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Starting an English building company in Warsaw.

robchops20 1 | -
8 Apr 2018 #1
Hi All.

I am moving my family from the UK to Poland, my wife is Polish. I have my own successful building company in the UK, but once we have finished building our own house in Poland I will also relocate . I have read a lot of horror stories about Polish builders and they seem to have a bad reputation , of course not all of them. I want to start a building company in Warsaw with a Polish partner. I am thinking to advertise as a English reputable building company working in Warsaw. My understanding is that there are a lot of foreigners in Warsaw that don't speak Polish very well, that could speak and understand English much better. My question is do you think there could be a profitable market for a English building company to service the expat market in Warsaw?
Atch 17 | 3,703
9 Apr 2018 #2
I suppose in the end it comes down to the size of the market. How many expats in Warsaw want to build, improve or renovate a house? Many of them are living in Poland temporarily and are in rented accommodation so they won't even need small jobs like a garden wall built. However there are also foreign investors. Having checked the stats, the top foreign buyers at the moment are apparently German and Ukrainian. Ukrainians are more likely to use a Polish builder or even bring their own team over the border.

While checking the stats I found that there are around 45,000 foreigners living in the whole of the Mazowieckie region so if you're prepared to do jobs outside Warsaw that's a fair number of potential customers but like I said, bear in mind, many of those don't need a builder. About 22,000 of them live in Warsaw and a quarter of those are Ukrainian, and of course many Warsaw expats are just there to work and not stay permanently. There probably is a big enough market to earn a modest living, but I would be wary about investing too much money in start-up costs. When you say you want to set up with a Polish partner, do you mean you already have one or you're looking for one? And do you mean a working partner or just an investor?
Richthecat 8 | 68
9 Apr 2018 #3

Good luck with your venture, I am now going to give my opinion which will be predominantly negative, please take this as just my observations and I could be completely wrong and it is not a personal attack on your idea but......

So the positives first.

There is definitely a lack of good tradesmen in Poland due to the good ones for the most part being poached abroad.

English is desirable as there are many Foreign Businesses looking to invest here in Poland I would say this would be your market rather than individuals.

Now Negatives.

The major issue will be getting a workforce the Poles Struggle to get good workers and you will need one with some kind of English understanding our you will have to speak Polish to him. With a complete lack of a decent workforce, many companies are employing the bottom of the barrel employees alcoholics dragged from the street and then turn a blind eye to them sipping vodka at 7 am. These people will ruin the reputable image you are trying to build. Also because you are a Brit, unfortunately, they will demand more wages from you than they would a Pole so you will get the worst workers for the highest price.

Without contacts, you will find you will be paying retail prices for materials as most of your cost will sit there you will struggle to quote competitively, Of course, you will build these contacts up over time but the initial period will be difficult and again you nationality and language will be a barrier here.

In Poland, if you want to take a **** you need a piece of paper with a stamp on it from the town hall LOL a small joke but in the building trade, you will need so many pieces of paper it will be a nightmare. I am sure your wife can help you navigate the Town Hall, Good Luck, but you will need to find the people with the right stamp that you need for each project again without contacts expensive.

Also, you will have the joy that all new business owners have here in Poland ZUS basically you will need to pay 800 pln per month whether you make money or not doesn't sound much but adds up quick when you can get work for the first couple of months.

In summary, I think its gonna be tuff and unfortunately if you are a decent builder which I am sure you are you will conclude like the Poles disappearing for a couple of months to Germany or England to earn a year's money is worth it.
mafketis 35 | 11,479
9 Apr 2018 #4
I'm not entirely clear on the concept of English building company... Building things in the English style (which I don't think actually has much prestige in Poland) just owned by an English person? Focusing on those who want to speak English to a builder (most of whom won't need anything built)?

many Foreign Businesses looking to invest here in Poland I would say this would be your market rather than individuals

Almost all those will be working through locals who will prefer traditional Polish builders (despite the inconveniences).

Struggle to get good workers and you will need one with some kind of English understanding our you will have to speak Polish to him

Getting past the language barrier is just the first hurdle, you also need to know _how_ to give orders or ask questions in Polish culture (it can be different from anything English speakers are used to).

To be brutally honest I would strongly advise against a big capital outlay before you know what you're dealing with (know the local market, work and building customs etc). You might want to look to something less risky in the beginning as you learn the local system maybe a rep for English building suppliers or something like that..

Contrary to modern buzzwords, it takes at least a year on the ground to learn how something works in a different cultural environment, risking a lot of money when you don't know how things work is a recipe for disaster. Poland can be a great place to live once you understand the system but it can and will chew you up and spit you out before breakfast if you don't...
delphiandomine 88 | 18,454
9 Apr 2018 #5
I want to start a building company in Warsaw with a Polish partner.

