*EXCLUSIVE * In Conversation with… Ladislav Britanak
Gun Trade World is delighted to have secured an interview with Ladislav Britanak, MBA - CEO and Chairman of the Board of Directors at CZ. It this wide-ranging discussion Radislav lays out the CZ decision-making process as well as assessing the impact of the Covid-19 crisis.
When did you become CEO of CZ?
I’ve been CEO since 2018.
Can you speak a little about your background?
Before becoming CEO, I was the CZ Commercial Director for 11 years. During my time in this position, I had the opportunity to become extremely familiar with the weapons environment for civilians and the armed forces. I visited dozens of countries on all continents and attended many meetings.
Do you do much hunting or shooting?
I am personally interested in trap and skeet shooting with asphalt targets. I get the most enjoyment from these shooting sports.
What important decisions did you make when you first became CEO and what would you consider the best decision you have made so far?
Above all, we make decisions as a team. The team consists of myself and other colleagues from management. The important decisions we’ve made are to focus on increasing productivity of the company as a whole, while maintaining the high quality of our products. Although we have increased our production and sales by tens of percents, the number of CZ employees is decreasing. At the same time, we are currently making large investments in production, research & development and sales. Our main goal is customer satisfaction, which is the focus of our activities.
The best decision we’ve recently made was to keep the company running, despite the coronavirus pandemic. Many other industrial companies in the Czech Republic were forced to stop production. We have taken dozens of measures to keep the company open and continue with production.
How has Coronavirus affected business and what measures have been brought in to ensure safety and continued business operations?
The COVID-19 pandemic mainly complicated the transport of goods to customers. In many cases, it made it impossible. It has also complicated the subcontracting of parts from some foreign suppliers, but here we have benefited from the high proportion of our own products that are used for production. We had to look for alternative modes of transport, which were many times more expensive, and in some cases, transport was not even possible.
We provided protective and disinfection products for employees, shortened their shifts so they wouldn‘t meet in locker rooms when changing clothes, disinfected the premises with ozone generators, formed closed work teams of up to 10 workers to prevent quarantine in case of infection, distributed vitamins, and provided psychological counselling. We didn’t have enough facemasks at the beginning of the pandemic, so our employees took the initiative to make masks themselves until commercial ones were available for purchase.
Aside from COVID-19 what are your biggest business challenges for 2020 and beyond?
Our goal is to strengthen CZ's position on the armed forces market. We offer a wide portfolio of new and technologically advanced products; which members of the armed forces can rely on one hundred percent. I‘m pleased that we signed a framework agreement this year with the Czech Republic’s Ministry of Defence for the supply of small arms to the Czech army. A recent challenge and motivation for achieving good economic results was the listing of CZG-Ceska zbrojovka Group SE, of which we are an integral part, on the stock exchange. The entry on 1 June was only in the form of a technical listing, but is expected to complete this process.
What are your key business objectives for the medium to long term?
Our key business goal is to become the world's number one manufacturer of civilian and military small arms, and leader in innovation. Another goal within CZG is to have our own production capacity in the USA, which is the most important market for us in terms of sales volume.
To what extent has your expertise in the military sector influenced production of your civilian hunting weapons?
We capitalize on synergy. All of our products are designed, tested and inspected as if they were intended for the armed forces. These demands are much tougher than those in the civilian sector. The customer therefore receives a weapon that has been manufactured to military-grade tolerances and tested as if it were intended for use in the most demanding conditions. We believe that a weapon made for your police officers and sheriffs is also suitable for your personal protection.
What are your key products and why have they been so successful?
We manufacture weapons for hunting, sports, personal protection and the armed forces. Among the most successful is the Scorpion EVO 3 A1/S1 submachine gun, which features fantastic ergonomics and has become the gold standard for other manufacturers of this type of weapon. The CZ Shadow 2 sports pistol is another shining star and has dominated the IPSC Production division. The CZ P-10 service pistol series that features an innovative trigger mechanism and artificial intelligence designed ergonomic grip following our exclusive DiFEND method is embraced by both the civilian and armed forces. And finally, the CZ BREN 2 assault rifle, which is an ideal weapon for combat and is available in several sizes, calibres, etc.
The secret of our success is that we develop weapons in cooperation with real experts and know our customers so well that their needs and requirements are perfectly met. To view the complete CZ product portfolio and download product catalogues, you can visit the CZ website at www.czub.cz.
Is the global export theatre changing? If so, what changes have you noticed?
Export is very important for us, as almost 80 per cent of our production goes to international markets. As the coronavirus pandemic has shown, unexpected changes can be very sudden and far-reaching. At CZ, we are able to respond quickly and effectively to new challenges. When some markets closed due to the pandemic, we were able to deliver our products to other countries. We travel less and utilize online video calls more; there are no exhibitions, so we launch new products via electronic media and video conferencing. We are leaving this test (pandemic) stronger, since we can always count on our customers, partners and employees.