We talked to Tomasz Urbański, the President of this organization, about the goals of the recently established Polish Trade Association and Flooring Industry, the opportunities it offers to its members and the condition of Polish industry organizations.
Let me start with a question that I suppose is at the heart of The Polish Trade and Services Association of the Floor Coverings Industry. What is missing from this sector?
Tomasz Urbański: - There is no entity on the market that would implement projects related to increasing the competitiveness of its member companies. This can be done in different ways: issue certificates for products or services, so you can defend companies that rely on quality, not only on low price. A purchasing group can be established, where not only can you get lower prices for certain products but also acquire attractive products to which individual companies do not have access. You can create a distribution system that will help you get fair and market margins, which is not so easy today. In addition, the association may represent a wider industry associated not only with carpets but also with wooden, ceramic or even other floors that do not have their representation. There is one more important issue. The point is that we are an organization based on the law on employers' organizations, which means that the members are companies. This puts us in a better position in relation to many market partners and public administration. We are simply treated seriously. Thanks to this, you can realize a lot of valuable projects.
The name of the Association is long and difficult to remember, will you propose an abbreviation?
- Perhaps, in the future. Today, the point is that thanks to this name, we immediately communicate who we are. This is important at the beginning when we are not yet recognizable.
How will the Association differ from existing industry organizations? Of course, I am not asking for formal differences between an association and a society - how will you operate to distinguish you from others?
- Every organization can specialize in something and through it be distinguished from others. We want to focus on trade-related matters. These matters are neglected not only in our industry. The idea is to help create such conditions, thanks to which small and large companies will be able to realize real incomes so that they can provide their clients with better service and better working conditions. The more companies are associated, the better conditions can be created. You can do this through the so-called purchasing group, issuing certificates, promoting member companies and many other things. We are also open to different projects.
Among many smaller companies, industry organizations are treated as entities whose goal is to earn, not to support the industry. This is not a positive opinion. How are you going to deal with this kind of objections?
- I think it is important to learn from the mistakes of others and listen to people around. Earning money is not a bad thing, provided that the proceeds are spent on statutory purposes, in our case for the support of the industry. I think that member companies should make money, but only in their companies, and if they are profitable due to the association's activity, that's what this is all about and that's the goal of our organization. In addition, everything should be as transparent as possible. I think that as members and authorities of the organization, we should be very sensitive to this, taking into account the errors disclosed in some publicly known organizations.
What should be done to raise the prestige of industry organizations (we are talking about floor coverings) in Poland?
- I believe that the prestige of the organization is the sum of who is in the organization and what the organization is doing. If we focus on relevant projects and start implementing them, the companies themselves will want to join us and then this prestige will grow. Of course, I realize that this is an action which will last for years.
How do you reach new potential members? What arguments do you use to persuade them to join this initiative?
- More and more people are aware of the fact that belonging to the Association raises the company's prestige. Today, customers who are much more demanding, want to buy something more than a simple product or service. When you buy from a company that is affiliated somewhere you receive a certain guarantee that the company is not out of thin air, because the organization has confirmed its professionalism. Our contributions are small. Probably one of the lowest when it comes to associations. Plus, everyone from a member company is automatically a member of the association, so they take an active part in the life of the organization. Members also have the chance to participate in the purchasing group, they will have the opportunity to promote their products or services. We also take into account participation in the collection and receipt of market data, i.e. the sales volume of individual products. There is also the possibility of engaging in selected projects but also the possibility of not engaging in ongoing activities, because I realize that most people have a lot of work in their companies, but through the membership itself they want to obtain the support of the association.
How can you reconcile the interests of everyone who is in the capacious industry group named "floor coverings"? Are they convergent at some point?
- There are a lot of convergences and here I don’t only mean that ceramics, wood or carpets are laid on the floor. First of all, each of these branches is closely related to services. Second, there is a similar distribution method. Another similarity is that there is a very similar proportion of power between manufacturers, distributors and assembly companies. We have the same suppliers of tools and manufacturers of construction chemicals. Everywhere there is an individual and institutional customer market. I will add that we have the same entities like the investor, designer or general contractor. So, there are so many similarities, that we can easily recognize that it is one industry with several branches.
Membership fees are not high - with a small number of members, it will be difficult to create budgets for large-scale activities.” Does this mean that you will be looking for sponsors, for example for training?
- Money is important, but not the most important. With good organization, we can do a lot with a moderate budget. Of course, membership fees can cover only the basic operations of the Association. We will look for financing for other projects. We will certainly want to be supported by sponsors. We have very interesting proposals for manufacturers who are thinking about making it or developing on the Polish market.
The interview was conducted by Katarzyna Kaźmierczak