Lifetime Achievement Award of Varaždin City - Rudolf Kirić
The Lifetime Achievement Award of the City of Varaždin will be presented to Rudolf Kiric this year at a solemn session of the City Council on Tuesday 8 December for his outstanding contribution to the economy. In fact, Kirić, as a successful entrepreneur, has created a high-tech, modern company from a modest tire shop, which is a leader in its industry and this year marks 45 years of business…
The recognition surprised me a lot, and it is a great personal satisfaction for all the effort I put into the development of our family business, which to a certain extent stimulated the economic development of our city, said Rudolf Kirić, from whom we learn that he was born on April 15, 1944 in Svibovac Podravski.
In this place he attended elementary school and then continued his education in Varaždin by enrolling in the School of Business Students in the vulcanizer department, which he completed in 1961. After completing his education, he worked in the profession and acquired new knowledge in Varaždin Vulcanizer trade.
- It was a solid company employing 50 people and in 1967 was integrated with the former Auto Mechanic. The latter employed as many as 200 workers of different professions, but unfortunately, after two years, she ended up bankrupt. All to one we had to look for a new job and find out how anyone knew. In 1969, the rubber industry in Varaždin ceased to be socially owned – he recalls.
Opened a workshop in a former blacksmith shop
But it turned out that private owners of rubber workshops in the city did not want to hire new workers, which gave Kirić enough incentive to open his own in 1970 because, as he said, he "gained enough experience working as a manager". In this plan he was supported by family and friends, but it was not easy to make a decision because of modest material and financial resources.
–The workshop was located at Kurelceva 5 near the fire station and had a blacksmith shop in it. The beginnings were humble, I worked as a sole employee for a year and a half literally with one mechanical tire mounting machine, grinder and compressor. I then hire the first two workers and after the workload has increased, two more join them. It was their first job and they spent their entire work diligently working at my company for 42 years - Kirić emphasized, adding that it took a lot of work and redundancy before he could move the workshop to his own premises in Kukuljevic Street in 1975.
That year he bought half of his office space and an outbuilding was needed. He later paid off the other owners, and in 1976 he remembers the year as a turning point, as more work was done.
- My main customers were larger companies that I worked with as a manager at Vulcanizer Crafts and Car Mechanics. These are companies such as Varteks, Bobic, Cesta, Foundry, Koca. But there were also a lot of private people who came to the workshop because they were satisfied with the price and quality of the services provided. The volume of work has increased so much over the years that as early as 1990, I was opening a Gumiimpex company that employed 37 people at the time. At that time, we had a well-established production of our own to maintain the internal systems of large factories - said Kirić, who always tried to keep up with the development of technology in Europe and there was almost no fair he did not visit.
Craftsmen also bought machines at junkyards
He added that they were always finding the market themselves and designing their products. There were countless obstacles, because in the former state craftsmen could not employ more people than was allowed or buy a machine more than DM 15,000!
- Craftsmen from the former Yugoslavia emptied all waste in Western Europe in order to get used machines that needed to be repaired, renovated and repurposed. It is inconceivable to today's generations how much knowledge, will and enthusiasm we have invested in at least a small shift in the development of our workshops or small businesses. But this is so, when you start a business - you have to finish it - Kirić said.
They also had strong competitors, as in the former state the leading word in the rubber industry was the companies Borovo, Sava Kranj, Gumi servis Rijeka and Univerzal Banja Luka. But they did not rely on their program but went the other way, producing smaller parts necessary to maintain the various machines that the former Yugoslavia imported from all over the world.
- Our product range is dominated by various gaskets for the production of which we ourselves have designed and produced tools. We successfully developed this program just like selling tires, which unfortunately was banned in 1985. It was a blow to all craftsmen in the industry, but with the founding of the Republic of Croatia we moved to Miškinina Street in 1993, to a new location that did not limit the space development of the company in space - he points out.
Here, the Kirić's built an office space of 3,500 m2 in which, in addition to the one-stop shop, the tires were balanced, assembled and the service of adjusting the optics on the vehicles provided. They also increased the number of employees to 55.
