Erbud has etched ecology boldly into its strategy and doesn’t plan on crossing it out. Dariusz Grzeszczak, Board Chair at Erbud
Mr. Grzeszczak has just donated 1,5 mln zloty to help Ukrainians; he is about to buy out more German firms. He just closed out a record year in its 31 year existence, which does not identify as a „family” company, although he claims it is. Dariusz Grzeszczak, president at Erbud, „Personality of the Year” at this years edition of „Diamonds of Infastructure and Construction”.
On your companies website you claim to be „the biggest independent construction company”. Were you ever tempted to sell it to an international Corporation?
I was, I was, or rather, others were tempting me. Partly my friends, who set up smaller firms in different sectors, and they gave in and are probably happy with their choice. I take pride that I can say Erbud, which I started up years ago with my father, is the biggest independent Polish company. I remember when we cracked the top ten, then top five and we are closing in on third place. But I don’t have a champagne bottle cooling to celebrate, for years I have been more interested in organic, calm and steady growth.
You call tripling your profits in a year steady growth?
*chuckling* I see someone prepared for the interview. Huge impact on our fiscal results are due to the firm ONDE, but it is not that simple. To better understand, you have to go back more than ten years. Jacek Lczkowski, then a young manager, who is still young, but he is vice president of the whole group, he sold his small road and curb building company to me my father and me. He stayed at the top level, but left quickly in shock upon witnessing the price war. It was a difficult market – the world counted all the criminals jumping out of the Lemans Brothers building, housing market stagnant, the whole industry badly battered was pushing into life boats on a sinking ship, in other words latching on to contracts prepared before the 2012 Euro Cup. Unfortunately that lifeboat was overloaded, some giants fell overboard, during this time we tightened our belt and searched for an alternative.
Plan B was building renewable Energy sources?
You should always have a plan B. You have to be an optimist prepared for the worst. Not everyone was convinced of RES. It was the „Toyota Prius” in a world of polluting diesels, some experts thought we were crazy. After federal elections in Poland, Jacek Leczkowski, still young, again looked in horror, what will happen, since day to day bidding for wind farms was stopped. ONDE (actually its PBDI – an old fashioned name for that company), found a cozy spot for itself in this peloton, and another blow. Situation changed, in those few years they made a huge jump by raking in contract after contract. ONDE means „waves”, so in a way – it rode the wave with wind at their backs. Let it continue, for the future of our children.
Volume building at this time low in demand?
Not at all. Volume building has a world of possibility. We used to build hotel after hotel – say the Radisson in Swinoujscie) or the Hilton in Gdansk, shopping mall after shopping mall – we finished the contract for Mlociny Gallery, the biggest investment of its sort in Warsaw before the pandemic. Today this has changed, we have less office buildings, but plenty of storage warehouses or Logistics centres – last year we signed yet another contract with Lidl, on Christmas Eve, for 300 million zloty.
Gift from Santa?
Well, not really a gift, gifts you receive for free, in this case, our whole team worked for this. To get a huge contract like this, you really have to have a few hundred fulfilled contracts under your belt, trust of clients, suppliers, happy and willing workers who don’t come and leave constantly. This guarantees steady work flow, builds the companys reputation. Recently we said goodbye to Mrs. Mariola who after working at Erbud for 31 years, retired! Wise men advised me not to say we are a family, but quite a few senior directors and company presidents cried at her retirement ceremony, so I concluded that we are in a way family. I don’t want to elaborate any further because I was touched and stil lam by the unbelieveable solidarity of our people with our Ukrainian friends from worksites and full understanding of our support.
Why can’t you say that you are a family company?
Do you know a family that has 3000 memebers? I feel for someone who would have to invite that many people to a wedding!
You mentioned earlier that I prepared for the interview. I read that last year you had 500 less employees. That’s huge growth.
In large part that is thanks to our latest acquisition – we bought IKR, a service company from another giant German company, Bilfinger. It Specializes in petrochemistry, have their own welding trade school, it nice fills our portfolio with service industry. Besides that ONDE is on a hiring tare, we had plenty of trainees, best of whom got job propositions. More big scale recruitments ahead – shortly, 200 young people will join our start-up program MOD21.
