How to stay ahead in the market?

We asked Martin Hrdlicka for a "how-to" guide on how to move from a family business to a thriving holding company.
1.10.2021

What drives you after thirty years in business?
From the very beginning of the business we have built the company as a family business and I believe we will be able to pass it on to the third generation, so naturally, I would like to pass it on in the best possible condition one day. All of our children have tried their hand at the business and at least two seem to want to link their professional futures with it. So we'll see. And the second motivation is the possibility of implementing the innovative ideas and thoughts that are still brewing in my head. In short, I'm self-actualizing in the company.

When did you realize you needed to delegate?
I never found out, I pretty much always knew, and we built our business from the beginning so that capable people with no equity or family affiliation could make it happen. Because you can't keep capable people in management positions in a company if they don't feel trusted by the owners and if they aren't given adequate room for self-realization.

You were in business with your father for many years. How did you divide the company to minimize friction between generations?
Intergenerational differences are natural, but it has to be said that my father was always generous and did not prevent my youth from taking off, he only corrected some of my steps with advice and I in turn respected his opinions. For this reason, our relationship, not only in business, has been practically conflict-free to this day.

Would you try to name 3 or more company moments in those 30 years that were personally defining for you?
The idea that something happens in one moment and determines the evolution of a company for a long time is, I think, a fallacy. I believe that decisions are not made in an instant, but rather mature. So I would talk more about trends or lines of thinking that have influenced our business. We could talk about patience, tenacity, cooperativeness, innovativeness, reasonable expansiveness, and certainly not lacking the appetite to do business with an industry or international reach.

What have you sacrificed in business that you think in hindsight may have been an unnecessary sacrifice?
Everything costs something. For example, I could talk about the fact that I was able to devote more time in the past to my wife and our five children. But fortunately, I have a wonderful wife who was and is blessed with patience. Or I've let some of my hobbies lie dormant. However, since I continue to enjoy the business and working in our companies tremendously, then I can speak to the fact that the business and my work is my hobby, and thus I can think of virtually no time when I would say I have wasted my time with it.

Your days - given the scope of HRDLICKA Holding - will probably be full of meetings. I'm not going to ask about time management or how you remember it all... I wonder how and when you rest and do "decompression".
You're right that sometimes you need to relax, and in addition to doing the non-elected mayor's job, I do that by going for a run in the woods or taking my wife for a hike or a round of golf.

They say there's a shortage of people in surveying. How do you see it?
Yes, I would say there would be more capable people in our field. Not the quantity, but the quality is really lacking. As the chairman of the Association of Geomatics Entrepreneurs, my colleagues and I are working in working groups to make the field of geodesy/geomatics more accessible or attractive to young people so that they want to study it and then, above all, to put it into practice. The problem of the field of geomatics has long been that it is not sufficiently financially valued or socially recognised like similar technical fields. Because of this, parents do not want to send their children to study our field and often inferior students study the field. That is why we at APG pay a lot of attention to the education, promotion, and price increases of our work so that in short, the study of geomatics is one of the prestigious fields.

Companies continue to join HRDLICKA Holding. I would like to know on what basis do you include a given company in the group? Do you come up with the idea for purchase or do they come to you?
It is, of course, all about making sure that the companies fit into the holding's portfolio, that they expand or complement the services offered by the existing companies. When it comes to buying companies, it varies. We move in a relatively small market, so you could say that we are more or less familiar with or have knowledge of those companies that are doing business in our field or in related fields. So sometimes I am approached by the seller with the idea of buying the company, sometimes the negotiations arise from other business relationships and sometimes it comes out of my initiative or the initiative of the company's management.

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