Interview with Lubomír Dvořák - the founder of the company
Wondering who is behind the birth of SPIDER mowers? What difficulties and obstacles have to be overcome in order to get Spider mowers into more than 50 countries? Read the interview with the founder of the company - Lubomír Dvořák.
Humbleness is an integral part of success
I exchanged the business card with Lubomír Dvořák a long time ago at a press conference. I wanted to make an interview with him, as I was convinced that the brand he has built deserved to be known among as many people as possible. It's a story of heroism, desire, courage and effort to be useful. His inventions are Industry 4.0. - in advance. Every summer I put the business card in the folder of ideas and I was about to prepare the questions, however in the end I always gave up. I thought I did not have a chance to catch up with him. I was wrong - I was met with interest and kindness. Owner of DVOŘÁK - slope mowers s.r.o. in Pohled Lubomir Dvorak is not unapproachable, but vice versa. And you, our readers, have the chance to learn more about the famous Spider mowers.
Why did you decide to do business? Was it a logical outcome of your experience, skills, hobbies? I have heard that the prototype of the remote-controlled slope mower was actually made in the garage ...
Most likely, the desire to do business was in me since my childhood and my father brought it to me. He was one of the skilled craftsmen, and he was teaching me. We had a small workshop at home, and in the time I was growing up, it was not possible to buy anything like we can today. We had to make everything by ourselves. I grew up on a small farm where everything was initially cultivated by hand. As my father wanted to make the effort easier, he was making agricultural machinery for his cultivation. The only shopping center at that time was the metal scraper, noone could possess anything expensive because of standardization. The scarecrow was an economic crime at that time, which, with the help of the informers following hardworking people and occasionally taking them to questioning. That happened to my father. That was one of the reasons why I began to hate the regime at that time and wanted to become a so-called free lancer.
Was it the best way to offer a machine with a high added value? Would not it be easier to sell the idea and do nothing?
There is an interesting story related to this question. When I built the first prototype, one of my acquaintances advised me to let the idea be patented. Naturally, I did not know anything about patenting, and I did not even believe that I would get such an important thing. Nevertheless, I searched the phonebook and discovered a patent attorney in Pelhrimov. It was quite close, so I visited him. To my surprise, this person has worked for many years in Pelhrimov's Agrostroy as a design engineer. One of the projects he dealt with was the Kabar slope mower. But this machine has never been produced. I do not know the reasons. I was suggested to design an expert opinion on the viability of my idea. I agreed with his proposal. I was told that the solution is life-capable but that what I have done so far has been the maximum and I have no chance of making or selling the machine. That was a big surprise for me when he offered me to become a co-author and my idea to realize in the aforementioned company. At that moment, I asked him for the folder I lent him, thanked him, and left quickly. I finally solved the patent proceedings at a patent office in Prague, where no "co-author" has ever been offered to me. Similar cases when I could sell the project were a few, especially from abroad. These signs have convinced me that I'm going in the right direction and the chances of success will be considerable.
What is the principle of such a mower? What can it do today? Where can it be applied?
The main advantage is that you do not have to sit or touch it . Simply send it with the remote controller where you need it and it does not matter if it's a hill or a marsh. Another feature that no other mower offers is so-called "sweep". This means that thanks to the original chassis, the machine will cut each corner. The excellent maneuverability of the mower will allow you to move in any direction, so you can move it like sweeping with a broom. For these unique features, our machine has become a bestseller. People doing green maintenance can not imagine working without our mower today. Originally, we thought the mower would buy those who need to cut the slopes. Experience showed us that the diversity of areas is much larger. It seems to us that it will be standard in every village, every city, highway, river basin or waterworks. Listing of existing customers would be on several pages. The Nascar Racing Circuit or the Kennedy Space Center, for instance.
It is a patent-protected product, not only in the Czech Republic, but you have also obtained patent protection in the US and Japan. This is an admirable success. Was it difficult?
I have to admit that it is not easy to obtain patent protection at all. It is 15 years since we obtained the first patent and we have already obtained a number of other protections with international significance, unfortunately not all activities were running smoothly. For example, we developed a gearless gearbox that we have entered into the patent procedure. At the Industrial Property Office in Prague, the registration process was proceeding without any minor problems, but when we started the international phase, everything was seized by an official in Geneva. The project started to contradict the fact that the system can not be functional, so it can not be patented. He also added the testimonies of university professors from Geneva. After a few years of defending our idea with the patent attorney of Geneva, the patent was eventually granted. We still do not know what caused the delay.
Soon after you started production, you have gained recognition of experts literally all over the world. How did you manage the joy?
Yes, we call it Hall of Fame and it makes up almost the entire entrance space of our factory. We have been awarded the prizes especially for the best innovative product. One is even from Australia. We were the first to receive recognition from the UK, followed by Germany and Slovenia. We were really delighted with the Red Dot award. This was the prize for design at the international competition in Essen, Germany. At that time, it was the third prize that won a Czech product during the 50 years history of the competition. On this day, Škoda was also awarded with the Octavia. Great honor was also the Czech Head Award, which we received in 2014. Meanwhile, we have received many more awards and recognition. With every extra prize it was a new impetus to be even better and more humble, because humbleness is an integral part of a success.
Did you ever doubt about the meaning of your pursuit, for instance when you got into a dead end?
Of course, there are many moments when you want to pack it and sell it. Paradoxically, this is usually the case when dealing with officials. I do not know if we have such a bad luck or it is standard and it happens to everyone in this country who wants to do things differently than usual.
With expanding production it was necessary to invest. European funds helped to do that. There is also considerable responsibility for this. How did you manage it especially at the beginning of your business?
The beginnings of the business were largely unknown in all directions, including financing. I remember thinking hard how to get started. Whatever I came up, I always came across an impermeable barrier, and it was money. I have only the small amount I have earned in my previous job. To my luck I did not privatize anything, nor did I get the money in any other way. I was untrustworthy for the bank because I did not own anything at the time. All I had to do was start off with what I had and gradually raise the amount of money. I have been struggling for years with a lack of funds, and I have envied a bit of those who have become "big businessmen" overnight. At the time, however, I did not know that the vast majority of those who had much easier because of privatization nowadays no longer exist.
Today, of course, the question of finance is completely different. We are a lucrative client for the bank, so we have no problem to get the credit. The same we experience with the possibility of drawing European subsidies. Thanks to the good status of an innovative company, we have been awarded R & D funding, and then also the equipment of production facilities, in order to be able to produce the machines.
And how do you perceive this responsibility, including the risks that business carries, today?
Today I feel much more responsible than in the beginning of business. At present, we are primarily responsible for not losing the trust of our customers.
Spider has established itself in around 50 countries. Where does the mower sell the most? Where would you like to export?
The largest market is England thanks to their tradition of maintaining grassy areas. We entered exotic markets like New Caledonia, Panama, Tasmania and Hawaii this year.
You are working on further development, innovation, you have added a snow plow.. Who is the creator, the bearer of the thought? Still you personally?
Of course I contribute to the R&D, but the heart of the development center is my nephew Pavel Vondráček, with whom I started designing and production of mowers years ago.