To some, trying to succeed in the world of hospital bed manufacturing might have seemed like a utopian undertaking. Yet 30 years later, LINET is number one in the industry in Europe and number three in the world. For this fiscal year, the company has projected sales just shy of 10 billion Czech crowns.
Throughout the history of the company, there have been numerous important decisions, many of which clearly illustrate the founders’ courage in taking risks and relying on their intuition. “Each year saw a significant advancement – from the first beds, the building of the company by first repairing our old farmstead and then gradually building new manufacturing facilities, significant innovations like the column system and dozens of other inventions, to the wager on design as an essential aspect of our products and the acquisition of foreign companies,” says LINET founder Zbyněk Frolík. He adds, “It might sound cliché, but the main reason behind our success is the people I’ve surrounded myself with the whole time.”
Nonetheless, several of the company’s decisions throughout its history have been somewhat unorthodox. We’ve chosen five of them and asked Mr. Frolík for his comments:
1. In 1991, he gave half of the company to the shareholders of the German company, WIBO.
“I didn’t have to; LINET was profitable in its very first month, but I knew that if I wanted to succeed in Europe, Czechoslovakia at the time was not enough for the export of hospital beds. Germany had entirely different capabilities, though. However, as you know, we’re one of the few examples of the Czech half of a joint venture that outgrew its German co-owners so dramatically.” In 2011, therefore, LINET Group was established and includes the German company, WIBO.
2. He decided to build his own sales network, although it cost LINET well over a billion Czech crowns.
“It’s the main difference between us, Czech manufacturers, and our foreign competitors. We often have much better products, but we don’t sell them in large markets with a high margin. It was clear to me that we had to have our own sales network. We invested well over a billion Czech crowns to build a sales network, which is still getting stronger all over the world, in addition to our own subsidiaries in large markets.”
3. He founded the Academy of Productivity and Innovation and thus acquired necessary know-how.
“I don’t think I need to lecture anyone on how without innovation it just doesn’t work. Founding the academy let us acquire know-how primarily from the automotive industry. And this was more important than it may seem. I still look at it as a sort of trick, thanks to which we had access to innovations that we were able to successfully apply at LINET. By far, it’s not just in manufacturing which takes place on production lines with sliding assembly benches.”
4. Though an engineer and innovator by background, he gives just as much room to designers.
“Design actually became a part of our company motto: “to be an object of desire, not a mere choice”. Despite starting out primarily as an engineer and innovator, I see design as an integral element of a product. Innovation without cutting-edge design is basically useless. We work with only the best: Ivan Dlabač, Jiří Španihel, and Pavel Šťastný, who are known for creating the logo of Civic Forum.”
5. From the very beginning, he has had a clear vision and he knows how to get others excited about it.
“I say it in every interview: I’d have accomplished nothing alone. I’ve always known how to work with people. I know how to fire them up and get them on my side. They’re the ones who drive things forward in the company; they bring far greater quality than I ever could alone.”