Piotr Pawlak, 33
President and managing director, Ford of Poland
What was your first automotive job and why were you interested in the industry?
I'm a car guy through and through. In fact, my entire family is into cars. My grandfather owns a vehicle repair shop and my dad also works in the industry. For me, there was never a question about my professional future because I love cars. After college I joined Toyota Europe's graduate development program in Brussels as part of the sales operations team.
Your greatest achievement?
The progress we have made in turning around Ford's automotive operations in Poland. During the first five months of this year, we took the lead in commercial vehicles. We also nearly doubled our market share for private passenger vehicles. We shifted our sales mix from cars to crossovers and SUVs. We also significantly improved our relationships with our dealers and boosted the profitability of the entire network. Despite some light headwinds, all indicators show the execution of the plan was excellent and the strategy we established is sustainable. And we are just getting started. We have many strategic initiatives in the pipeline that we will launch over the next few months. They will help further accelerate our performance.
Born: Warsaw, Poland
Languages: Polish, English, French
Education: Master's degree in business economics, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Leufen, Belgium; bachelor's degree in economics, University of Warsaw, Warsaw, Poland
What was your biggest failure and what did it teach you?
I once hired someone to be a member of my team whom I wasn't totally convinced was the right candidate. However, I was under tremendous time pressure to fill the position. Just three months later the person left and I had to go through the entire process again. This lack of stability had a negative impact on the overall team and the dealer network. The lesson I took from this was to never compromise on whom I hire.
What is your current challenge at work?
My key challenge is to turn around automotive operations in Poland by achieving leadership in the commercial vehicles sector. We also want to increase private retail sales and improve the quality of our fleet business. We also want to disrupt the historical business model through shifting sales from traditional cars to SUVs and from combustion-driven powertrains to EVs. We also want to strengthen Ford's brand in Poland to create a long-term, sustainable business model.
What is the best advice you have ever received?
My father once told me that an executive's most important trait is the ability to listen. A quote by the Dalai Lama underscores this for me. He said: "When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know. But if you listen, you may learn something new."
2020-present: President and managing director, Ford of Poland, Warsaw, Poland
2019-2020: Regional director, Nissan Great Britain, London, England
2017-2019: Strategy and business planning manager, Nissan Great Britain, London
2016-2017: Marketing planning manager, Nissan Great Britain, London
2015: Sales and marketing programs manager, Toyota Great Britain, Surrey, England
2013-2014: Sales planning manager, Toyota Great Britain, Surrey
2011-2013: Product planning, marketing and pricing specialist (cars and LCVs), Toyota Great Britain, Surrey
2010-2011: Graduation development program (sales operations, product planning, marketing), Toyota Europe, Brussels, Belgium
What advice would you give to a person considering a career in the auto industry?
Be ambitious, passionate, driven and committed. Dream big because in this industry the sky is the limit. Turn every challenge into an opportunity. Don't be afraid and make bold decisions. Always learn from your mistakes.
What job do you really want to have in the future?
Eventually, I would like to be the global head of sales and marketing for a car manufacturer. However, my long-term goal is to be the CEO of a car company.
What do you do to relax?
I like to spend time being active. Some of my favorite sports during the summer are windsurfing and kitesurfing. In the winter I ski but also enjoy playing tennis and soccer, running and working out. In fact, I'm a huge soccer fan. I support Manchester United and, of course, my local club, Legia Warsaw.
What is your dream location to live?
It would be the Greek island of Rhodes. You will find me there now several times a year on vacation. It's an amazing spot for windsurfing.
What is your favorite driving song?
I usually listen to podcasts or news while driving. However, if I had to choose a favorite driving song it would be "Viva La Vida" by Coldplay.
What was your favorite road trip and why?
That trip is still in my future. I would love to drive from the U.S. East Coast to the West Coast in a red Mustang convertible.
What was your first car?
It was a 15-year-old Toyota Land Cruiser. I loved it.
I now drive a Ford Explorer plug-in hybrid.
If you were a car, which one would you be?
I would be fast and sleek like a Ford Mustang Mach-E GT.