It is not difficult to become a CEO, the trick is to be a good one. Interview with Marek Moczulski, CEO Unitop
What are your forecasts for the Polish economy in the light of recent global events?
Much depends on what steps are taken by the Polish government. Today, some entrepreneurs find themselves in a situation where they cannot run their businesses and earn a living. Many industries are simply completely cut off from profits. Businesses don’t really need state aid, what they need is permission to continue operating. Restrictions should not be introduced practically overnight, often making businesses lose their only source of income. I don’t understand why the Polish government first ordered that space be adapted to the current regime and then closed businesses, like they did with restaurants. After all, these people spent money on buying hygiene products or re-arranging their space for guests.
We should be stimulating the Polish economy, not forbidding it from doing business. New taxes should not be imposed on businesses, especially in a crisis, such as the sugar tax, for example. You can see that the government is looking for funds to patch holes in the budget. If any regulation is introduced, it must improve businesses. In addition, new regulations should be consulted with target groups, with attached calculations of the economic effects of each decision, and sufficiently long preparation period. An example of how changes should not be introduced is the so-called “Five Points for Animals” (Pol: Piątka dla Zwierząt) Act, which is in fact an act that is anti-animal husbandry and anti-agricultural. Moreover, this aberration would affect not only breeding farmers but all taxpayers, and during a time of economic uncertainty and looming crisis. If anyone should be forbidden by the government to run their business, it should only be done for the sake of higher goals, e.g. when their activities are definitely adversely affecting the natural environment.
To summarise, when introducing new regulations we need precise calculations, specifying the effects of a given regulation and, above all, public consultations. And we don’t have that at this point.
What are your prospects for your company for the next three months, six months, a year?
Unitop is a company with traditions that has a very strong position in Poland and around the world. We are one of the leaders of halva and sesame seeds in Europe. The pandemic has somewhat changed our plans and limited our entry to new markets, but we are financially stable. We are constantly developing our company, regularly investing and modernizing our factories. In the near future, we will automate production lines and increase their productivity.
We plan to strengthen our position on the markets, although Unitop is well known, for example, in North America, the Middle East and Asia. I started working at Unitop with a very specific vision of the company’s development. There are at least a few markets in which we have a very strong position – including in Canada, Australia and Western Europe. Now is the time to increase our presence in the existing markets, and at the same time enter new ones. In the coming months, we will certainly work to increase the position of our company in Poland. In addition, we are investing heavily in e-commerce and are starting a modern sales channel, where businesses will be able to order our products with delivery to the company.
What changes or improvements would you like to see that would facilitate running a business in Poland?
I have pretty much already answered this question. The demand for certain products depends on their prices, the market situation and the economic situation. And the latter depends on the actions of the government. I would like to stress once again that dialogue with entrepreneurs and enabling them to run their own businesses is essential.
What is the worst thing that you think could happen to your business within the market environment? What are you afraid of?
A good leader must stay positive about the future, focus on investments, have strategies for various scenarios and plan. The current pandemic situation has tested the strategies of many companies. It is important to have the right alternative and to successively pursue goals. My goal is to strengthen the Unitop brand and double the category of halva and sesame seeds in Poland. What distinguishes our products is exceptional quality, which is confirmed by all consumer tests that we do. We have an advantage over many producers because we make halva by hand. And that’s what we want to promote. I’m not afraid of tomorrow. We are well prepared to continue our business in many respects.
What is the most difficult situation you have had to face in business?
I am an experienced strategist and I have helped many companies get back on their feet. It is difficult to pinpoint one situation. When I start working in a company, I feel that I am starting a new chapter in my life. Every company I have worked for gave me something special and I felt connected with each of them. During restructuring, not everyone is satisfied with the changes presented. People fear the new and unknown. I’ve always stressed that change is my element. The role of a leader requires patience and the ability to talk to other people.
