The reactivation process of the Ursus company was not easy at the beginning, but you took that challenge; if you had another chance to decide, would you make that effort?
Of course. We became interested in taking control of Ursus 10 years ago, when the idea of privatising this state-owned company on the verge of bankruptcy emerged. At that time the owners chose a Turkish company named UZEL. The idea of acquiring the company reappeared after the Turkish enterprise withdrew and production at the plant further decreased. We had a concept for renewing the brand, and when an opportunity came, we actualised it. It’s only a pity we had to wait 10 years for that. We made the decision to take on that challenge together with my sons, as the process of reestablishing the global position of Ursus requires years of hard work. But this is a task for my successors.
You are an outstanding entrepreneur, which was recognised by the jury of the Kisiel prize. What does this prize mean to you?
It is a very important expression of appreciation for the efforts and risks taken during the revitalisation of this global company based in Poland. To some extent it should also serve as an incentive for young generations of entrepreneurs in Poland. It is worth believing in your capabilities and carry out plans which go beyond limits.
Does the Polish economy support taking challenges? How do you assess businesspeople’s willingness to create something completely new?
In recent years economic policy has focused on the neglected issue of support for building Polish enterprises and brands. However, it is difficult to ignore certain bureaucratic obstacles created at the government level. An increasing number of businesspeople from the young generation are clearly taking up the global challenge with more confidence.
The company has won contracts in some exotic countries. What kind of barriers are the most difficult to overcome?
In African countries, the URSUS brand continues to enjoy a good reputation. Many countries from that continent are keenly interested in the assembly and imports of not only tractors but also farming machines. However, without support measures (cheap loans), access to these markets is highly limited. China, India and other countries support their own exports by granting such loans. The export expansion of these countries is being advocated by a powerful diplomatic apparatus and representation. We are often observing reluctance towards supporting Ursus’ activities. The most recent example of this could be seen in one of the African countries, where a representative of our Ministry of Foreign Affairs called our consul to dissuade him from endorsing our efforts – and this is not the only case like that.
What has surprised you in foreign relations with your business partners?
The power of the URSUS brand has been a positive surprise. In many countries in the world, URSUS is a recognisable and positively perceived brand.
What kind of undertakings are being planned by your company for the nearest future?
In addition to upgrading the technical equipment of our plants producing farming machines and tractors, we are going to increase our production capabilities for electric vehicles (buses, commercial vehicles) in both Poland and abroad.
How do you imagine the company’s future in 20 years?
These visions are the realm of my sons – Karol and Mateusz.
What is your definition of success? What is more important – personal or professional success?
For me the measure of greatest success is being able to combine professional achievements with a happy family life.
Is a crisis an obstacle or an opportunity to show your management skills?
Every crisis is a sort of catharsis. It’s a time for reflection and adjustments.
What would you recommend to Polish companies – is now a time for expansion or should they focus on survival?
A technical revolution is taking place in our area of business. New sources of power and new technologies are reasons why we should forget about survival strategies. Now is the time to expand.
The company’s history dates back to 1968, the year when the POL-MOT Automotive Industry Foreign Trade Enterprise was launched, focusing on transactions related to vehicles – passenger cars, trucks, and specialised vehicles, as well as assemblies, spare parts, and components for their production, assembly and repair. In 1983, the company was transformed from a state-owned enterprise into a commercial-law entity – a limited liability company. In the early 1990s, a restructuring process started, with the goal of creating or joining entities specialised in various sectors of the economy. The years 1993–1994 marked a period of expansion and privatisation for the POLMOT Holding Company. In the years to follow, the affiliates and subsidiaries of POL-MOT Holding penetrated such automotive segments as the manufacturing of components and spare parts for passenger cars, the sales and servicing of passenger, delivery and heavy-goods vehicles, the production and sales of agricultural machinery and tractors, agricultural and food processing, real property, IT, electronics, press publishing, brokerage services, hotel management, and plastic products. At that time POL-MOT welcomed new businesses into its ownership structure – POL-MOT Praszka S.A., ZEM Rzeszów, ZEM Duszniki S.A., Farm-Mot Sp. z o.o., and many more. In 1997, POL-MOT was turned into a joint-stock company – POL-MOT Holding S.A.
In 2000, the continued commitment to the production of tractors led to a new company, named POL-MOT ESCORTS, the partner of which was ESCORTS AGRI MACHINERY SA from India, one of the world’s top three agricultural tractor manufacturers. The successive years brought about the further consolidation and strengthening of the potential of agricultural plants, an expanded share of its segment of the licensed sales of passenger cars and trucks, and real property investments. As a result of the measures which followed, the entire production and sales of tractors and agricultural machinery were grouped together into POL-MOT WARFAMA S.A, which had its initial public offering on the Warsaw Stock Exchange in December 2007.
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