Bożena Głowacka is a partner and legal counsel at Aria Legal, previously Head of Legal and Compliance at Pramerica Poland (part of Prudential Insurance Company of America), currently is a supervisory board member at Glob Polska S.A., previously also at ATM Next S.A. and SARE S.A., board member at Monger One Sp. z o.o. Pro publico bono in human rights cases, supports small and medium organizations within ZPP. She has a vast knowledge of financial and corporate law, and is a proven success. It was very interesting to read her insight into her legal career.
At Aria Legal, what are your regular duties?
Being a partner in a law firm requires not only excellent knowledge of law, but also entrepreneurial skills, business experience and excellent management skills. From building and retaining a Client base (sales), through managing the operation and it’s day to day affairs, whilst making sure you motivate and hire the best people, your duties are demanding and a wide range composed of the above. It’s a regular business.
From your experience, what are the largest regulatory risks facing financiers and bankers?
The financial sector in general is a huge responsibility laying on the regulators, so the list is very long and growing with time and new products. Making sure people who save their money, sometimes throughout a lifetime are not deprived of their funds by being too trustworthy and yet allowing them to make profit on their assets by taking cautious risks (if this contradiction is at all possible) is a thin line of assessing all shades of grey. How do you regulate what is a good investment that can turn into high profits, the projects, companies and businesses deciding through rules and regulations between the good, bad and ugly. Regulators hypothetically are not there to ruin an honest business, but to protect the unexperienced investor so in my opinion cooperation is the solution between regulators and the financial industry, learning from each other and understanding the business, not only overregulating the sector. I think also education is key, you need to learn before you drive a car, you should also learn before you start investing your hard earned money.
For start-ups, which legal problems regularly arise?
The most common problem for startups is their legal structure. Many of them run their operation initially without a formal entity. Once they start making money startups usually tend to look for the cheapest solution available – most often a sole proprietorship or a limited liability company. This is understandable, but if they will be looking at finding an investor in the near future, setting up a stock company is amongst the best solution but at the same time one of the more expensive. This form of company allows startup partners keep a big chunk of their business while gaining access to financing. They do not have to go to the stock market to access capital, but in most legal environments allows them to keep control of the company at the same time infusing it with capital. The stock market comes with time and business expansion. So if your company is starting to grow and you need investors, this is the way to go. Remember to hire an experienced lawyer to make sure the investment secures your position in the deal and last, but certainly not least, hire a good accountant. Knowledge in this field and flexibility will make your business thrive, bad accounting will limit your options, make you miss opportunities and add extra work to your day to day operations, which already is demanding on your schedule.
What has made you successful when negotiating contracts with major companies?
Certainly the answer depends on what the contract is for. Assuming it is your business, don’t be afraid to negotiate, that is the fundament of success in business. The fact that you are negotiating with a major company doesn’t change the fact that you need to articulate clearly what your expectations are in return for what you will be supplying. Start with defining your goals for the cooperation, what is the minimum you expect to be satisfied with the deal, make sure you communicate clearly to the other party what you are willing to accept and what is a deal breaker. Better to leave the table early in the negotiation than waste time to find in the end you cannot meet in the middle. Unless you want the contract no matter what for some reason (the deal will give you a boost in your business reputation, good pr etc.). Make sure you know what you want from the cooperation and stand firm by it, assess what you can compromise and what parts of the deal you can’t budge on. Assure the contract protects your interests. The other party will respect you for that and see you are competent and mean business. At the same time make sure you are flexible with your demand, some things are not worth fighting for in the bigger picture. Remember, business is about two sides achieving their goals.
In your career so far, what has been your proudest achievement?
I have several, but the top 3 would be: One – Heading the Polish Legal Department of one of the largest global financial institutions without any regulatory fines. Second – participating in the successful lobbying and passing through the government legislation a ZUS (social security) abolition for small entrepreneurs (caused by different interpretation of the law through the years); and Third – lobbying a beneficial change in the polish civil code (insurance).
How did your legal and finance knowledge make you successful as a board member?
Apart from knowing your business, the basics of success is law and finance. Well, that is if you are running a legitimate business and by the books. Knowing what legal grounds you are treading on in your operations as well as making the project work financially is essential. It’s a lot about common sense, having the background means I do not need to hire so much outside counsel for support. If you have a mixture of the above knowledge and experience, you can assess projects and risks much faster mostly with high rates of success.
Speaking in general about your personal characteristics, what has made you successful?
Hard work, determination and most important, believing in what I do and believing in myself. No one is perfect, no one knows everything, but success is about trying, failing, getting up and working hard to achieve goals, learning from mistakes. I always look to work with people who are better, smarter and/or more experienced than me. At the same time, I had several very successful projects come out of working with young graduates with no experience, with a fresh approach who turned my attention to opportunities which I would have never seen myself. Being open minded is a huge attribute in business. I also make sure I find balance in my life, time to do things that make me happy and drive my motivation.
Do you have a motto in life?
Small steps bring you to achieve big goals. Don’t rush things.