While organizing our fact-finding trip, we benefited enormously from the network of the Swiss Business Hub Central Europe, S-GE’s branch office. It was my first time in Poland and I was able to meet other Swiss companies, diplomats, office space providers, and officials. We gained a very comprehensive insight within 3–4 days.
Dr. Urban Schnell, Managing Director at Helbling Technik, Partner of the Helbling Group
Helbling works in the field of product innovation and development, where “Made in Switzerland” is regarded as a quality seal. What made you consider outsourcing part of your business?
In recent years, we have had difficulty finding good software and firmware developers in Switzerland, the US, and Germany. As a result, our own software business grew among the options. To this end, there are an increasing number of calls for tender that explicitly require nearshoring shares. It is not our aim to outsource the entire business. We want to strategically supplement the limited capacities here with foreign employees so that we can exploit our full potential. It is important to us that our company’s own experience, processes, and methodologies come into play as much as the mutual support of employees to ensure the quality of our services.
How did you proceed once you had decided that you wanted to set up a branch abroad?
It is important for our business to have the right key person on site. We call them our banner bearer – someone who identifies with our company and our values in an entrepreneurial sense. We identified 4–5 possible banner carriers within our own network. I also contacted S-GE, where the responsible adviser, Katalin Dreher-Hajnal, recommended an entrepreneurial candidate in Poland to me who ultimately came out on top. At the same time, S-GE carried out a location analysis. It was very valuable to us that the statistical figures of the locations examined came from a single source and could therefore be compared. In addition, they were delivered on time almost without any effort on our part. However, if we had solely taken the matrix from the location analysis, Poland would not have come out as the winner. But right from the start, we had stated that the question of “who” would be the deciding factor. We carried out the location analysis to provide a basis for our arguments internally. Internal persuasion is not to be underestimated in projects like this.
What happened next?
We embarked on a fact-finding trip and were very impressed by the work of S-GE. Whenever an SME hears that S-GE is an organization with close links to the state, the first thought is that it acts like an authority, but the oppoThe biggest difficulty – and this came as a surprise to us – was that it is not easy to find good people. On the cultural side, I’m glad to have our managing director. Language is one thing, but the legal regulations governing our activities are entirely another. Many things seem complicated and time-consuming to us. Interestingly, this is a contrast to our employees in Poland, who have a refreshing pragmatism in how they approach things.site was the case. S-GE was pragmatic, punctual, and proved to have a high quality. Otherwise, we would never have been able to build up the network that S-GE had made available to us so quickly. What’s more, working with them was a very pleasant and enjoyable experience.
What have been the biggest challenges in implementing the project so far?
The biggest difficulty – and this came as a surprise to us – was that it is not easy to find good people. On the cultural side, I’m glad to have our managing director. Language is one thing, but the legal regulations governing our activities are entirely another. Many things seem complicated and time-consuming to us. Interestingly, this is a contrast to our employees in Poland, who have a refreshing pragmatism in how they approach things.
What are your plans for the coming years?
The business idea is to involve our colleagues in Wroclaw, Poland, in customer projects. The first project assignments are underway and look promising. In addition to the Executive Board, we currently have two productive employees. While they still have to get used to the development business for third-party customers, this was to be expected with our specific business model. Other companies scale very quickly to optimize the value chain and hire several hundred new employees in a single quarter. We need more time to breathe, but this way, things will be sustainable. We are also growing profitably in Poland a priori.
What tips would you give to other companies that are also considering setting up a branch abroad?
It’s difficult to give one general tip, except that it always helps to talk to peers. The discussion then makes it possible to assess which aspects are comparable and which tips are helpful.
Due to the shortage of ICT and engineering specialists, we have been receiving inquiries about location analysis and network development for years. The comparison of 10 countries with 14 cities and more than 20 specific location criteria provided Helbling management with a solid basis to make their decision. With Poland rising as a tech hub in Europe, the company has made a safe choice. Thanks to our dedicated local Swiss Business Hub, we were able to network the company in an excellent way and arrange important contacts, such as with lawyers and fiduciaries.
Katalin Dreher-Hajnal, Senior Consultant Central Eastern Europe, Switzerland Global Enterprise