You'll get scammed without a shadow of a doubt. In particular, stay the **** away from family members who might want to 'help' with the business.

Poland can be a great place to live once you understand the system but it can and will chew you up and spit you out before breakfast if you don't...

Couldn't agree more. If he's serious about doing such a thing, spending a couple of years learning Polish intensively and working in a Polish construction company wouldn't hurt.

My question is do you think there could be a profitable market for a English building company to service the expat market in Warsaw?

Nope. Most "expats" will move into something already built, and even ones buying a new build property will most likely buy one from a developer rather than from a small company. I'd personally wonder if you had the means to successfully complete a project here, especially as you don't have a background in construction here.
terri 1 | 1,664
9 Apr 2018 #6
One word 'don't' You have no idea of how the building trade works in Poland, your family will scam you for everything you've got and you will be left with nothing. If you don't believe me, come back in 2 years time and tell me that you have made a success of your business. Then I will fall down on my knees and beg your forgiveness.
delphiandomine 88 | 18,454
9 Apr 2018 #7
your family will scam you for everything you've got


Do not do business with anyone in the family, nor anyone connected to the family. They will no doubt offer to "help", and the end result will be huge losses and problems with the family. The wife, in true Polish tradition, will refuse to believe any of it until it financially impacts her, at which point, she'll leave and demand huge amounts of cash.

It's all quite predictable and happens all the time.
polishinvestor 1 | 362
10 Apr 2018 #8
Forget limiting yourself to an expat market that often skimps and saves more than natives can do. And why limit yourself to a few thousand individuals. There are plenty of folks with money in Poland and to be perfectly honest, good tradesmen that can be left on their own are worth their weight in gold. These days I tend not to share the ones I use as its taken years and decades in some cases to find them and there is only so much work they can take on before you are stuck at the end of a one year plus waiting list. There is of course work for even the worst kind of builders/tradesmen. Its of course a spectrum. However, before you begin I suggest you very slowly make yourself aware of the way the Polish property market operates as a whole, before making any big decisions. That may mean simply speaking to others who are doing similar things or even spending some time at all levels from the site to planning. For this kind of work experience you'll need access through a friend or family, otherwise I imagine it will be difficult for you to see whats going on and how things are done. A lot of things are easier to do than in the UK, but there are certain ways of doing certain things which differ from a UK approach. Surveys in my view are wholly inadequate but this can work for you as well as against you, while fitting bathrooms and kitchens isn't much different but with plumbing and heating often different methods are employed.
delphiandomine 88 | 18,454
10 Apr 2018 #9
For this kind of work experience you'll need access through a friend or family

This is quite a good idea, especially as you'll get a good insight into the methods actually used.

But do not go into business with the friends/family, no matter how good the offer might be.
terri 1 | 1,664
12 Apr 2018 #10
Before you consider ANY business venture in Poland, make TRIPLE sure that there is a market for it. Do not assume that your idea is a revelation and that no one else has thought of it. You will lose money on it. You must ask people in the locality what they need, what kind of business would be that area and then work consider if you can do it. It is no use having a good business or service if no one wants it. Do your market research first.
polishinvestor 1 | 362
13 Apr 2018 #11
But do not go into business with the friends/family, no matter how good the offer might be

I try to do business only with people and companies that have more assets than me. You want to avoid counterparties working on a shoestring.
Dirk diggler 10 | 4,846
13 Apr 2018 #12
Poles have been in construction for generations.The majority of polish males that emigrated west work in some part of the construction and real estate trade or atleast have at one point in their life and have atleast one family.member in the trade. The barriers to entry are fairly low but it takes a long time to develop the skills and network to be a successful contractor.

The trade in pl is dominated by polish owners and ukranian workers. In the us its poles and mexicans. However theres less and less poles as the ones who worked in it for decades afe now old, retired, some.moved back to poland, etc. Theres a huge demand for contractors and home remodelers but due to the actions of some acammers customers are far more weary with handing over a deposit to start work. Also ma y jobs require the contractor to put up his own capital. In us its fairly easy to.get started but in poland though if you try to start a remodeling or construction firm you simply won't survive as a non pole or a person with no network. It is a business filled with unscrupulous characters and people ready to rip you off as soon as they can smell your unknowledgable with the industry. Youll have next to zero recourse to recoup unpaid debts either short of sending a few goons as pl courts dont care about such things unless theybe been bribed to care about it or know one of the parties. I've seen some crazy **** in this business both in us and pl. You're way better off having such a business in the West where atleast you have some recourse in the courts, granted its still very hard to recoup money from dead beats. I've been in this business for most of my life and yes it has amazing profit margins 20% to even as much as 50%. However you simply will not survive in the polish market where theres tons of competition and super low wages for skilled workers ue to the influx of ukranians. You'll simply get muscled out, wont get many jobs, wont be able to find good workers without knowing polish/ukranian, have to know about the trade so you can price jobs appropriately and know how much labor/materials will and examine all possible incidentals, not to mention its super hard to find truly skilled workers that won't rip you off and wont screw up jobs and dont need to be babysat. I've been in this business since I was a teenager and theres still a lot of new stuff I learn everyday. I'm now focusing on subbing out masonry for the next few months. You can make great money and once you have a network you can make thousands even tens of thousands for middlemanning jobs.

