Business story of Miroslav Jakubec founder of CLIMAX

He started in a rented workshop in a rectory, continued in a cultural centre in Przno in Vsetín region, then bought the first buildings for production, new halls and warehouses. They started in two, today his company supports almost 600 people. CLIMAX products are used all over Europe and the blinds from Vsetín protect from the sun the house of the family of Portuguese football superstar Cristiano Ronaldo in Madeira. In the interview, the successful entrepreneur looks back at the 30-year history of his life project, describes the company's current position and outlines his vision and prospects for the years to come.

The motivation to start the business was simple. "To make money for my family.“ Jakubec married very early and finished college as a married father of a little boy.“ Those were not easy times at all, we lived in my wife's parents'apartment in one room and had no money. Every weekend and holiday I had to go on temporary jobs, mainly on construction sites, to make a living. My wife deserves not one medal for her bravery in those days, but all the medals in the world. After graduation I felt a great responsibility towards her and little Štěpán, I wanted to provide better living conditions for them.“

He came across an ad in the regional press. "They were looking for window and door sealing fitters. I borrowed twenty thousand crowns, got a trade license, bought basic sealing material, the necessary cutters and with a friend, Tomáš Jurečka, we started to install the sealings. We were satisfied. The days when we didn't have five hundred crowns to buy shoes for my son were gone."

They started out as two young boys. "We worked with our hands. The orders kept coming in and after about a year we started hiring employees. The very first one was Mirek Markytán. He is retired already, but he still comes to help us. I had no self-confidence at all at that time. I thought he couldn't be serious with such young men. But he was happy with us, he always got paid exactly as agreed and he never complained about anything. He stayed with us for the next thirty years. Another similar example is Iva Paroušková, she also started with us and is still here today. So there are more people like that and I am glad for it."

Working fourteen hours a day was not unusual. "The beginnings were difficult, of course. From today's point of view, you could say we worked hard, but back then we didn't see it that way. We didn't mind it at all. We were young and full of energy. We were having a lot of fun. Customers loved us and recommended us. We were full of enthusiasm, I didn't see the hard work as a job, but as a dream come true."

They were offering window and door seals to people. "We didn't know much about marketing. We handed out flyers and put up advertisements, but we got most of our customers through referrals. We tried to be polite, friendly and, most importantly, hardworking, so people recommended us. We did one house, then the whole street called us saying they wanted sealings too because their neighbors recommended and complimented us."

There were moments when they wanted to call it quits. "We kind of didn't think of one little thing (laughs). That people only deal with sealings and saving on energy bills when they're cold. It's warm in the summer, so until the beginning of fall and the first cooler days, we were basically living it up. We had an extreme drop in business over the summer months. We were thinking hard about what to do about it. We came up with blinds. The logic was simple. We would keep people warm in the winter and protect them from the heat in the summer. But we really originally thought of blinds as a complement to sealing, our core business."

From craftsmen to tradesmen overnight. "We were still just guys who assembled "something" for people. We bought materials from a wholesaler in Prague, we bought everything, we didn't produce anything. Then one of the distributors who was moving to the US came to us. He offered us a portfolio of about thirty companies that were buying gaskets from him. So we bought "his" companies from him. We went from being assemblers to a kind of wholesaler. Every week we would go to Prague to get the material, we would load the old Skoda car up to the roof and drive towards Moravia. We were real businessmen now, who also sold, not just worked with our hands. That was around 1994. We enjoyed the fact the business was growing."

They didn't want to depend on others, they started to produce. "Perhaps the key turning point was when we stopped buying blinds and decided to make our own. We weren't happy with the supplier because he was struggling to meet deadlines and quality of deliveries. We then had to explain to people and customers that we were not to blame for the delays. In 1995 we bought our first machine, rented an evangelical vicarage in Przno and then premises in a cultural centre. We were already supporting around two dozen people."

