Success in business – what does it require? An interview with the founder and CEO of ABC-Czepczynski – Artur Czepczynski
When was the idea to establish the company born? Where did you acquire the resources necessary to start and initially operate the business?
The idea to establish the ABC Czepczyński company was born during my vacation in Greece, where I met an interesting person who was well acquainted with Polish business. Thanks to him, I got to know another entrepreneur who ran a company in the field of transportation and freight forwarding. We met in Poland, which allowed me to observe how business was conducted in 1996 and also inspired me to take action.
The first money I used to kick-start my company was earned while I was in my fifth year of studies, trading eggs. I would buy them at the agricultural and food exchange in Poznań, sort them in my hometown of Zatom Nowy, and then head to the market in Gorzów Wielkopolski at 2 a.m.
How did you imagine being an entrepreneur before starting your business?
Mistakenly, I thought it would be enjoyable, that I would only make money and have no problems. Of course, life quickly instructed me otherwise.
Did you have any crisis situations that made you consider giving up on your business ventures and pursuing something else?
I never wanted to give up on my own business, even in the midst of the greatest crisis. The first bankruptcy knocked on our doors quite quickly, in 1999, which was less than two years after starting the company. I remember it vividly because it was also the day my oldest son, Wiktor, was born. I was conned by another business person to the amount of 20,000 Deutsche Marks, which at that time was astronomical for the company. I faced several more situations that threatened bankruptcy, but after the third happened, I realized that they were like heart attacks – if you survive the third one, you can survive anything. Today, there are still smaller or larger crises that occur, but due to the scale of the business, bankruptcy is rather difficult (although I am aware that the risk still exists).
What leadership style do you prefer when managing people? How do you feel about the fact that the fate of many people depends on you?
Throughout my life, I have been building teams. I would construct a metaphorical boat, hand it over to the employees, and let them navigate it with a great deal of freedom, managing it themselves, and above all, feeling responsible for their actions. It gives me immense satisfaction to provide employment to so many people. However, on the other hand, it’s also an unimaginable responsibility and puts a lot of pressure onme, as I must remember that employees are with me through thick and thin. My decisions directly impact their lives and the lives of their families. These decisions can be beneficial for them, such as when they receive more during periods of higher company profits, but they can also unfortunately result in losses because the risks I take may lead to the need for them to find new jobs.
What predispositions, personality traits, knowledge, and skills should an entrepreneur have in order to succeed in business? Which ones do you consider the most important?
I believe that such a person must have tremendous courage, be resilient to pressure, and above all, possess a clear vision of their business. Establishing a company is the simplest piece of the puzzle; the most challenging part is sustaining it over the years.
Does the status of being an entrepreneur elevate one’s social standing? When does an entrepreneur feel fulfilled?
From the perspective of my business, an entrepreneur can feel fulfilled when not only the people working in their company but also the individuals in the surrounding community, such as the town where the company or its branches are located, can clearly experience the positive impact of the business on their daily lives. This is the moment when an entrepreneur begins to have social responsibility, which, in my opinion, is connected to fulfillment.
It is often said that an entrepreneur works 24 hours a day. How much truth is there to this? Is work-life balance possible?
Certainly, in the early years of business, an enormous amount of commitment and work is required, as well as the occasional act of putting everything one has on the line. However, this changes over time. I believe that management is not work; it is finding time and space to know where the ship (i.e., the company) should sail. Most owners set their goal as being present in the company and overseeing every aspect of the business, even though they could delegate these responsibilities to employees — if only they were able to trust them. I have managed to do that.
Albert Einstein once said, “Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value.” What values do you follow in life and business? Can business be responsible, people-friendly, and environmentally friendly?
In both life and business, the most important value for me is family. I have often emphasized that when a person places their family first in their hierarchy of values, everything else falls into place in the right way.
Of course, business can be people-friendly and environmentally friendly, and it should be! It certainly depends on the industry and the environment in which the company operates, but we have proven that even a company in the transportation industry can support ecology and develop in a way that minimizes its negative impact on the environment.
Do you engage in charitable activities and help those who are less fortunate in life? What specific actions have you taken?
I often and willingly engage in charitable activities, both as a company and personally, together with my spouse. I appreciate entrepreneurs who similarly get involved and distinguish charitable actions from sponsorship, as unfortunately, they are often confused.
I engage in local initiatives, addressing both the needs of our community in Międzychód and the communities where our company branches are located. We collaborate with organizations such as Szlachetna Paczka (Noble Package), the Great Orchestra of Christmas Charity (WOŚP), and support animal shelters. We have financed the expansion of a pediatric hospital in Poznań and the purchase of an ambulance. Recently, we closed down our recreational facility to host families from Ukraine, and we organize fundraisers for those affected by the war. There are truly numerous initiatives we pursue, and my family, employees, contractors, and friends are all involved in them.
Are you a happy person? What brings your happiness to a higher level, considering all that you have achieved?
If my employees smile and are satisfied with their lives and work, it means that I have done everything to make them feel appreciated. And then I can find happiness because they are happy to take on more responsibilities from me, they are creative, and they want to develop themselves. As a result, I myself have more free time.
Owner and CEO of ABC Czepczynski and Simple Way, companies providing forwarding services in European road transport. Creator of the proprietary “SafeCargo” carrier verification system, actively involved in the prevention of massive cargo theft.
Owner of boutique travel agency SONRISO and insurance multiagency Carelius. Co-owner of WEZAJ resort and MUFU creative agency. Founder (with his wife) of the Czepczynski Family Foundation, whose main goal is to increase the availability of to education of the youngest through the ABC of Economics and ABC of Empathy projects. Member of the Board of Directors of The Family Business Network Poland and the Family Business Council of the Lewiatan Confederation.
Family Philanthropist of the Year 2019 by Forbes magazine, winner of the Janusz Korczak Award (2022) and TOP Charity 2022 for his commitment to helping Ukraine, and WEKTOR 2022 for philanthropy born out of his own story.
Last Updated on May 18, 2023 by Valeriia Honcharuk