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Bringing the family business community together

Hard & Soft Skills

23rd January 2017 Paul Andrews

Jakub Dzik is the son of the founder of the Impel Group, one of Poland’s five largest employers, with up to 60,000 people working either as subcontractors or employees. 

When Impel started, Poland was only just emerging as a modern economy – as Jakub says, “there was no VAT, no real legal framework, and state-controlled companies employed huge numbers of people and no-one knew how to behave on the free market.” 

Impel started out as a cleaning and security company, but has evolved from that into an international outsourcing business, offering facilities management, a range of property services, catering, accounting, payroll, and IT services. As this suggests, IT is a real strength: “We’ve used SAP for some time, and the challenge there is being better at data analytics. Not so much collecting more data as working out which data is more important. I’d also like to look at developing a portal for customers where they can see all their contracts and management information in one place, and the information is visualised for them.”

"I would love to run the whole business myself one day, and that’s what we’re working towards, but it’s not an absolute certainty. I would accept it if there came a time when an external professional was the best option for the business, and in those circumstances I’d look to take a role on the supervisory board. After all my responsibility is not only to the family, but also to all the people who create Impel and call the company their own business."

Jakub joined the firm in 2009, after a law degree, and since then has taken various roles in the legal and financial departments. He’s been on the management board of the security division for three years, and has just recently joined the holding company board as well. Is there anything he would have done differently, to prepare for these roles? “I would have studied something different at university – the law is not very practical, as it is taught in Poland. I have good ‘hard’ knowledge in finance, business, and the law, but I could probably do with more soft skills. In terms of things I’d change, I think I’d have pushed for a more senior role earlier. I am cautious by nature, and I came here with a huge amount of respect for some of the managers, many of whom have been here more than 20 years. In those circumstances you sometimes worry about making a decision – you think, ‘what if I’m wrong, what if the money could have been spent better on something else, what if the acquisition is a bad idea and sets us back instead of taking us forward?’ But looking back, I think I was worrying too much and I could have progressed faster.” 

Is Impel’s success down to the fact that it’s a family business? “Some of it, undoubtedly. I’m very proud of what we’ve built. And I think we have greater decision-making capacities and flexibility as a family firm. The challenge is the human factor—for example, we are more cautious when it comes to making decisions that affect our workforce, especially if it means losing jobs. It takes longer to work through the decisions on something like that – it takes longer to make those changes. But that’s the right thing to do. My ambition is that we continue to be a responsible and ethical company, and one that pays fair wages to its workers.” 

Outsourcing has changed hugely as a sector, in recent years – does Jakub see further change ahead? “The business environment is changing all the time, and maybe the business models we have developed up til now will no longer be valid. What should always stay the same is our values: how we deal with our customers, how we respond to their needs. I would love to run the whole business myself one day, and that’s what we’re working towards, but it’s not an absolute certainty. I would accept it if there came a time when an external professional was the best option for the business, and in those circumstances I’d look to take a role on the supervisory board. After all my responsibility is not only to the family, but also to all the people who create Impel and call the company “their own business.”

About the piece - This feature forms part of the PwC Next Generation Survey 2016.  It has been reproduced with permission of PwC.  Click here to see the full results of the survey and other features.

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