35th Wffc Bih 2015

World Fly Fishing Championship 2019

Adrian Furman – polski Stephen Hawking biznesu

Grupa AF was valued at over
12 mln PLN (~3.6 mln USD). Adrian Furman – the CEO, founder
and majority shareholder is going to tell us what makes his company unique in the market,
and why he is looking for an investor. – Hello.
– Good morning everyone. In December 2017, an independent
business valuation was performed and your company was estimated at
a value of 12 million PLN (~3.6 mln USD). For you – was that just a confirmation of the value
of your company, or rather it was a bit of a surprise? I would say that I usually prefer when life surprises
me positively, and it happened that time as well. Of course, as the CEO who looks after the business every day, by monitoring the income for example I observed how this income was
growing month by month. My careful estimation was between
4 and 6 million PLN (~1.1 – 1.7 mln USD). Am I pleasantly surprised? Of course I am,
but I must say that it is a moderate optimism because I know how much work
lies ahead of me and my people. Since 2015 your company
has experienced a dynamic growth. What has this period looked like in the recent years? Grupa AF LLC was founded in January 2015. As a brand, we had been running for 4-5 years using my proprietorship. Later on, we decided to make it more professional and set up a limited liability company. The brand was taken over by a company. In the first two years, 2015 and 2016,
we focused on building the competencies of our team on working on its recognition – the brand recognition and expanding our offer. It’s important to remember that the roots
of Grupa AF are in software and marketing. Grupa AF of today is AF Business Solutions group
with three important sub-brands, which we are probably going to talk about soon. However, the year 2017 was really a breakthrough year. We took advantage of the Polish legislation which enforced mandatory Energy Efficiency Audits
to be performed before the end of September 2017. Based on the audits we successfully carried out
for various companies such as FedEx, Tui, or Grycan
– there was around a hundred of such energy audits we can definitely say that the year 2017
was a breakthrough year for us. Not only in the aspect of the products offered,
but also in the aspect of the company’s image. Customers started perceiving Grupa AF LLC
as a recognizable company which is invited into cooperation. I can see that 2017 was crucial not only
in terms of the company’s development but also in terms of the expansion of your services
and launching a subsidiary company in the USA as a part of the corporate group. What is the effect of those actions? I would say that our sub-brands
Software and Marketing, Consulting and Poland IT Lab are product divisions. It’s hard to combine software and marketing with
Energy Efficiency Audits, CSR reports, or ISO products which we are going to introduce soon. It was important to show our customers,
especially in case of the two former sub-brands what the differences between them are,
so that the customers would not be confused. Communication with customers is an important matter. Everything had to be put in the right order. It was achieved with those two former sub-brands
which are going to be further developed. For example, recently, instead of Energy Efficiency Audits, we have dynamically introduced GDPR reports together with further implementation
– a very popular topic nowadays. For now, we can proudly say that we’ve already
signed some contracts with companies such as Toi-Toi or Dyckerhoff. This week we have also signed
five more contracts concerning GDPR reports and further GDPR implementation. What about the company’s financial results?
