The BPCC joined PBLink for the first Polish Scottish Entrepreneurs’ Forum on 27 November 2015. The event was held at the prestigious premises of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, a building with a rich history associated with the most famous Scottish scientists and philosophers. The event partners were England.pl and Team@One; the supporters were BC Printing, Santander and Cowan & Partners Ltd.
The event was opened by the Consul-General of the Republic of Poland, Dariusz Adler, and Bartosz Kowalczyk, founder of Polish Business Link, the information and networking hub for Polish entrepreneurs across the UK.
Divided into three plenary sessions, with expert one-to-one meetings in between and a large networking session to end the event, the Forum provided high-quality business information to those Polish entrepreneurs growing their businesses in Scotland, offered insights from successful entrepreneurs during the case study panel, and created an opportunity for the swapping of business cards and direct networking for the 50 participants at the event.
The first session focused on funding for business growth. There were three presentations; John Hughes of Business Gateway outlined all the sources for grants and public-sector funding available for small business in Scotland. Fraser Lusty, from Lending Crowd, spoke about crowdfunding and business angel syndicates and their role in financing innovative ideas. Steve Hand, from Santander Corporate & Commercial Banking, shared tips on how best to go about approaching a bank for business funding. After the session, participants had the chance to talk directly to the experts at pre-scheduled 1-to-1 meetings.
The second session was intended to impart practical business knowledge. Al Bryce from Business Gateway gave some excellent tips on the latest in online marketing. Sue Senior from HMRC and Neil Butler from Companies House surprised many Polish entrepreneurs in the room by proving just how approachable and business-friendly are the UK’s institutions. Ms Senior explained how HMRC is making the tax system as “quick, easy and simple” as possible for small business, wherever possible removing opportunities for error. She pointed to the various sources of support available for those running their own businesses. Neil Butler gave a humorous and Poland-focused presentation about company registration, officers’ responsibilities and compliance in the UK; much of this can be easy done online, he said. Finally, Nigel Wigglesworth from accountants Cowan & Partners gave an overview of what pension auto-enrolment will mean for small employers. “This is the biggest change facing small firms in 30 years,” he said. Again, there were opportunities for 1-to-1 meetings during the lunch break.
After lunch, Michael Dembinski, the BPCC’s chief advisor, gave an overview of UK-Polish economic relations and the business opportunities that existed in the space between the two countries. As an example, he pointed out that while a kilo of apples costs 1 złoty 49 grosze in Poland, the same kilo of apples can be sold in London for £1.49 – a six-fold margin. He also pointed to the opportunities for EU-funded R&D collaboration between businesses in the UK and Polish universities and research institutions.
The panel discussion which followed, offered some useful insights into the cultural differences between Poland and the UK, and how these affected the way business is done, and in particular relations between boss and worker and the company and its customers/clients. The panellists were Dominik Andrzejczak, founder/owner of construction company Polbuilt Ltd; Karol Chojnowski, co-founder of social-networking site for Poles in the UK, Emito.net and Przesylarka.pl; a parcel-delivery comparison website; Michal Wojnar from Team@One Ltd, the first Polish virtual office in the UK; Majka Kozlowska from Business Gateway; who has helped many Polish entrepreneurs set up their businesses in the Lothian area; Jim Ferguson, president of Johnson Matthey Battery Systems sp. z o.o. in Gliwice, and Krzysztof Kierys, co-founder of BC Printing, the first Polish printing house in Poland, specialising in all forms of promotional printing from business cards to wrapping buses and shop signage. Interesting points were raised about the differences in managing teams, the different importance of hierarchy and formality, sharing information (or not) and tips on delighting the customer. Following a spirited panel discussion and questions from the floor, the formal part of the event was brought to a close and the networking session began. This gave every participant the chance to introduce themselves to everyone else in 30 seconds, and then over wine and canapés there was ample time for individual discussions which lasted until six pm. Afterwards, those keen to continue networking moved across to Edinburgh’s Old Town, where, just off the Royal Mile, to settle down at a Polish vodka shots-bar.