Poland is a good country in which to do business
Before you try to break into the Chinese market, have you considered Poland? We tend to see massive coverage about China and India, but are there easier places to do business?
How can we tell if Poland is a market worth entering?
Let's look at some criteria that will help grade the country.
- Geography -- Poland borders seven countries: Germany, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Ukraine, Byelorussia, Russia (a small section known as Kaliningrad) and Lithuania. That's seven countries within driving distance.
Poland is in the middle of Europe, putting it the unique position of being a crossroads, a stop-off point and a springboard to European nations. On its northern side, Poland is bordered by the Baltic Sea, allowing for direct ocean cargo in and out of the country.
The Web site also indicates 10.6 million Internet users and a labor force of 17 million from Poland's population of 38.5 million. While the corruption perception index (corruption rated by business people) places Poland in 70th place, China is still behind at 78th. India is ranked at 88th (www.transparency.org).
Hence, Poland still is trying to organize its market. Many firms dealing with regulation, financial reporting, negotiation training, security and public relations are finding market opportunities in Poland. Smart firms get retainers.
- The European Union -- Poland joined the EU in 2004. This forces higher standards in government, law, banking and commerce, and removes trade barriers among EU countries. Poland can offer a cornerstone in a 25-country market, comprising 450 million people.
Because Poland doesn't possess the great wealth found in the UK, Germany or France, it receives EU grants, soft loans and other aid. Firms that know how to procure these donor funds from the organizations that offer them (for example, World Bank, Eureka and IMF) will be in advantageous positions, providing the funds are used to enhance Poland's infrastructure.
- Infrastructure -- Poland has many of the amenities that foreign business people require, such as clean hotels, an extensive network of ground transportation, Internet capabilities, telephones, modern banks, and of course, dining and entertainment.
Its infrastructure still is being upgraded, with help from EU funds. This is obviously a market opportunity for those who can design and build roadways, railways, telecommunications networks, environmental cleanup facilities, office parks and airports.
- Culture -- Poles tend to express their feelings openly, have a strong work ethic and believe they can chart their own futures.
Because Poland is a socialist country, groups are important identifiers in its society. Negotiations are more commonly performed in teams, and while consensus isn't always reached, it's sought. This is in stark contrast to the American way of working, the individualistic nature of our society and the belief that "the buck stops here."
When selling within Poland, relationships are essential, and appropriate introductions can make or break any deal. Again, this contrasts the American "business is business" mentality, where we can sign deals with total strangers and expect the law to protect us. Customer intimacy is what assures smooth transactions in Poland.
Women can transact business in Poland. While the role of women doesn't equal the Scandinavians', women's rights far surpass those in China or India.
- American-friendly -- There are an estimated 27 million Americans with at least some Polish ancestry. The largest Polish city is Warsaw, with 2.2 million people. The city with the second-largest Polish population is Chicago.
Poland has been pro-American for decades, and has supported the United States militarily and politically. American media can be found on TV, radio, digitally and in movie theaters. Poles will try to speak English with Americans, and many will have some knowledge of our culture or history.
- Springboard to elsewhere -- Because of Poland's location, its similarity to other Slavic nations and the entrepreneurial spirit of the Poles, the country makes an excellent springboard to other nations.
Having a Polish headquarters may not carry any caché in Paris, Madrid or London, but Warsaw is the smart location for points south and east. Many Eastern Europeans look up to the Poles as pioneers in government and business.
Shrewd firms place their European headquarters in a prestigious Western European city and use Warsaw as their base when dealing with the CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States, the former USSR countries) or the Baltic nations of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia.
- Hospitality -- Perhaps the most compelling reason to do business in Poland is the Polish sense of hospitality. Poles view business people as guests who need help in their country. Poles will go out of their way to offer help to the lost, food to the hungry or advice to the curious. Poles love humor and enjoy new people.