Adam Krzanowski, co-founder and CEO of Nowy Styl: We still have a lot to do
When did you first have the idea to start a business? Where did you get the necessary resources?
I’ve always wanted to have something of my own. I have never thought I’d be the owner of a global brand that Nowy Styl has grown to be, but I’ve been dreaming of creating something from scratch ever since I was a child. I chose to focus on chairs, but in hindsight, I can say it was a coincidence. When I was a student, I went to the United States to earn money to start my own business. I found a job in New York, with a company known as Whyte – a chair manufacturer. That’s where I saw the backstage of this business and got the necessary know-how: I’ve learnt to assemble and upholster furniture.
When I decided to return to Poland, Henry Stern, the owner of Whyte, helped me and my Brother Jerzy start a business in Poland. He became our partner and held 40% shares. Henry died a few years ago. His shares went to his son, Ronald, who continues as our shareholder. I am happy to say this relationship is not only about business. Our families are friends and continue to meet regularly.
Nowy Styl started its operations in Krosno in 1992 when I was 26. We used a red Polonez car to transport our first products. At that time, similar companies based their operations on imported products. We have always manufactured the models from our portfolio, which came as a surprise to our contractors. The first months weren’t easy – just like any other startup, we had to cope with considerable logistic challenges, but we quickly managed to get the obstacles out of our way. We started with a headcount of 7 people. One year later there were as many as 100 employees.
Who are your clients? What are the main issues you need to cope with? Do you believe the client is king?
Nowy Styl has three main brands: Nowy Styl, Kusch+Co, and SOHOS by Nowy Styl. Each brand caters to different needs and helps us reach a new group of customers. Nowy Styl targets mainly multinational corporations, as well as large and medium-sized companies, professionals, such as architects, developers, corporate real estate agents, and distributors. Kusch+Co is a brand whose message resonates with the users of premium products. Meanwhile, SOHOS by Nowy Styl focuses on traditional distributors, furniture stores, and interior designers. With such a diverse and broad portfolio, we can meet the needs of many segments and industries.
In our organisation we cherish the principles of customer centricity. We are customer-focused, which means we try to predict the wishes, needs, and preferences of our clients, by delivering modern products and comprehensive services. Since day one we’ve engaged in a dialogue with our clients, in order to exchange knowledge and experience. We take care of our customers, starting with the needs analysis and workspace planning, to the entire sales process, project implementation, and coordination of the activities related to moving the office. We don’t speak of problems – we prefer to talk of challenges, and we tackle them thanks to our flexibility, innovativeness, consistency, and necessary know-how.
What’s your mission and vision for the future? What have you yet to accomplish?
We help people arrange their offices and other public facilities. We do it with passion and consideration of environmental issues. We try to make every office customised to the users’ needs as regards health and comfort. Our solutions make work pleasant and more effective, and cater to ergonomic and aesthetic needs. This is our mission. With the experience and assets we have accumulated over the 30 years, we can come up with better solutions and use the latest technologies. We conduct our own product research, help our clients with workplace analysis and provide end-to-end services. This is already happening, and we want to continue and reach out to more markets. We still have a lot to do: we want to grow, we have ambitious plans for the future, and we are going to follow them, at the same time meeting our clients’ needs and market requirements. All this is, of course, done within the current economic and political context. We want to have a greater number of satisfied customers, who will be coming back to us. We want to continue to grow – organically and through mergers. We’ve always taken brave actions, and we’re not going to stop.
Does being an entrepreneur involve hard work, calling, or a kind of madness? Is business more about win-win, or more about a ruthless rat race?
Frankly speaking, I believe being an entrepreneur is a mixture of all the above in relevant proportions. As I mentioned before, I’ve always known I wanted to create something of my own. We can therefore say it was a sort of calling. When I left for the USA, I knew I had to work hard, learn and gain experience. The effort I and my brother made back then has produced lasting results. That’s why hard work is definitely an important success factor. And you can do with a bit of madness, too. Our accomplishments can also be linked to courage and spontaneity. Manufacturing furniture in a small town in Podkarpacie must have been a crazy idea back then. It turned out we were right to follow our intuition.
