Polish schools didn’t teach English when Bart Kowalczyk was at school, so he arrived in Britain in 2006, speaking only Polish and German. He took jobs among English speakers, went to language classes and gradually learned enough to launch his own business.
Pre-lockdown, Bart’s Polish Business Networking Events and conferences were packing out prestigious conference centres in London and Edinburgh, in partnership with blue-chip names in business, such as NatWest/RBS, Carter Lemon Camerons Solicitors and the British Polish Chamber of Commerce. His events continue online, attracting an international audience. He runs two other businesses: Automate Now, a HubSpot consultancy that shows businesses how to automate CRM, Marketing & Sales; and Edinburgh Connections, a business networking organisation centred on the Scottish Central Belt.
In an interview with PrecisionPresentation.com, Bart spilled the beans on just how he has achieved growth in his businesses and how he has nurtured partnerships over the years, crucial to his business today.
John F Kennedy’s presidential inauguration speech contained the memorable quote: “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” He was revealing a universal truth of leadership – it is through growing others that you yourself grow. This principle applies as much for a person, a country or a company.
Among the takeaways of the podcast, then, is the importance of building relationships in networking: asking yourself how you might be able to help those you meet rather than hunting a quick sale. It’s this gradual approach that has allowed Bart to farm the fruitful partnerships, crucial to business growth.
Bart talks about nurturing contacts at NatWest for over two years, attending their events, learning about the organisation and what benefits he might be able to bring to the table, before pitching his idea for working together with the bank.
“You can’t build a house in a matter of minutes, you need to have your team, people and so on. It’s pretty much the same with networking and with building relationships.”
Bart’s philosophy has led to a series of national PBLINK and Edinburgh Connections events in NatWest/RBS conference centres in London and Edinburgh, bringing together entrepreneurs from across the UK and beyond, while promoting the business banking services of the host venues to a targeted audience – truly a massive win/win.
This same philosophy of mutuality in leadership permeates PBLINK, Edinburgh Connections and Automate Now today – in all three organisations, Bart sees his role as enabling members, guests and participants to grow.
This supportive atmosphere contributes to a low churn rate – loyal, contented customers and members deliver steady growth.
PBLINK started as a business network for Polish entrepreneurs in the UK but has grown exponentially to encompass SMEs from numerous countries, mostly trading in the UK. Bart’s stated aim now is to go on to grow the most diverse business networking group in the UK.
With 3 million people from the EU living in the UK, plus more from all over the globe, the scope for reaching out and harnessing the power of multiple perspectives is a no-brainer. But for Bart, it’s more than that. He sees potential in being part of building the new UK, post-Brexit as a vibrant, multi-cultural society, where diversity is valued.
Lockdown has forced us to adapt to remote meetings, conferences and even networking events. Some of us have even learned to love it. Undoubtedly, remote meeting has now established a firm foothold that will outlive the pandemic. Bart thinks, nevertheless, that F2F will always have a place. You can achieve so much via remote technology but it is very comforting to meet people and perhaps discuss business over a drink or a cup of coffee.
Whatever the future, post-Covid, post-Brexit and post-whatever life throws up as we go forward, adaptability is going to be a crucial quality for businesses to thrive.
What Makes Your Businesses Unique?
It’s interesting that it is the range of entrepreneurs at PBLink events that you would not meet elsewhere – as a national organisation, it is home to entrepreneurs based across the UK, from a wide range of countries. The diversity makes it unique.
Edinburgh Connections focuses on local expertise. All the members are from the Central Belt of Scotland, so if you want a local perspective, this is the place to come. Like PBLink, it is very much a community-driven organisation with a nurturing, supportive ethos.
Automate Now continues that theme: it is about helping businesses to use HubSpot CRM to its maximum capability to automate business functions, allowing entrepreneurs to focus on growing their business. The case studies used in training are all derived from real-life scenarios in the last few years of Bart’s business, managing a database of over 4,000 contacts. This gives a personal, authentic quality to the process. HubSpot CRM is what has enabled Bart to spin the plates of growing three businesses while running a calendar of national conferences with international speakers, never losing the personal touch with individual members and customers.
What is the Secret of Business?
Bart revealed that, for him, the secret of success in business has four pillars:
- Love what you do. It means you will be authentic. And you will be prepared for long hours:
- Hard work – prepare for minimum 12-hour days for the next 5 years or so.
- Surround yourself with the right people. Try to meet and get to know those who inspire you.
- Continuous improvement and flexibility – Listen to feedback from your customers and adapt accordingly.