GnieznoJune 1997 I started working on a project for VELUX which took me to Poland, more specifically to the city of Gniezno situated in the western part of Poland. As Factory Director I was responsible for building a fittings factory and starting up the production. It was indeed a green field project - there was not even a road leading to the piece of land that had been purchased.

The first year and a half I lived in Gniezno. I had a first floor apartment in a small building with a game hall in the ground floor. The building was situated midways between the city square and the cathedral. The city centre had recently been done up and the cathedral was very beautiful, so it was a nice place to live. Gniezno a city of 70,000 people is not so well known outside Poland but it has a very prominent place in polish history. Gniezno was the first capital of Poland and the first polish kings are buried in the cathedral. The danish city of Roskilde is a twin city of Gniezno and has many similarities with Gniezno, also in Roskilde most danish kings and queens are buried in the cathedral.

 Living in Poland i the later part of the nineties was also an encounter with a society in change and the economy in Poland at the time was not good, and social security was quite different from the social security systems in western Europe. A high awareness of the problem and a higher sense of social responsibility was required. I received many a heart-breaking letter asking for help both from individuals and from health institutions - we helped where we could.

Work vise it was an exciting and challenging time. Poland was trying to find its feet in a for them new capitalistic world. At that time Poland was full of paradoxes, where especially the younger generation was distancing them from the communist time, while the older generation was a little apprehensive about the new ways and to some extend missed the former social security of the communist time -  no doubt at this time many people in Poland had a very difficult time.

We had daily challenges attempting to run a company according to western principles in a now capitalistic country, where many laws had not yet been changed, they were still the old laws from the communist time. And most civil servants were still the same ones from the previous system desperately trying to cling on their previous positions and privileges. Apart from certain civil servants I found most polish people very friendly, hard working, slightly reserved, but also curious - many people in Gniezno had had very little direct contact with people from the west.

Having no factory and thereby no office, I rented an office in a neighbouring office building housing a local company. From here I hired the first staff. A bookkeeper, an office assistant and an engineer. During the building of the factory the four of us started preparing and setting up things. Of-course also supported from colleagues back in Denmark.

After 9 months the factory was finished and we started production. We had hired staff for the production and a technician for equipment maintenance. We started up some 20 people or so but the number quickly grew. It was some of the best colleagues I have had through out my career - there was this special kind of chemistry between us as you often find among pioneering people - we felt as pioneers. I have always had a strong believe in having a good mix of people employed young, old, men and women. In the production area not least the ladies we employed were fantastic - hard working never sick and very loyal - they appreciated the way we organized and ran things and they payed us back in full.

A part from the great staff at the factory we had support from a legal advisor and as we were trying to do as much locally as possible we got a lot of support from the Mayor and his office but also people like the local branch manager of the WBK bank was just about bending over backwards to support our activities.


Poznan Having build the factory and the production up and running I moved to Poznan, some 60 km from Gniezno. Poznan is the region capital in Wielkopolska(Greater-Poland) it has a population a little short of a million people. Poznan is an interesting old city with an amazing activity at "Stary Rynek" (old city square) in the summer time where the square is full of sidewalk cafe's and bars. Being a university city there are a lot of young people in Poznan creating a great atmosphere in the city.

There is also quite a few cultural institutions in Poznal which I visited frequently. In the National museum of Poznan at Stary Rynek. There were exceptions of polish national art. I often found the art in the exhibitions (in the late nineties) a bit "dark" and sinister - quite understandable knowing the past history of Poland often full of suffering and suppression - I hope to return one day and see some of the more modern art.

As a foreigner Poznan offered much, I lived in a nice area near lake Malta. And were now having more social contact to other foreigners - Germans, Dutch, English and we had a small "Danish club" where danish expats met and discussed things of common interest - we of-course also played a game of card, and had a few beers, not least courtesy of Carsten who was importer of Faxe beer from Denmark.

I’m honoured to receive The city of Gniezno millennium medal from Mayor Bogdan Trepiński.After three years, and having completed the pioneer work I decided to leave the project returning to Denmark to a job as factory manager at Linak A/S on the island of Als in Denmark. When it became known that I was leaving I was invited to the office of the Mayor in Gniezno to be bid farewell by Mayor Bogdan Trepiński with whom I had developed a good and trustful relationship. Entering City Hall I was surprised to see reporters from some of the local newspapers. It turned out that I was awarded the City of Gniezno Millennium Medal, in recognition of my personal effort supporting the economical development of Gniezno. I of-course was very honored and pleased to receive this recognition.


GdanskFebruary 2007 I returned to Poland this time as Project Manager/Factory Director working for VELFAC a well known Danish windows manufacture from the same company group as VELUX - the VKR group. I was responsible for a project, finishing the construction of a new window factory and the start up of production. The new factory was build near the city of Tczew south of Gdansk.

Again a very interesting and challenging project building up a new company from green field - my first office was a container-office. I found much had changed in Poland in the ten years that had past since I started the project in Gniezno. Many things had become much simpler making the task easier this time.

Poland was now part of the EU, meaning free movement of people and goods across the Polish borders, which simplified especially the logistics and the like. The struggle we in the nineties had with the customs service, the customs officials and other civil servants was now quite different from my previous experience.

In ten years a whole new generation of skilled young people had surfaced - many had been in western Europe working there coming back with a different mentality and excellent language skills. Many others who had not been abroad but in Poland had experience in working internationally with companies outside Poland. It was much easier finding people with language skills, accountants and auditors who knew the structure of a western chart of accounts, ERP systems, etc. Production staff for whom LEAN, 5S, JIT etc, was no longer new concepts.

I found much the same commitment and hard working attitude as I had so enjoyed in Gniezno. I continued my approach with mixing men and women making sure that we had at least 50% women - Polish women really are next to none in a workforce. And like in most of the world these days - women are taking over.... they are often better educated, more motivated and more ambitious than their male counterparts. Also this is a pleasure to watch - how committed studying, hard work, motivation and drive brings the women of today to the pole position.

What also made this project easy for me and a pleasure to be part of was a highly skilled and very committed Danish project team, things were planned in details and executed with precision - this was truly a joy to be part of.

I lived in Sopot, a city just north of Gdansk and together with Gdansk and Gdynia what is called the three city area.

Gdansk (former Danzig) is an old Hansastad. It very destroyed during World War II but later rebuild in a very nice way so one today can enjoy the characteristic Hansa building style. Gdansk also has a very prominent place in the recent history - it was at the ship yard in Gdansk that the Solidarity movement started. The Solidarity movement became the beginning of the end of Communism in Europe.

Sopot is a very nice city and holiday resort for many Poles, it has a great beach area a nice pier stretching hundreds of meters out in the Baltic sea and many nice restaurants.

After the completion of the factory and a successful start of the production I left the running of the factory to new management and returned to Denmark as Project Manager for a new development project for another company within the VKR group.