Interview "First time in geodesy"

Interview for the GeoBusiness magazine by current Chief Executive Officer Jan Florianek

Jan Floriánek joined Hrdlička right after graduating in Geodesy and Cartography from the Faculty of Civil Engineering at the Czech Technical University in Prague. After twenty years of work, Martin Hrdlička, the owner of the company of the same name with 130 employees, handed over the management to him on 1 January 2016. Hrdlička is thus the first company in the field of geodesy where the owner-founder got rid of direct management. We, therefore, asked Jan Florianek about the reasons, expectations, and his plans for the company.

Why did the owner and long-time director of the company decide to hand over the management to you?

It's not a bolt from the blue here. Martin Hrdlička gradually transferred the long-term operational management of the company to his colleagues, i.e. to me as the production director, to the Chief of Sales Department Jaromír Prošek, to the Director of Development Vladimír Lhoták, and last but not least to Chief of Financial Department Kamila Trutenková. I think she was the one who helped to make this change happen in 2015, especially formally. However, the main decision was made at the end of 2014, when Martin and I agreed on this step. I think this freed Martin's hands to build a group of companies under the name Hrdlička Group, which is ultimately our common goal, i.e. to become part of a functional unit of several companies with complementary focuses. And I'm becoming CEO? This is based on the fact that I manage a fundamental part of our business, which is primarily surveying. At the same time, I am responsible for our information system, ISO, security... Another reason is my focus on the company. Jaromír Prošek is also a key person in the company, but his place is with the customers and therefore he cannot simultaneously deal with the operational matters of our company.

Can we expect any changes? Either internally or externally?

I have been working in the company for almost 20 years, so I am certainly not planning any major changes. Internally, a lot of changes have already happened in 2015. We have made regions in the company, managed by reliable colleagues, and professionals in all aspects. I try to delegate responsibility for some decisions to my colleagues, which entails creating decision-making rules. At the same time, we are introducing more extensive cost tracking. I definitely want to continue to work on improving communication between the workplaces. Our company has a number of separate sites, and communication is absolutely key these days. We definitely need to work on increasing the expertise within the company, which of course we are still doing, but we also want to use external help for this.

You've been in surveying since high school. What changes do you think need to be made to make the field more recognized? Where is the "buried dog"?

The field of surveying has undergone a rapid evolution. There was a lot of work and money in it in the 1990s, and many companies were created that prospered well even without any major expertise in the market. This was also due to the great development of technology, which made it easier for the less technically educated to operate. Subsequently, work began to disappear and therefore there was more pressure on the price of contracts and gradually customers became interested in the quality of the work delivered. During this period, about five to ten years ago, there was an outflow of quality people from outside the industry. Business in the industry has also become more atomized, with many surveyors operating as sole traders. With these problems, the self-confidence and self-esteem of surveyors, in general, have declined. Many people in the industry are rather surviving, taking any contracts, not interested in trends, not offering any added value to customers, just nothing. Customers, of course, perceive this fact and treat surveyors more like craftsmen or workers. There is a lack of respect and mutual respect. Yet today, a surveyor has to cover a whole range of expertise that in other professions is often handled by a whole team of people. If our worker gets a job, he usually goes out on his own, arranges his own accommodation, communicates with the customer, operates all the equipment... Moreover, he may have jobs running for different customers at the same time, one day he is working for an electrician, then he is laying out a bridge, the next day he is helping to lay tracks. All customers today have specific requirements for their documentation, they use different software and data models, and each customer uses their own terminology.  A surveyor needs to know all this and usually does, but can't sell it to the customer. I think many times the customer doesn't even know what the surveyor is doing for them. It's a long run, but we should at least start by recognizing that fact and appreciating ourselves.

Do you see any development in surveying? What about prices?

The question is somewhat related to the previous answer. But if I have to answer it in one word, it's complexity. To mark out or locate a point is not enough these days. We have to guide the customer through the pitfalls such as different views of data on the ground, measurement accuracies, data models, proper GIS setup... We help the customer navigate the legislation related to surveying and construction. Surveyors have to be a partner with the customer, who is often a layman in the field of surveying, he asks questions and we have to be able to answer them or directly offer a tailor-made solution.

t's quite interesting how often I hear that our company is supposedly "spoiling prices". For my part, I find it really strange. Our company invests in new technology, pays quality workers above industry standard wages, and at the same time, the owner of the company is able to acquire other companies out of the business. I'm sure we don't spoil the prices. Of course, it is possible that we do some sub-activities cheaply, but there is always a reason for that. I think that it is those who do business without a return on investment and without profit who spoil prices, because these things are, unfortunately, or rather, unfortunately, directly related to the price of contracts.

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