They recycle all types of tires
Although our interlocutor retired in 2000, he continued his business activities and in 2005 founded the company Gumiimpex “GRP”, which among other things deals with tire recycling in the Free Zone.
- I am always with the company, son Damir and the whole family who successfully lead it. We have made a pioneering step by monitoring an industry in the EU that has adapted to the highest environmental standards. Namely, used tires have been thrown at parks, forests, streams in Croatia for decades, and in 2003 I decided to personally determine how this problem is addressed by the states in our area. This prompted us to build a recycling facility for used tires in the Trnovac business area of 75,000 m2. We recycle all kinds of tires and rubber products in our market - Kirić emphasized.
They have been using recycled rubber and the resulting granulate since 2005 to produce various boards covering athletics tracks and kindergarten floors, with the remaining granules still remaining being exported to the EU, mostly to Germany.
- From the very beginning, we have been striving to produce an export program, which required the necessary technological level. Today, half of our production ends up in foreign markets. In addition to granules, we also export the iron and canvas we get from tires. This is a smaller part of the export, and most of them are rubber - technical items used in England, Germany, the USA or some other importers distribute them to their customers. In addition to gaskets, we also produce strategic items for customers that are not made in large batches and which big rubber companies do not want to produce because they are not worth it or cannot meet the quality - said Kirić, adding that the crisis in Gumiimpex did not reduce the volume of work because they reoriented themselves for export.
The best solution is export
However, it has hit many companies in Croatia that they have worked with for years. Unfortunately, large companies have also failed, making the delivery of goods delivered as difficult as it is difficult, Kirić warns.
He says that Croatian manufacturing and service contractors are at a disadvantage from foreign competition, but high energy prices and tax cuts are not the only culprit.
- Croatian companies are in a bad position primarily due to the situation in the country and are difficult to deal with in the market competition with foreign companies that have more advanced technology implemented in production. However, with a good and flexible approach to production, and by that I mean the quality of the final product, respect for delivery times and an acceptable price, we can do well in foreign markets as well. Export is the only guarantee for our entrepreneurs that they will charge for the delivered products - said Kirić, whose ability to identify and solve problems of old tires in northwestern Croatia has contributed to a significant increase in employment and the opening of new production processes in Varaždin.
Satisfied employee - best worker
We remind that Gumiimpex employs 326 people today and in 45 years it has not happened that workers are paid a day late.
- I consider myself an educated and satisfied employee - the best worker. Although our employees are mostly above average good workers, we always find around 20 percent of those who are not satisfied with their jobs or wages. I attribute this attitude to their family situation and the upbringing they received. Namely, we make sure that our worker has a decent salary, a warm meal, that he works 8 hours and uses the vacation that belongs to him. We also pay them recourse, travel expenses and strive to provide generous Christmas offers every year. These are just some of the reasons why employees are loyal to our company and it always makes us happy when we pay them jubilees - said Kirić, from which we learn that this year all employees who have spent 5, 10 or even 39 years in this company will receive this award .
Unfortunately, there is not enough skilled labor in Croatia capable of working in the rubber industry, and we are forced to educate the workers ourselves, according to Kiric.
- Our company employs 40 highly educated employees, but we always lack graduates of mechanical engineers and mechanical technicians. These are big problems and education needs to respond because there will be more and more scarce occupations - says this entrepreneur whose family-owned company grew into a joint-stock company in 2008.
Hunting and nature are his great love
He noted that every person, including him personally, "impresses when he sees how things are progressing in every way".
- It takes a lot of will, effort, time and it really pleases me that there are no longer countless discarded used tires in our streams and forests. Namely, it is not degradable and if we do not recycle it and do not receive a useful product from it, rubber can for hundreds of years accumulate and pollute our natural resources - Kirić reminds.
He also emphasized that hunting has been his long-standing love - a great love, because he loves going to nature and hanging out with colleagues who are also environmentalists.
- Thanks to hunting, I also met a number of people who worked in the same or other industries with whom I could exchange valuable experiences - Kirić concluded.