LINET was established 30 years ago. Five fundamental decisions and milestones that set the course for Zbyněk Frolík and his associates
It was 30 years ago to the day, 3 September 1990, that a newly established company called LINET was entered in the commercial register.
To some, trying to succeed in the world of hospital bed manufacturing might have seemed like a utopian undertaking. Yet 30 years later, LINET is number one in the industry in Europe and number three in the world. For this fiscal year, the company has projected sales just shy of 10 billion Czech crowns.
Throughout the history of the company, there have been numerous important decisions, many of which clearly illustrate the founders’ courage in taking risks and relying on their intuition. ‘Each year saw a significant advancement – from the first beds, the building of the company by first repairing our old farmstead and then gradually building new manufacturing facilities, significant innovations like the column system and dozens of other inventions, to the wager on design as an essential aspect of our products and the acquisition of foreign companies,’ says LINET founder Zbyněk Frolík. He adds: ‘It might sound cliché, but the main reason behind our success is the people I’ve surrounded myself with the whole time.’
Nonetheless, several of the company’s decisions throughout its history have been somewhat unorthodox. We’ve chosen five of them and asked Mr Frolík for his comments:
1. In 1991, he gave half of the company to the shareholders of the German company WIBO.
’I didn’t have to; LINET was profitable in its very first month, but I knew that if I wanted to succeed in Europe, Czechoslovakia at the time was not enough for the export of hospital beds. Germany had an entirely different sound to it. And, as you know, we’re one of the few examples of the Czech half of a joint venture that outgrew its German coowners so dramatically.’ In 2011, therefore, LINET Group was established and includes the German company.
2. He decided to build his own sales network, although it cost LINET well over a billion Czech crowns.
‘It’s the main difference between us, Czech manufacturers, and our foreign competitors. We often have much better products, but we don’t know how to sell them in large markets with a high margin. It was clear to me that we had to have our own sales representation. We invested well over a billion Czech crowns, but we have a sales network, which is still getting stronger, all over the world, and our own subsidiaries in large markets.'
3. He founded the Academy of Productivity and Innovation and thus acquired necessary knowhow.
‘I don’t think I need to lecture anyone on how without innovation it just doesn’t work. Founding the academy let us acquire knowhow primarily from the automotive industry. And this was more important than it may seem. I still look at it as a sort of trick, thanks to which we had access to innovations that we were able to successfully apply at LINET. By far, it’s not just in manufacturing, which takes place on production lines with sliding assembly benches.’
4. Though an engineer and innovator by background, he gives just as much room to designers.
‘Design actually became a part of our company motto: “to be an object of desire, not a mere choice”. Despite starting out primarily as an engineer and innovator, I see design as an integral element of a product. Innovation without cutting-edge design is basically useless. We work with only the best: Ivan Dlabač, Jiří Španihel, and Pavel Šťastný, who is known for creating the logo of Civic Forum.’
5. From the very beginning, he has had a clear vision, and he knows how to get others excited about it.
‘I say it in every interview: I’d have accomplished nothing alone. I’ve always known how to work with people. I know how to fire them up and get them on my side. They’re the ones who drive things forward in the company; they bring far greater quality than I ever could alone.’
Picture no. 1
LINET spol. s.r.o. / LINET Group sales growth (in mil. CZK)
Notes on the graph:
1. Since 2004, LINET has used a fiscal year that reflects project business, i.e. from April 1 to March 31 of the following year.
2. Since 2011, sales are for the whole of LINET Group, which comprises not only LINET by also the German company WIBO, BORCAD Medical and foreign subsidiaries.
3. For the 2020/2021 fiscal year, LINET Group has projected sales just short of 10 billion CZK. Sales are influenced not only by orders but also by the exchange rate since the majority of the company’s production is for export.
Pictures no. 2 and 3
Several photographs from the past:
In the beginning, there was a half-empty cowhouse in Želevčice. Now, LINET Group has four manufacturing plants, with the main one located in Želevčice, the place where it all began in 1990.
Pictures no. 4 and 5
Beds for intensive care: the first one was called Premiér (1992). Now, the flagship is Multicare, the design of which has gradually transformed the entire market.
Pictures no. 6 and 7
LINET and Zbyněk Frolík have won multiple awards, the most prestigious of which is the 2003 Entrepreneur of the Year Award. Mr Frolík was also one of the global finalists in Monte Carlo.