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20+ Years of Leading a Finnish Company in Poland: Insights from Wojciech Szwedziński, Head of EE Region at Orion Pharma

Behind every success story, there's a committed leader determined to make it work. 


In Spondeo's latest publication, Finnish Business & Culture in Poland, we featured an interview with Wojciech Szwedziński, who has been managing Orion Pharma Poland for over 20 years.


Orion Pharma is a globally operating, Finnish pharmaceutical company that expanded to Poland in 2002. Currently, the Polish team consists of over 100 professionals.


Wojciech Szwedziński. Photo by Orion Pharma

What is the history of Orion Pharma in Poland, and when did you join the company?

I have the honor of being the first Orion Pharma employee in Poland and I established Orion Pharma’s operations in Poland. However, the history of Orion Pharma products in Poland is far longer, as some of them were already authorized back before the political changes of 1989.


What market entry strategies did you use when first establishing the Polish branch?

Orion started operations in Poland with a relatively short product portfolio. From the beginning, we agreed to expand operations through portfolio development directed to a selected customer group – the CNS segment of the pharma market.


How important is the Polish market in the CEE Region?

Poland is the largest and the most important country in the region and one of key countries for Orion Pharma globally.


Do you use Finnish roots in your marketing?

Finnish quality and sticking to regulations is well known in Poland and we use it a lot in our marketing communication. Quality is key for medicines and Finnish quality makes a difference.


What sets Orion Pharma apart from its competitors in Poland?

People we have in our organization are the most important, given that advertising prescribed medicines to the public domain is not permitted.


What was the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Orion, and the pharma market in general in Poland?

As COVID-19 is a disease, it did not impact the pharma market negatively itself. There was much higher consumption of products directly or indirectly linked to COVID-19. However, some market segments were declining. For Orion Pharma in Poland, 2020 was a challenging year as the consumption of certain products decreased. Despite that, we managed and are back on the growth path now.


With over two decades at this company, what major changes have you observed in the industry?

The Polish pharma market is very dynamic. The industry is highly regulated, much more than other sectors. Changes in regulations (such as price or reimbursement) trigger changes that affect the entire market and have a huge impact on our business. Over the last 20 years, I’ve noticed an increase in innovative treatments available to Polish patients, thanks to coverage by the reimbursement system. That was not the case during the first 10 years after 1989.


What lessons have you learned during that time?

I have learnt so many lessons that it’s hard to list them all. The most valuable for me was the importance of good communication and collaboration with HQ to secure the growth of local operations in Poland.


What achievements are you particularly proud of?

I’m most proud of the talented colleagues I have been able to gather around me at Orion Pharma Poland, and who have been a massive support for company growth in the past and securing its growth in the future.


How would you compare Finnish and Polish cultures?

In my opinion, Finns and Poles share many similarities. I would say that Finns are more patient.


What are your top 3 rules of effective management?

Listening, asking the question “why?”, and delegating/empowering team members.


What advice would you give to Finnish companies considering expansion to Poland?

Do it, as soon as possible! Poland is a great country and there are still many great business opportunities. The most critical thing is to find a committed and trustworthy individual to start operations. An entrepreneur ready to build your success in Poland. This is not easy, but possible.


What are your next plans on the Polish market?

To develop Orion Pharma’s business further. We plan to introduce more products in the CNS segment, but also to enter new therapeutic areas. We would also like to continue to introduce to Poland more and more self-care products, available through pharmacy channels. These products are very popular in Finland. It would be beneficial for Poles if they were able to purchase and use them as well.


 

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