It was a nerve-racking time. When Poland joined the European Union last May, business leaders weren't sure what to expect. Would their companies be able to compete against EU heavyweights? Tomasz Sielicki, president of Poland's ComputerLand -- a computer software and services company unrelated to the U.S. retailer -- was among the worried ones. "There was a fear that we would have stiffer competition in Poland while protectionism in other markets might be a barrier," he says.
Sielicki, 45, had little cause to fret. ComputerLand, founded in 1991, racked up one of its best years ever in 2004. Sales jumped 27%, to $246 million, while operating profit rose 60%, to $10.3 million. ComputerLand is the biggest supplier of info-tech systems for Poland's banking sector and is rapidly expanding at home and in neighboring markets. Some 5% of sales are now outside Poland, and Sielicki expects that to grow. "We have the edge over other companies in the EU because we work harder, and we are cheaper," he says.
In founding ComputerLand, Sielicki, who has a master's degree from Warsaw University of Technology, saw opportunity in two revolutions -- the end of communism in Poland and the rise of personal computers. The company's staff has grown from a dozen in 1991 to 2,000 today. In 1995, ComputerLand made its debut on the Warsaw Stock Exchange. Its market capitalization now tops $225 million, and Sielicki controls 9.6% of the shares. "The immediate future of the company is bright," he says. As long as his competitive streak doesn't fail him, he has little to fear from competition with the West.
By Bogdan Turek