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News: Jarek Drahoš – interview on occasion of the 30 years anniversary of FINIDR

Text by: Milan Čierny, Jaroslav Drahoš 

Who else could better describe the company’s activities to date and future plans than its founder, sole owner and production director, Jarek Drahoš. In a wide-ranging interview, we asked about his vision, sustainability in the business and the steps that have led to the long-term development of the printing house. We asked him how he perceives the changes that have occurred after the coronavirus pandemic, and how they affect us. Of course, we were also interested in the future, the vision and strategy for the coming years.

Thanks to Mr. Milan Cerny, Chairman of the City Council’s Yearbook and Press Committee of Český Těšín, and amateur fan of Těšín history, for conducting the interview.

Who is Jarek Drahoš? As a fourth-year student at the University of Economics, he experienced the revolutionary change that occurred in November 1989, when opportunities and the overall atmosphere in society changed fundamentally. After his graduation in 1990, he joined the newly emerging economic department of the Těšín printing house, following a successful selection procedure, and it was through this step that he connected his professional life with books. After returning from compulsory military service, he became the economic director of Těšínská tiskárna. Subsequently, after the Coupon privatisation and the changes it brought about in the printing house, he decided to leave and together with his two partner to establish the FINIDR printing house. It was 1994. From this year onwards, the history of the printing house, which was founded on a green field and from the beginning was located in Český Těšín on Lípová Street, was written. The nineties were a very special time. After long periods of totalitarianism, many things suddenly changed. The freedom we gained allowed us not only freedom of speech, the possibility to travel, but also to decide about our future. That is why the first question that immediately comes to mind is:

What was your vision when you founded FINIDR printery in the 1990s?
I probably wouldn’t use words like vision and strategy, at that time they weren’t words that we could fully grasp and define their content. On the other hand, we had a clear idea of what we wanted to do and how we wanted to do it. We wanted to build a printery that would be successful, that customers could rely on above all. A printery that will be a long-term partner for both domestic and foreign partners. From the beginning we wanted to create a proactive environment in the printing house. To do work that is meaningful to us and the whole team. At the same time, we also wanted to give a great deal of security to the people who work in the printery. But one thing we knew for sure, we wanted to print and bind the books. We didn’t want to do anything else.

Did you believe you would achieve such success?
I have always believed that when something is done with great enthusiasm, dedication and great humility, something great can come out of it. In the beginning we met a lot of “smart people” who didn’t believe in the book and discouraged us from our intention. Not only did they not discourage us, on the contrary, they gave us more energy to make our dreams come true. Making books is beautiful, fragrant, but also complex and challenging. In the end, a beautiful product is created that makes people happy. When I show someone our production, they are amazed at how the books are made, how modern our machines are, the logistics, but most of all, the team of skilled people we have here. When you come across book production, you usually fall into it and often stay in the business for a very long time.

There were certainly not only victories on that long, thirty-year journey, but also all sorts of difficulties and complications. Did you ever consider giving up and quitting the business?
Certainly, it has happened several times, at different times in the company’s development. When you decide to become an entrepreneur, you take on a huge responsibility. Responsibility for all the decisions you make and actions you take that affect the present, but most importantly the future of the printery. The decisions you make in the printing industry are long-term, for 10 years or more. If you make a major mistake, it is very painful for the printery and sometimes it could threaten its very existence. What you do now will be reflected in the future. If the steps are correct, most of the time no one will remember when they were taken. But what is essential is that they have moved us forward. I am sure we have also made many mistakes during these 30 years. The important thing is that they were not fatal mistakes and the essential is that I have always tried to learn from every mistake and, if possible, not to make them again. I believe that in business, and not only in business, it is absolutely crucial to trust people. Having a high level of trust allows you to collaborate on a completely different level. It allows you to communicate openly, effectively, and above all it creates a good atmosphere. In this environment it is easier to solve complicated and difficult problems. However, if the trust disappears and you find out that someone has tried to cheat, trick or rob you, there is no reason to continue to associate with that person. Life is too short to spoil it by meeting people with bad human qualities such as envy, selfishness or other negative traits. When you put it all together, it makes for a very toxic cocktail. Tell me, what sane person wants to drink such a cocktail on a regular basis?