Should an entrepreneur be modest, or quite the opposite? Or maybe it depends on the business?
I believe that business owners, who set trends and manage a group of people, don’t necessarily have to be modest. It’s the confidence they have in their knowledge and skills that helps them tackle everyday challenges. But modesty is different from humility – and the latter, I believe, is necessary. I and my brother have always thought humbleness is crucial, whether you’re dealing with success or a new opportunity, or failures and threats. As we achieved important milestones, we never indulged in self-complacency. We always looked for further goals. We displayed the same attitude when our decisions proved wrong – for example when we set up a business in Argentina. We understood that investments in such distant markets may not be a good idea in our situation. We learnt our lesson and decided to wind up that company.
It’s often said that an entrepreneur works 24/7. Is it true? Can we speak of any work–life balance?
It is really hard to achieve work-life balance when you’re an entrepreneur. Especially at the beginning, when your business is still fresh. You spend most of your time answering the phone, replying to e-mails, talking to business partners, honing your business proposal, and looking for potential competitive advantages. With time, when your business is stable, you can – in fact, you should – try to find some time to breathe. It’s necessary for your health, hygiene, and regeneration. Before 2008 each business decision was made by me and my brother. We knew that if we stuck with this model, we would never be ready to grow and start international expansion. That’s why we appointed a board of five people, who were supposed to work together to make decisions and be held accountable for them. We shared our areas of responsibility and this structure has survived to this day. This is also when we managed to find some space for work-life balance. Myself, I like to spend time in my vineyard, travel, and play tennis. I also try to spend more time with my family, which is a great source of pride for me.
Are you involved in charity? Do you help those less fortunate than yourself? What steps have you taken to this end?
I’ve always remembered and cherished the place I’ve come from. Nowy Styl is now an international company, but we’ve never forgotten about our roots, which are here, in Podkarpacie. We focus on the most urgent needs of the local community. We have drawn up the “Donation and social support policy”, which includes the guidelines we follow in choosing the initiatives we’re going to sponsor and support. We are also involved in a few long-term projects. One of them is the annual charity ball, organised for the children from the local orphanages and care facilities. We strongly support the “think globally, act locally” mindset, that’s why our foreign subsidiaries are also involved in helping their local communities. In 2001 I and my brother established the Janusz Korczak Foundation, which supports talented children from Podkarpacie. Each year a few dozen young people receive scholarships from our Foundation. We are also one of the sponsors of the Siemacha association for young people in Kraków. Supporting children and youth is one of our priorities as regards charity.
Albert Einstein said: “Try not to become a man of success, but rather a man of value.” What values do you stand for in business and in life? Can business be responsible, environment-friendly, and humane?
Ambition, honesty, humbleness, and tolerance are the values I’ve always stood for. When I started my own business, I wanted to make sure these values are reflected in the organisational culture of the new company. And this is what Nowy Styl is like: ambitious, honest, humble, and tolerant. We foster partnership and trust, and we take care of the world around us. That’s why we respect and cherish the natural environment. Our environmental policy is consistent with the ISO norms. We follow the CO₂ Performance Ladder to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and we expand our portfolio of recycled products. We are also actively involved in charity and in the life of local communities. Our Korczak Foundation helps young people from poor families so that they can have access to education and have a chance at success in their future lives. I can safely say that Nowy Styl is a business built on values. We are against groundless violence, that’s why we immediately withdrew from Russia when the war in Ukraine broke out. I believe business can and should be responsible, environment-friendly, and humane. As entrepreneurs, we can not only make things happen but also empower and inspire others to do the same.
Adam Krzanowski, co-founder and CEO of Nowy Styl
Entrepreneur of the Year 2014, Man of the Decade according to the BIZNES.meble.pl poll, Leader of the 21st Century according to Forbes in the BrandMe CEO competition. Businessman by vocation, bold strategist, appreciated for his social commitment. He built Nowy Styl – one of the most dynamically developing furniture companies in Europe – from scratch with his brother Jerzy Krzanowski. Today, Nowy Styl sells in about 100 countries and is a European leader in the office and public interiors sector.
Last Updated on March 29, 2023 by Valeriia Honcharuk