Tomasz Biernacki is a Polish billionaire and the richest man in Poland. He is the founder and chairman of Dino, a Polish chain of supermarkets.
Biernacki opened his first store in 1999 and scaled his company to more than 1600 supermarkets in 2021.
He owns 51.16% of Dino and his current net worth is $4.2 billion.
Tomasz Biernacki is a discreet man – to say the least.
He doesn’t give press conferences or interviews.
All pics of him disappeared from the company website, and the website of his foundation (tomaszfoundation.org) no longer exists.
This obsession with anonymity made some wonder if the man actually existed.
We don’t know what he studied, we don’t know if he is married or has children, and we don’t know where he lives exactly.
People in the city he is rumored to inhabit don’t talk, and his friends deny they know him.
When Dino IPOed in 2017, Biernacki didn’t even bother going to the stock exchange. He didn’t show up when the prime minister came to visit one of his distribution centers either.
When investors wanted to meet with him in Warsaw, they were told to come to the headquarters some 300 km away from the capital.
And he didn’t meet with them in the end anyway.
The best part is that none of this prevented him from building one of the biggest supermarket chains in Poland in record time.
This is how he did it.
Believe it or not, Tomasz Biernacki has not always been a ghost.
His last appearance was in 2010 when someone crashed his Ferrari.
He hasn’t been seen in public since then.
Google though, did not forget.
I said “someone” because the story doesn’t say if Biernacki was driving it at the time of the accident or not.
All we know is that the driver was intoxicated. His identity has remained a mystery.
In the realm of facts, we know at least that Tomasz Biernacki was born in 1973, in Krotoszynie, in the western part of Poland.
He grew up in Czeluścina, a village inhabited by 250 souls.
And this is it.
It is believed that the Biernacki family started a small slaughterhouse in Czeluścina in 1993.
Other newspapers reported that they already traded food and other goods thanks to which they may have been able to start the business.
In anyways, the regional beef and pork production exploded and the Biernacki family grew their slaughterhouse.
In 1998, they built a meat storage facility of 25 000 tons. Business boomed and they opened a brand new slaughterhouse in 2002, one of the biggest in Poland.
The factory could process 1 600 heads of cattle per day.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves and come back 3 years earlier, in 1999.
Tomasz Biernacki, 26 years old at the time, opened the first Dino supermarket in Czeluścina.
Neither too big like a Carrefour nor too small like a Zabka, Dino was a mid-size supermarket.
It was an instant success.
There was just one problem: Tomasz didn’t know why.
Looking For an USP
The first supermarket sold around 5 000 different products (small for today’s supermarkets which sell 10 000 products on average) at a fair price.
Dino wasn’t big, but it wasn’t small either. Shoppers could buy everything they needed without wasting time.
Tomasz quickly opened a second Dino, then expanded in the surrounding towns.
In 2002, he opened the first distribution center.
After a couple of years, Biernacki noticed that the most popular products in his supermarkets were meat.
Despite Warsaw being Europe’s veganiest city, Polish people eat more meat than the EU average, particularly in the countryside where it’s an affordable source of high-quality protein.
If you have been to Poland, you know that the Polish have an extensive meat culture.
Willing to make fresh meat available in all of his supermarkets at an affordable price, Biernacki invested in Agro-Rydzyna, a meat plant that was allegedly run by his brother (Dino became sole owner of Agro-Rydzyna in 2010, and Tomasz’s brother was removed from his position, never to be heard of since then).
His purchase enabled him to set up traditional butchery counters in all Dino supermarkets so customers could buy fresh meat at a cheap price since there were fewer intermediaries.
It worked so well that it became one of Dino’s USP.
Tomasz Biernacki subsequently planned to expand Dino to the rest of Poland. He just didn’t know how.
Should he try to battle Carrefour, Lidl, and Biedronka on their turf? Or should he stay in villages and small towns?
After observing, trying different stuff, and failing between 2004 and 2009, Dino’s management team finally realized that their supermarkets worked best in small and mid-size cities often overlooked by the giants of the sector.
They found out people liked having a supermarket close to their place that sold meat and everything else they needed.
So, Dino relentlessly focused on this market and adopted proximity as their sole mission.
Once Biernacki understood he had found his market, he had only one goal in mind: scaling.
The thing about scaling is that it costs money.
In 2010, as Dino was opening its 100th store, Tomasz Biernacki sold 49% of the company (he owned 100%) to Enterprise Investors, the oldest and one of the largest private equity firms in Central and Eastern Europe.
They bought the share for €50 million and became the sole minority investor in Dino.
Biernacki used the money to expand to the north, south, and east of Poland.
By 2013, Dino had tripled in size with 300 stores and opened a second distribution center in central Poland to sustain growth there.
By the end of 2015, they had 511 stores. They went from being a regional player to a national player in the blink of an eye.
In 2016, Dino opened 117 supermarkets, a third distribution center, and grew to 10 000 employees.
In 2017, Dino and Enterprise Investors agreed to make Dino a public company.
EI sold all of its shares for €376 million and made a nice 7.5X on its original investment.
That same year, Dino opened 147 stores.
In 2018, Dino opened 202 more stores, crossed the 1000th store, and grew to reach 16 000 employees.
They opened 243 stores in 2019, grew the company to 20 000 employees, and added solar panels on the roof of their buildings to become more environmental-friendly.
As we can see on the map, Dino has still room for growth.
The company aims at expanding its Agro-Rydzyna meat processing plant and will build another one to sustain the growth of its network.
Furthermore, the government granted Dino a license to buy and sell gas to customers in 2018.
We can therefore expect them to build petroleum stations soon.
Tomasz Biernacki isn’t only discreet. He is also frugal.
He doesn’t hire too much staff, doesn’t earn any salary, and his supermarkets didn’t grow one iota since the original Dino opened in 1999.
He doesn’t offer pick-up, online shopping, or delivery.
True to his philosophy to focus on small and mid-size cities, Dino does not have any store in Warsaw.
The company stayed lean, and this strategy did them well.
Not only were they profitable from the start, but their stock price went through the roof during the pandemic.
The profits of the company have tripled since 2015.
In a period when most billionaires are tech CEOs, this story is inspiring.
It shows how one can still bring value in an old and overcrowded sector by focusing on an under-served segment of the market.
- offering fresh meat when everyone sells fake meat
- keeping supermarkets small when everyone builds giant stores
- expanding in small and mid-size cities when companies fight to be in big cities
- and not adding non-essential services when everyone fights to do home deliveries
Dino grew to become one of Poland’s biggest supermarket companies.
Few non-tech companies ever scaled that fast that flawlessly.
Tomasz Biernacki is teaching everyone a remarkable business lesson.
And he didn’t even need to show up to do so.
Impressive, to say the least.
*After I sent Dino an email to ask if I could use that picture of Tomasz Biernacki, they answered saying there are no pictures of Tomasz Biernacki online and that that guy is not him.