I’d like to ask again. Have you ever considered giving up and going out of business?
Sometimes I’ve really thought about the meaning of what I do for a long time. Whether my work makes sense to me. If what I’m doing is under my control. But the important thing for me is that I still find the work enjoyable and fulfilling, and the problems we solve keep pushing us forward. Of course, it’s not like it was in the beginning. At the end of the first year of business (1994), there were nineteen of us in FINIDR. Each of us could rely on every member of the team. No one could hide anywhere and any stupidity was immediately visible. It was a different time and a different atmosphere. I believe that a positive atmosphere can be created even now. But today it is much more difficult. After all, the general mood in society is much worse than it was thirty years ago.

Why do you think the atmosphere in society is worse now?
This question should be answered by an expert, probably preferably a sociologist. But I don’t think you need a special education to know that the atmosphere is not good. All you have to do is look at the news on television, read the Internet and think a little about the structure and content of the news we are served up every day. We have forgotten what it was like 35 years ago, what the standard of living was then. We take most things for granted now. However, if I am to answer this question specifically, I am convinced that the Czech Republic has been very unlucky in its politicians throughout its modern existence. And this is irrespective of which party they represented. There is no long-term development strategy, no accountability, no ethics to speak of. Rather than people who were capable and responsible, there were people who were capable of anything in key positions. No wonder then that there is now discontent among the people. Some vote for the extreme right or left. This is not good for freedom, for democracy or for the Czech Republic. These people are not willing to take their future into their own hands, to be responsible to themselves, their family and their surroundings. However, they have the right to vote and they can set us back many years again.

It has been 30 years since the founding of the printing house, so we have come to the present. How would you now look back on the three decades you’ve had?
I am grateful for the enormous opportunity that changing the system has afforded to anyone who had an idea and a lot of courage, and who was also willing to sacrifice a lot of energy and time, not only their own but also that of their loved ones. I am proud of what we have achieved together. We are a purely Czech company that has a very good reputation on the European market. The books we produce are read in 45 countries around the world. We invest in new technologies and we are one of the largest employers in the region. But the key point of success was not technology, production halls, processes, but people. It was their willingness, commitment, responsibility and the desire to find solutions even where they seemingly cannot be found. Some of them, who were with us at the beginning, are already in well-deserved retirement. To them, as well as to the current staff, we owe a great debt of gratitude for what we have achieved together, for where FINIDR is now. The journey we have taken together has been a long one, and it has certainly not been easy.

Let’s take a look at an important milestone in the development of FINIDR. In 2020, the covid epidemic came and we experienced something we’ve only seen in disastrous movies before. Yet, it set FINIDR on a significant course for the following period. What do you think it was?
It certainly wasn’t the only significant milestone in FINIDR’s existence. There were several of them. However, 2020 was both much different and very far removed from anything we’ve experienced to date. I don’t want to go back to the covid period. I think it was one of the darkest periods of modern humanity. The atmosphere of fear and the enormous manipulation of people that we experienced at that time will hopefully not be repeated. It was a huge test for us, which we, together with our customers and also our readers, passed. But who really prevailed at that time was the BOOK itself. It found its way to the readers even when the shops were closed. Once the strict rules were relaxed, we were ready for the surge in demand for books and were able to meet the demands of our customers. At that time, we were one of the few, if not the only ones in Europe to invest in new printing machines. Our bet on the future paid off and, despite the many challenges we had to overcome, we moved into the ranks of the key players in Europe.