There was little demand for blinds at first. "Before the revolution, the supply of shading in the Czech Republic was very simple. Blinds in ivory and pea green, and then fabric roller shutters that kept falling on people's heads. In Western Europe, this industry was already developed. We watched it closely, it was obvious that sooner or later a boom would come to Central and Eastern Europe. Manufacturers were starting to offer different systems and we wanted to be ready."

A visit from Germany resulted in the purchase of a new building. "A sales representative from the well-known and renowned company Alukon came. He asked if we would like to produce external roller shutters as well. We said why not and immediately started looking for a bigger property than the cultural centre in Przno. Seen through today's lens, it is absolutely incredible how we bought the building where we now have our headquarters. We just went to the bank, told them we had nothing, but we needed to borrow four and a half million. And they gave us the loan right away. We occupied about ten percent of its capacity with our production and offices, and we tried to rent the rest to be able to pay off the loans and start mass-producing the first roller shutters."

The company grew gradually in a natural way. "No sudden jumps of hundreds of percent year-on-year. The dynamics of the company increased year by year by an average of ten percent. That was good enough. With every big jump there are problems. Logistical, administrative, operational, even financial. Of course, I didn't want to hold the company back, but I felt that an annual increase of ten percent was just right. At that pace, the necessary organisational changes can be managed."

A good and stable employer. "Our great strength is that we try to treat our employees fairly, solidly and decently."

Three years ago, a sales director took over the management of the entire company. "Three years ago I made a fundamental decision. I felt I was no longer willing or able to give as much energy to the company as I had in previous years. I offered the position of CLIMAX Director to my colleague David Žabčík, who gradually worked his way up from salesman to Sales Director. He has been working for us for nineteen years, we know each other and we think about things similarly. The decision was not difficult for me. I always knew, when the moment someone came along who would be able to run the company better than me, comes, I would hand over the management to him. The company is too valuable to me to harm it with my vanity. When you've been building something for thirty years, you think twice about giving it over to your ego."

Miroslav Jakubec as a Chairman of the Board of Directors. "It's more of a strategic position. I also manage our real estate and I am a lecturer at the corporate academy we established last year. I am still and will continue to be the face of the company. It has freed up my hands considerably. I'm not doing fewer things, but rather I've slowed down. In previous years, I found that if you throw too many things in front of you, then you tend to slide on the surface. You don't think carefully about all the details. Now I can address my responsibilities in more depth."

The new director came with a lot of energy, new ideas. "So far I have not once regretted handing over the position. For example, the transport system is changing, we are introducing digitalisation, we have a lot of new projects to improve efficiency and reliability. David and I are in touch a lot, I know how he thinks. The cooperation works, although of course it requires a lot of self-control and, above all, communication. If we have a different opinion on something, we talk it through, but I want him to make the last decisions."

Number one on the Czech and Slovakian markets. "We are also doing unusually well in Austria, where we have become one of the largest suppliers of shading technology, we have been on this market for a long time. Austrian partners want to present themselves with our name, which is nice. Dozens of product types for interior and external shading. We shade family and apartment houses, residences, universities, hospitals, town halls and ministries all over the world. You can find CLIMAX products in every European country, in the Middle East or in Australia."

The owner has no doubts about the company's perspective. "It is huge. Shading technology is going to be even more important in the future because there are a lot of regulations coming up that will oblige and force European companies and maybe even households to use shading with regard to sustainability, the environment and energy savings."

So what is the current trend on the market? "At the moment, external blinds are dominating in Europe. They are also very popular in the Czech Republic. This is also helped by the current trend of building houses in the style of functionalism. External fabric facade shading is also gaining ground."

How does Miroslav Jakubec like to spend his free time? "We are a sporty family. My sons and I play hockey, floorball, football, badminton. We go cycling and skiing. My wife and I go dancing every week. We have a cottage in Bystřička, we like to travel a lot. We like Italy very much because of the atmosphere. Italians like children, they are smiling and cheerful. We always have a great time there and we love to go back. But for me personally, the best relaxation is sport really."