Also, the new constructions tend to be fairly large developer sp zoos that already have their own contractors. You'd be unable to get such jobs without a reputation which is everything in the business. You'd have to focus on small jobs like handyman type stuff then gradually grow to small home remodeling like windows, painting, etc then you can do larger and larger jobs. Without knowing hvac plumbing electrical some basic masonry roofing theres no way you can just jump into new residential construction. And even once u kmow those things you have to build a rep so people can trust you with a 6 7 figure deposit and you won't run away with it, declare bankruptcy, keep the money and change ur company name as many contractors have done thus ruining it for the more honest ones.
G (undercover)
13 Apr 2018 #13
People are giving their "advices" when actually it is unknown what scale of business this guy is talking about and that's critical issue here in my opinion. I can't imagine an English guy handling 10 Polish workers, multiple clients regulations etc. and it won't generate enough income to hire people dealing with it. On the other hand If it's going to be either large or very small, It might be a good idea. Of course If really has a clue about this sector.
Dirk diggler 10 | 4,846
13 Apr 2018 #14
That's true - we don't know if he's planning on being a GC, specializing in plumbing, roofing, etc., home remodeling, new construction, etc.

In any case:

I can't imagine an English guy handling 10 Polish workers, multiple clients regulations etc.

I agree with that. First off, most English speaking expats aren't looking to build a home in Poland. Most are either renting and a few who have decided to stay longer might buy a condo, a townhome, or a house in the suburbs. Not too many build their home from the ground up and even then most of the new constructions that I see tend to be in suburban/rural areas. Nonetheless, there is certainly a market for remodeling. However, I don't think OP will be able to break into that very easily as this is already dominated by Poles (many of whom speak English) and have Ukrainian workers which they pay peanuts.

There's quite a few Poles who left Germany, UK, US, etc. and were very successful contractors in their host country only to come to Poland and realize it's a waaay different ball game.

I'm sorry I just don't think a British guy could really manage to get enough jobs to make it a worthwhile effort wishing to cater home remodeling/new construction to expats. Maybe home remodeling in general - but you couldn't exclude Poles as there's more middle and upper middle class Poles than there is expats. Yes, there's more and more expats but a Polish household bringing in 8-10k Z's a month that own a 400-500k Z home are much more likely to hire a person to remodel a bathroom or kitchen or fix the roof than an expat who makes even double that but rents or perhaps even owns a newly built townhouse/condo in which case they'd mainly just be calling for maintenance as those new constructions tend to be very nicely done with high quality materials, good craftsmanship and modern design so there's little to remodel.
polishinvestor 1 | 362
13 Apr 2018 #15
Absolutely the opposite I'd say. I wouldn't touch anything flat wise built in the last 5 years, unless I was prepared to put a lot of extra money into it. I hear many instances of flooding of top floors and lift shafts. Work is usually completed by unskilled Ukrainians employed by sub contractors trying to increase their margins.
Dirk diggler 10 | 4,846
13 Apr 2018 #16
Absolutely the opposite I'd say.

Depends where. The townhomes I've seen in Wroclaw were very nicely done. Same with some of the new constructions outside the city.
But yeah... if a contractor took some large project from a developer or property management company and the timeline is more important than quality of work and the person cutting the checks isn't too familiar with construction/remodeling, then yes, they'll cut corners wherever they can.
delphiandomine 88 | 18,454
13 Apr 2018 #17
I can't imagine an English guy handling 10 Polish workers, multiple clients regulations etc.

Handling the workers is possible (but very difficult), but handling the regulations? Impossible without a Polish partner that knows the trade.

Dirk knows his stuff in this field, and he's bang on the money that the only way to do it is to start very small and learn from scratch. Of course, the partner might not be too happy at the large drop in living standards...

First off, most English speaking expats aren't looking to build a home in Poland.

Absolutely. I can think of only two that have done it that way, everyone else just bought something already built or as part of a new development. A lot of expats are congregating in certain areas (like Krzyki in Wrocław or Jeżyce in Poznań) where it's either new flats (and so the fit-out service is needed) or older houses. The ones that live outside the city tend to be a little bit...hmm, odd, and not the type that would hand over 300-400k for a house to be built from scratch.