You speak of a dark period of modern humanity. What effect do you think the covid and post-covid period had on the very behaviour of people?
I would say that it has reinforced and accelerated an earlier trend that is incomprehensibly being promoted by EU policies. We have become an entitlement and subsidy society, where it is much better to reach out than to fend for ourselves. Everybody knows what they are entitled to, but hardly anybody talks about responsibility, or about fulfilling their obligations. It is unbelievable how covid has shifted this into the wrong direction. A lot of people in Europe have stayed at home on the so-called ‘home office’. In many cases, people were getting paid without adding any meaningful value. Of course, this is very easy to get used to and after a while people started to take it for granted. A lot of things and processes in Europe now work much worse than they did before the covid. At the same time, Europe is even further behind now than it was just before the pandemic.

Where do you see FINIDR in the next 30 years? And where do you see yourself?
I feel that at least the second part of the question cannot be taken too seriously. However, if I am to answer it as well, I imagine that I will be healthy at this blessed age. Of course, within the limits of what will be possible for my age. I will spend much of the year traveling, which I love so much. Due to my heavy workload, especially in the last four years, I have been neglecting this hobby very much, even though travelling with a backpack on my back has always recharged me tremendously. The energy that I have gained from travelling in this way has then been reinvested in the printery and the team that I have the opportunity to lead, which I really appreciate. As for the future of FINIDR, or where it will be in 30 years, that is also a very difficult question to answer. We are living in strange and very turbulent times. I think the much more important question is where the world will be in 30 years’ time. The number of people in the world is increasing all the time, and I expect that in a very short time there will be a big problem with the resources that humanity can manage. I do not wish to be a bad prophet, but I think that there may be a huge problem with many of the things that we now take for granted. For example, a shortage of fresh water could create a critical situation not only in some areas of the world, but also in our own.

As for FINIDR, I believe it will be successful in 30 years. But one thing is for sure, it will be different. There will be different conditions to which we will have to adapt and which will be determined by new technologies. Above all, artificial intelligence and other unrecognised technologies will fundamentally affect humanity and the world around us. While this is a huge opportunity for humanity, I am also very concerned that these technologies will not be misused and, in the end, do us more harm. Also, people will be different, but I believe they will still be big-hearted ones.

How do you see the future of polygraphy and book production?
I still see it positively. The book has constantly evolved over time. Alternatives, that could threaten it, have gradually emerged. Cinema, television, video, the internet, video games and now the increasingly popular various social networks are definitely big competitors. But the book has also found its place in this environment. It is not only a beautiful gift, but a good book above all allows the imagination and creative personality of each reader to develop. I think that a book is something that is absolutely irreplaceable in the development of every person. Therefore, I also believe that the book has and will have its irreplaceable place in human life.

Thank you very much for the interview. I wish you and the whole team a lot of energy for the years to come. May the work be successful!
Also, thank you for your time and I look forward to seeing you again for a chat, and sooner than 30 years from now.

 

FINIDR milestones

1994 ‘ Founding of the company

1997 ‘ purchase of part of the VOP premises(Hall A, administration building)

1998 ‘ printing and bookbinding under one roof

2000 ‘ purchase of the first Heidelberg machine in B1 format

2001 ‘ company-wide information system INFOR ERP SyteLine

2006 ‘ construction of Hall B

2007 ‘ duplication of all important production technologies

2008 ‘ integration into the certification system for tracking the origin of FSC® wood

2013 ‘ significant investment in machinery fleet

2015 ‘ obtaining the Carbon Footprint Certificate management

2016 ‘ construction of Hall C

2016 ‘ investment in new technologies

2016 ‘ CO2 neutral product offering

2016 ‘ purchase of green energy

2018 ‘ obtaining the EcoVadis certificate

2019 ‘ construction of Hall D

2019 ‘ expansion of machinery

2020 ‘ we are the first in Europe to acquire the most advanced printing machines Heidelberg

2021 ‘ FINIDR is the new owner of the building of the former Těšín printing house

2021 ‘we plant a new tree for every order