In my career, I restructured Agros Fortuna, pulled the confectionery producer Mieszko out of a hole, and in recent years I was behind the successful merger of Bakalland with Delecta. Each of these companies required an individual approach, and the situations were difficult in their own way. We should remember that the process of changes and development of a company requires not only skills, but also the ability to win over business owners, shareholders and employees.
What does leadership mean to you?
Leadership is being a responsible leader and having a charismatic vision. Inspiring people to change is a key element of success. A leader is someone that delegates tasks and skilfully supports people in their implementation. I really appreciate people who know how to discuss things, not just nod. It is not difficult to become a CEO, the trick is to be a good one. Also, leadership does not only involve hard skills, but talking with employees and often getting into their shoes, understanding their needs. Success has many fathers, so I believe that leadership is also talking, listening to other people’s needs and helping each other. All the more I regret that today’s authorities do not listen to entrepreneurs and do not want to talk to us.
What are the secrets of managing such a large organisation?
This is the secret of every leader. There is no one answer to this question. Before I start working in a given company, I always analyse the situation and I must admit that I don’t always undertake changes. The key to success is having the right resources. It is not only about financial resources, but most of all about employees. The chemistry between the CEO and his colleagues is also very important, i.e. working together and pursuing similar goals. The most important thing is that the company that is planning the changes actually wants to implement them. Managing a large organisation requires trust in another person. A management style that is based only on control will not be successful here.
What do you think about artificial intelligence?
Artificial intelligence is the future. What once seemed almost impossible is now standard. Even several decades ago, no one thought about bots with which you can talk and explain banking matters or complaints. We are surrounded by artificial intelligence, although not everyone knows about it. Buildings that absorb carbon dioxide, as well as digital assistants or dedicated software are everywhere.
Artificial intelligence is not only robots, but also special machines that can replace the manual work of humans. And although we ourselves make halva by hand, we strive to automate production lines to streamline the process. Businesses that will not invest in technology will certainly not have a chance to grow and stay in business for much longer.
What technological trends will impact the future of business?
The interpenetration of the physical world with the digital world is necessary and visible in every area of life. The COVID pandemic has significantly accelerated the digitisation process in many companies and made it possible to perform work remotely from anywhere in the world. Businesses will definitely use cloud solutions and will store their data and documents online. Companies will also focus on virtual models for process optimisation. However, I do not expect robots to completely replace humans at work. Although research shows that some jobs may disappear, or rather their work will be performed by robots or automatically. However, this is the way of the future. Every entrepreneur should implement modern technologies in his company, and thus strive to improve production and optimise costs.
What life-changing advice have you received from someone in authority?
I don’t have any specific life-changing advice. Nevertheless, early in my career at Price Waterhouse, our managing partner Bob Burgess shared his thoughts with the newly hired employees. He said something like this: welcome to Price Waterhouse, the best company in the world. We want you to be the best at what you do. There is no working or learning without making mistakes. If you do make a mistake, it only needs to be fixed quickly. If you make the same mistake a second time, we will be watching you closely. If you make this mistake a third time, we will send you to work for someone else.
I use this method with my colleagues. I believe that people should have the right to make mistakes. Nevertheless, I do not tolerate repeated mistakes of the same or similar kind.
What is the best and most inspiring book you have read recently?
Last Sunday I read the Book of Ecclesiastes again. Nothing wiser than the Bible has yet to be written and will never be written. I treat other books more in terms of entertainment and relaxation than some particular inspiration, and I read a lot.
What values do you follow in life and at work?
At work, my mission is to help companies that are currently in a difficult situation or to strengthen a given brand on the market. Of course, the ultimate goal is to maximise profits. However, I am aware that good values presented by the company increase the loyalty of employees and bring them closer to the company. In addition, they help us acquire proven and reliable partners. I am always in favour of promoting an ethical attitude.
What makes you feel better? What are your proven ways to fight stress?
A trip to the Bieszczady Mountains is the best way to relieve stress. Fireplace, music and no telephone are the perfect trio.
Last Updated on December 16, 2020 by Karolina Ampulska