I'd give him six months before he loses everything, unless he's willing to start at the very bottom to learn everything from scratch.
Dirk diggler 10 | 4,846
14 Apr 2018 #18
The one thing the op would have going is the abundance of ukranian workers. However hed need a way to communicate with them so hed need a Polish partner. Finding good workers is imo the hardest thing in the business in the US, mainly bc most the older white guys (Poles italians Irish) already made their own firms, retired, some went back to poland, etc. The younger pl guys tend to be priced well and are fairly skilled but unreliable and some even drink or get high on the job. It's nearly impossible to find a guy who knows how to do carpentry, painting, electrical, lay flooring or tiles, etc. Chances are theyll know how to do maybe 2 or 3 things well, say framing drywall painting carpentry but then be clueless on installing a toilet or ceiling fan.

He won't have that problem due to the abundance of skilled ukranian labor. Rather hed have to deal with starting from scratch in a new country and not knowing the langauge. Hed have to trust a pole to translate everything which could work well if he finds someone trustworthy and honest. If the English guy handles the finance and accounting aspect while a pole handles the operations it could be a successful venture. However he can forget about targetting new construction for exists. That's simply way too small of a market.

Imo the easiest to break into is residential painting, windows, bathroom remodel, basement waterproofing and remodel, tuckpointing, roofing, etc. All those jobs have good margins and dont require expensive machinery. You can break into those fairly easily and wouldnt need to have more than 2-3 workers for such jobs.
delphiandomine 88 | 18,454
14 Apr 2018 #19
The problem is the partner - in his situation, he'd probably be encouraged to start a business with some cousin or family friend. He could keep a strong hand on finances, but when family politics come into play, he's always going to end up a loser.
SigSauer 4 | 397
14 Apr 2018 #20
At that point though what makes his business any different from regular Polish ones in the same industry? Im not understanding the niche that hes going to fill, or what sets it apart from other construction companies if the Poles are all on the front end.
Dirk diggler 10 | 4,846
14 Apr 2018 #21
Its a terrible idea for multiple reasons - very very few expat are homeowners in poland, second even if they are theres no reason why theyd seek out an English builder when there's plenty of poles who speak English, third hed have to find an honest pole who can run the operations/management side and actually know the business and not merely pretends to. I'm not saying that this guy as an English builder cant be successful in poland but not with his current plan of catering only to English speaking expats
mafketis 35 | 11,479
14 Apr 2018 #22
Im not understanding the niche that hes going to fill, or what sets it apart from other construction companies

I'm not understanding that either.... Does British construction enjoy a good reputation? First I've heard, what I've mostly heard from Polish people who've lived in the UK is how they didn't like the building/construction...
Dirk diggler 10 | 4,846
14 Apr 2018 #23
Idk about uk but from what I've heard from poles living there its a pretty similar situation to the us. Many of the original polish emigres without a college education and little English skills work in the trade because its the best paying job that they can get into without having some advanced degrees or skills. Even a painter will make double than what they would working retail or at a subway or something.

Most young people dont even think about going into such jobs. Theyre scared to get their hands dirty. They wont even consider working as a electrician or a gc as if its beneath them... they cant even fix up their own home or install a vanity in their bathroom its downright pathetic. Like 3 weeks ago i had a guy whos a doctor call me to install a TV stand becaude they cant figure it out. We did a bathroom remodel for them like a year ago and i told him and his wife thats too small of a job for me so they offered like 400 bucks just to come out and spend 20 mins in their bedroom with my makita drill. This is why todays males are more like women than real men. They finish a bachelors with tons of debt and theyre making 40k sitting in a cubicle getting a potbelly and man boobs when they could be swinging a hammer, getting some exercise and making double that even entry level. It's great news for guys who are in this trade atleast in the West because theres tons of rich homeowners and property management companies desperate for contractors bc theres such a demand. Yes theres tons of Mexicans who work in this buy they dont do as quality work and a lot of the property manageme companies, insurance companies, lead abatement government programs (my favorite type of jobs) etc require that all.the workers have a social security. Idk how it is in poland but in the us and id imagine uk as well if you have 2 3 good workers, a few subs you can call on, a good network of homeowners, property management companies and a person thats friendly with you in the little suburban city halls you got it.made
delphiandomine 88 | 18,454
15 Apr 2018 #24
Poland is quite difficult because of the system of public tendering - you don't have it in the US, do you? The problem is that a lot of companies will intentionally bid too low, then they'll go back to the city hall and ask for more money to complete the job. So if you're trying to do it by the book, you almost always come in with a too high price.

i told him and his wife thats too small of a job for me so they offered like 400 bucks just to come out .

Wouldn't most people in Poland just get some family member to do it for them? I'm thinking from the expat angle - most people will have some family member who can do the same thing.

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