Where do these numbers come from? Yes, this subject is very interesting indeed. Well, why wasn’t I surprised with the valuation results,
or rather – why was my optimism moderate? It is because the income for the year 2017,
which is still being counted is estimated to be around 9 million PLN (~2.6 mln USD). And this is what we really achieved
in comparison to year 2016 with 1 million PLN (~292 thousand USD) income
with relatively the same operational and HR costs because Grupa AF is a company engaged in
so called “high services” or “expert services” where the main costs are those connected to
the maintenance of the specialized staff. The performed valuation was based on the income generated by the LLC company in two divisions. The first one is obviously Software and Marketing
which, no matter what the legislation is implemented all the time. In this case the margin was much higher
than in the case of the Energy Efficiency Audits but these energy audits are another story. This is where the 1.3 million PLN
(~382 thousand USD) of income comes from. Those two divisions or sub-brands combined:
Software and Marketing with much higher margin and Consulting in which we still need to put
a bit more work to reach a high margin. On the other hand, we have much higher expectations towards our American company in terms of expansion and growth dynamics than towards the core of our company here in Poland. Why? Because it’s something new. Naturally, we have less to start with
so the income growth percentage should be high. Let’s remember that putting Poland IT Lab
in our portfolio as an independent company financially linked [with Grupa AF] through my person,
has a positive impact on our image. It contributes to the brand Grupa AF here in Poland. The fondness we have for Polonia living
in the United States is still alive and it will surely survive for many, many years,
and we have to take advantage of that. The famous “American Dream” is still here. Our American company
is going to be based on the two pillars. The first pillar is typically financial. A factory worker, a so-called “blue collar worker” in Ford factory in Detroit earns 2-3 thousand dollars a month. For the same amount of money here in Poland
I can hire a mid-level IT specialist which means that we provide advanced
software services with lower operational costs here in our country. Also, our company image is improving thanks to
the ideas of a “self-made man” and “American Dream”. In fact, with very little cost involved we also found out that we can fulfill the market expectations by referring to me as
“the Stephen Hawking of business”. It found fertile ground in the USA. I have come across an information that
you are looking for an investor for 22% of your shares. We are not expecting to find a venture capital investor who would expect from us a stable rate of return. Rather than this, we are looking for a business angel who by investing money in Grupa AF could let us create a Research and Development department which we currently lack. What do we need such department for? First of all, to become a fully technological company. Right now the technological aspect of our company
is not as developed as we would like. We want to focus on that. The second important thing is that as a person
with a disability I can see a huge market which despite seemingly highly
developed technology, is not exploited. We need to be aware that the vocational activity rate
of people with disabilities is currently equal to 22% so measuring it with unemployment rate we could say that almost 66% of people with disabilities
do not work at all, they don’t have any job. That’s the unemployment. It is a really saddening image and it results
from two things – of course, it results from the low vocational activity of people
with disabilities and their poor education. There’s no two ways about it. But on the other hand I can see
an enormous motivation to work and the lack of the right instruments in the market
to help the disabled find jobs. It not about launching another company that would have an army of security guards on wheelchairs let’s say that this market has
already been fully developed. It’s more about modern technologies and certain business support – for small business for example. There are no such instruments. Grupa AF sees a potential in it, but it doesn’t have funds, time, nor people to create something like that. Please remember that in the case of a potential investor we are talking about generating some instruments
that could be easily applied beyond the Polish market. And this is our incentive for the potential investor. As for today 22% is estimated by me
to equal 2 million PLN (~583 thousand USD). When there will be a specific offer on the table,
I am open to negotiations. What components determine the value of the company? Most of all, it is the brand. For a couple of years – the year 2013, 2014,
maybe 2015 – we focused on retail customer service on a small business customer, for whom the absolute
value is a low cost and a relatively cheap product. While in the year 2017 we were able to
establish a brand, a brand which we have got which is considered reliable by medium-sized
and large business customers. We are not targeting corporate clients yet
because we don’t bite more than we can chew. At this moment we are not able to compete
with companies such as PwC which, by the way, also offer consulting services
such as ISO, GDPR, CSR reports. But mid-sized and large companies such as
Grycan or Toi-Toi are surely within our range. So the value is obviously the brand
which is currently able to generate customers by itself. Another value is the technologies we have got,
our know-how, and our people, a team of experts which basically consists of
around 80% of people with disabilities. I always like to mention that Grupa AF
is not only Adrian Furman but also over 25 contracted employees –
my coworkers, and also over 50 people who are our subcontractors, business partners,
who make up Grupa AF. Overall, the result of all of that is over 8, maybe even
10 million PLN (~2.9 mln USD) of income. Is investing in human capital a foundation
of Grupa AF’s business? Yes, of course it is. It’s because Grupa AF was founded by me,
and I am a disabled person and it’s also a workplace of people with disabilities, sometimes with a severe dysfunction but it doesn’t mean that we are not able to
