduced us onto that market. It was different in Europe, where we’ve been alone for years in the struggle to position ourselves. You have to remember that, while we were still Metalplast-Bielsko, our starting point was collaborating with wholesalers and supplying window and door manufacturers. Twelve or fifteen years ago, Aluprof was a complete unknown on the façades market and we faced an immense fight even to get our system, which was state-of-the-art, but ‘homegrown’, into Polish design studios, which readily made use of Western solutions. Extensive façades were out of the question for us until we’d actually unveiled our first large-scale accomplishments, the Hilton Warsaw Hotel, followed by the terminal at the Warsaw Chopin Airport. They became our flagships. Polish architects began noticing us and trying us out on larger buildings... and that’s how we began to put our portfolio together.
That portfolio is now so impressive that the Aluprof’s Building of the Year competition has actually become an indicator for façade trends.
I’m delighted to hear it! Each completed development entered for the competition is a matter of pride to the entire team. It’s worth being aware that what stands behind every single one of them are the intensive efforts of sales specialists, engineers, researchers and dozens of others whose work isn’t visible on a daily basis. There aren’t so many people who realise that every façade conceals not only months of preparation before building it, but also the long-term work on developing the systems used. On the whole, it takes years from the moment a concept crystallises to the moment we launch a system on the market. It’s also worth remembering that employing a system in a specific development can often involve changes, modifications and designing additional solutions. The completed developments entered for Aluprof’s Building of the Year really are the successes of the people who stand behind them. As for the competition itself, I can reveal this much; its success in Poland has prompted us to introduce the same initiative on the Czech and British markets, where we also have notable portfolios of completed projects.
the British market, the President and CEO of Grupa Kęty, Dariusz
Mańko, once told me about the origins of your branch there. Is it
still being led by the same sales specialist from Bielsko?
Yes. Wojciech Brożyna. Just a few days ago, we were celebrating his tenth anniversary as head of our British subsidiary. His story is a wonderful illustration of the bumpy road to success in sales on foreign markets. If we were struggling to bring Polish architects round to our systems twelve years ago, then just imagine what the staff who took them into architects’ offices in Western Europe were facing! To those potential clients, Aluprof was a ‘system from a distant land’; it was unknown, it hadn’t been tested by their instituions and it lacked solutions designed specifically for a given market. Even now, I’m still amazed at the years of doggedness and decisiveness of action which have led to our current successes and made Aluprof a brand that’s so well perceived by our clients. That’s a service of the truly great kind! Similarly, the years of work put in by our colleagues in our Czech subsidiary have demonstrated their huge determination and consistency in carrying out their long-term strategy. Their aims included attaining second place in the market share... and they’ve achieved that! That story applies to every market we serve, Belgian, Hungarian, Ukrainian and Romanian alike.
I can imagine that it wasn't easy in quite a number of other countries.
Indeed it wasn’t. And it still isn’t. Our greatest capital was, and is, people; the people in our offices, who spend hours and hours designing at their desks and the people out in the field, on the front line. In a great many countries, our competition is present in the form of native companies with advanced systems adapted to the local standards and regulations. In addition, economic patriotism is alive and kicking. We’ve had to adapt our offer to the requirements of each of those markets, establish collaboration with research institutions abroad and have specific solutions tested in their facilities. Our systems develop together with those markets and, thanks to that, every façade built abroad, every tender where we stand on equal terms with our Western competitors is something to be happy about. That story makes it easier to understand why we’re so pleased to see the business cards and invitations to discussions proffered by the representatives of architects’ offices and general contractors whose attention and recognition we’ve been endeavouring to gain for years. Their invitations to talk... and, as I already know, to collaborate, as well... is confirmation that they’ve stopped treating us as suppliers ‘from a distant land’ and have now identified us as a stable, predictable business partner.
You speak of other people with enormous recognition, as if you’ve had no part in this success yourself.
I believe that the most important thing of all is choosing your staff and building a first-class team. Something I reiterate to all my leaders is that people would certainly do all right without a boss, but a boss won’t do all right without people. I was immensely fortunate to wind up with Aluprof, to play a part in building the team and, above all, to encounter experienced specialists who were willing to share their experience and knowledge with younger staff members. I have the impression that all of us in the company are youthful, if not in years, then mentally for sure! Thanks to that, we’re open to what can still be done, what can be improved and how to steadily improve ourselves. In our areas of activity, knowledge of the systems alone isn’t enough. Specialists in thermal and acoustic calculations are essential. So are people who can speak several languages, who can visit a client, give a professional presentation and answer highly detailed questions. They’re excellent at it, which is why I’m so very proud of them.
But you also have foreign employees in your branches abroad, don’t you?
Of course. Just imagine how convinced by our solutions an educated and experienced German engineer has to be in order to visit another German engineer or architect and persuade them to use a Polish system! They need to set national sentiments aside and bring concrete parameters and specific factors into play, demonstrating the advantages of our solutions. Their belief, which is grounded in knowledge and experience, is the best evidence of the success achieved by our designers and engineers in Bielsko-Biała and Opole. They’re the Aluprof brand’s best ambassadors.
The Germans, the British and the French are the best ambassadors for Polishness in their countries?
If that astounds you, then think about the road they’ve had to take in order to get used to the thought that they’re going to be working for a Polish system producer. They cut their teeth on Schüco, Wicona and Reynaers and now they visit their colleagues in the architects’ studios and say ‘Listen, I’ve got something better’. We’ve never made a secret of our Polishness. On the contrary. We’re turning it into a plus and, increasingly, European construction professionals are becoming convinced that ‘Polish’ stands for outstanding quality and first-class service. I have the impression that, mentally, the ‘distant land’ of the not-so-distant past is drawing closer and closer. I actually experienced that during the Bau 2019 Trade Fair, which triggered my enormous enthusiasm for, and tremendous recognition of, the work of our teams. Not only the German team, which was the host there, but all those who came to Munich with their clients during the event. It was certainly worth it!
What are your plans for the next few months?
Ambitious plans. We’re looking for an increase of more than 100 million zloty in sales. Our exports are developing most dynamically and that’s where we’ll be placing the most emphasis. We’re assuming a dramatic growth in sales in Croatia, on the Iberian Peninsula and on the Scandinavian markets. That’s during the next few months. In addition, Kuwait and Kenya are markets where we’d like to make our presence clearly felt as a company, as Aluprof. Last year, we launched the expansion of our warehouse and production facility in Bielsko-Biała and we’ll be bringing a new vertical paint shop on line this year. We’re also planning to extend our Opole facility. We’ve actually opened a showroom, a friendly spot where clients, architects and developers can meet in surroundings provided by our products. The visitor schedule for the first six months is already full. The launch of the Aluprof Research and Innovation Centre, where our clients will be able to carry out product testing, is scheduled and we’ll be continuing our work on sustainable development, too. Those are just some of the activities we have planned for 2019... which we believe is going to be even better than last year.
Thank you for talking to me. I hope everything continues to go as you want it to.
ROBERT KLOS March 2019
“People would certainly do all right without a boss, but a boss won’t do all right without people.”