What’s will they be doing?
We are starting modular construction, working with wood, we are waiting for our production line to arrive, ordered last year, we have recruited scavengers from Germany and a brave forward business plan. First modules will be ready this year. Germany has a very perspective market, all statistics are rising, Germans pay less tax if they build more eco-friendly. If someone is not concerned with the future of our planet, then they will be persuaded by the extra money in their wallet. DHWR – that being the German council for the lumber industry, predicts that by 2050, half of the German construction industry will consist of pre-assembled wood structures. MOD21 has all the traits to be a strong player in this sector. Speaking privately, as Dariusz, not president of a company: zero emissions, sustainable development, post-growth ideology, cradle-to-cradle philosophy, these are topics that I root for personally. Do you travel by plane?
Would be difficult to go by train to Thailand.
Swedes have a word „flygkam”, which means „shy before flying”, travelling by plane leaves a carbon footprint. They don’t and will never probably have a word for „shy from concrete”, despite being „dirtier” than the flight industry, but be sure construction from lumber will be a trend on the rise across all of Europe. Right now we have a war, topic of Germany recarbonizing, attesting the Energy market and insecurities. Either way, I don’t think anyone will drop out of the transformation in the long run. Erbud has etched ecology boldly into its strategy and doesn’t plan on crossing it out.
What is your goal?
Last year we got the EMAS certificate, as the first big construction company in Poland. We contacted them so nobody can accuse us of „green washing”. A list of green leaders was compiled by the prestigious German institute „Statista” for „Forbes” magazine, we got first place. Not just first place in the construction industry, but first among the top 500 companies in the nation. Yes, last year we reduced our carbon emissions at the fastest pace, good enough for first place. We certified the first electrode boilers in Poland at power not seen at that time. In downtown Torun the first air filter, funded by ONDE was installed. Our goal for the next three years: maintain this awesome rate of green transformation in our company.
Which completed investments by Erbud are you most proud of?
Thank you for asking, please make yourself comfortable and have an extra set of batteries for your recorder (laughs). The first zero emissions recycling plant in Poland, it was built in Konin – that was my personal favorite. I Like Koszyki Hall in downtown Warsaw – last year we even rebuilt it, this time as a map for the Counter-Strike computer game, at which we held a e-sport tournament. I like the ICE tunel that connects Cologne and Bonn – when I ride through it by train I always get this feeling of patriotic pride, that a small company from Torun slapped together such an impressive structure. I am always proud of every hospital we built, the South Hospital in Warsaw most proud – completed before the deadline, it helped the people at the height of the pandemic. How many pages do you have set apart for this interview? I can name my favorite Erbud projects all day.
Another angle: What project would you like to undertake? Perhaps a skyscraper in downtown Warsaw?
Our marketing department would like that, just for the nice pictures. I imagine an educational home for youngsters at our Foundation; ERBUD Mutual Challenges. We prepare young people from child care homes for the adult life. It should be the states job to provide social housing for these young people, but they queue is so long, very few available flats, so don’t count on it. Educational home, preferrably built from modular constructs, preferrably in my home town of Torun, where Erbud has its headquarters, this would for sure be one of my main goals.
What prospects do you envision for they construction industry in the coming years?
Business diversification helps me and my employees sleep at night. As I mentioned, I’m an optimist, but always prepared for the worst?
Dariusz Grzeszczak , Board Chair at Erbud
In 1990, along with his father Eryk Grzeszczak, he founded Erbud Ltd. In Torun, at which he currently sits as Board Chairman. Erbud is the biggest independent construction company in Poland, on the Polish Stock Exchange since 2007. Employs nearly 3000 personell in Poland and Germany, Mr. Grzeszczak ha salso served as VP of VdPD – Polish Service Companies In Germany Association, former board member at Polish-German Industrial-Commercial Chamber, currently a member of Polish Business Council (PRB). He finished Mechanical Engineering at Gdansk Politechnic University.
Last Updated on June 23, 2022 by Anastazja Lach