deliver a valuable content. We can do this, and we keep doing this. And now, according to PFRON (ENG: The State Fund
for Rehabilitation of Disabled Persons) 90% of fundings provided for the creation of jobs
for disabled people go to simple tasks jobs such as security or cleaning. But we are different. In many cases, people who joined us
were highly motivated they had this fighting spirit in them,
they were ready to fight for the competencies. That’s why the year 2015-2016 is important
because I, as the CEO could see that maybe there aren’t
that many competencies that professional language is not present,
but I gave these people time even if from the economic point of view it wasn’t…
let’s say, there were return rates using more professional language. The time those people needed to grow
was really important. Of course, we invest money in various courses,
we have our own multimedia library we have e-books – the whole network we can say. When speaking about buying e-books, we’ve got so called “gold medal” on one of the e-book selling sites because I think nobody buys
as many e-books there as we do. Our flexible working time policy is
very important for people with disabilities and it’s also possible because we offer expert services, where I assess the outcomes. If one of our team members has
some kind of rehabilitation planned or someone feels unwell, they have the right to rest. It’s not an assembly line job,
and it makes no sense to push people in that direction since the right approach, compassionate approach, towards people often results in higher motivation. What is your Business Without Barriers
campaign about? Well, let’s start with the market gap. We noticed that one of the biggest Polish charities had given up on their Business Without Barriers campaign. They had just abandoned it. But we decided that it’s worth it to continue this project and it’s worth it to issue certificates
for supporting people with disabilities. For collaborating with Grupa AF,
which is a social responsibility entity or for any real actions taken by our contractors. Contractors show us that they have supported
or funded some kind of course or maybe they helped a person to pay for a surgery. We issue this kind of certificate. What’s really interesting, Business Without Barriers
is already a trademark itself and this trademark was also taken into account
in the valuation process. It’s also worth mentioning,
because it creates a sense of reliability. At this point it is not as developed as I would like but I think that the year 2018 is going to be
the year of working on this soft capital which is later going to become an important
component of Grupa AF’s brand recognition attracting customers to us.
It’s very important. From the very beginning you followed the idea
of creating a company different from the others. Is it the right time to say that you have succeed? Yes, I can say that. I can say that based on
what I wanted to achieve in Poland. I can feel fulfilled. It’s the moment when rather than thinking about expanding the company or increasing the income I think more about raising
the products’ margin for example. It’s not about having 10 million PLN (~2.9 mln USD)
of income with 5% margin. I would prefer to have 5 million PLN (~1.4 mln USD)
with 50% margin, it’s as simple as that. And this is what we are going to work on.
I can say that I’m pleased. Diversity is written in your company’s DNA. There’s no denying that you turned disability
into a marketing advantage. Have its effects on business already been visible? Yes, of course. The years 2011, -12, -14, -15, -16
were marked with disbelief because it’s not a company
that employs people with disabilities. It’s a company created by people with disabilities. The fact that I am the CEO is a result of certain actions, but I cannot say that the company is me. This company is us, and the advantage of disability
has finally received a positive meaning. Because how are disabled people usually seen?
As those who need help. Maybe as those who often have a demanding attitude. Our company has presented
a completely different image. It’s us who help people, we help companies
to become more effective in business. It’s important that we do it on B2B market –
on mid-sized, and large enterprises market. This kind of recognition, and the fact that we are disabled, we can’t deny that, this is our heritage. The very important thing in this case is the context,
it has to be clearly delivered. We can’t be demanding, we must be experts,
we must make a good impression and we must be the ones who take the lead. That’s why it’s a real honor to be the CEO of Grupa AF and to lead the team of “the Invincibles”
– this is what I call them. Because our people, despite their – often severe – dysfunctions, sometimes invisible dysfunctions achieve 200% of efficiency and they are the winners both in the business and in the company environment – they have accepted all conditions of tough business. It’s important to remember that business works according to an old Chinese maxim “It doesn’t matter whether a cat is black or white,
as long as it catches mice…” – The outcome is the most important.
– …and we do catch mice, more and more of them. That’s why I can say that the year 2017 is the year when the wheelchair became a characteristic symbol
in the market, but with a positive meaning. What are your business plans for 2018 then? As I said before – optimization
and working on product margins. This 5% progress we can see in the valuation report
is absolutely within our reach and we are going to go that way. But most of all, we want to build up the products
that started to reach much higher margins than before Software and Marketing, and GDPR – which is already in the phase of confrontation with the market and signing the first contracts. We also want to introduce legal services
and we are going to offer them soon. We also want to make our brand and Grupa AF stronger and more visible, especially in media. It appears that the phrase “the Stephen Hawking
of Business” is the slogan the market wants it’s a good catchphrase. The more recognizable we are,
the stronger Grupa AF brand is going to be and it’s going to attract more clients. So this is what I wish you for this year
and the coming years as well. – Thank you very much.
– Thank you very much.

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