Dragoljub Vukadinović: My three successes

My first and greatest success is freedom, because I have never been a member of a party, I have always put company’s interests before my own, my second success is my family and two sons who finished faculties and are successfully working, and my third success is „ Metalac“

Dragoljub Vukadinović has worked in „Metalac“ factory in Gornji Milanovac for 32 years, while the factory itself has existed for 47 years. In the past 18 years he has been the general manager, and since a few years ago also the president of „Metalac“ Holding. It is therefore logical that he has had a decisive influence on the successful development of this factory which has become a brand of a sort in the Serbian industry.

How do you perceive the conditions of doing business in Serbia today?

– If you look at the statistics, it can certainly been seen that it is much better than it used to be, having in mind that some are better off and some are not really. The annual production growth is five to seven percent, productivity is growing… But you have some other things that are not good. The number of unemployed has increased from the figure of 700,000 from seven years ago to 950,000 people, there are more poor people than there were before, and the chasm between the rich and the poor is growing wider. I we add to that the fact that there is no well rounded legislation although the reforms have lasted for seven years, that the flow of direct foreign investments is still small, we cannot say that it is the kind of surrounding in which you can work carefree.

– I have used all my business capabilities to create this factory. That is a normal thing to do if one is in that sort of position- says Vukadinović for Magazin Biznis, in the conversation on how firms like „ Metalac“ have managed to survive, develop and become Serbian brands, regardless of all unfavourable circumstances in the past twenty years or so. Not to mention the rest, it solely suffices that the socio-economic system has been changed: from the self-management socialism we have entered capitalism. But the best illustration for that how a brand is made and what its value is has been given by Vukadinović himself:

– Twenty years ago, when I was working in „Metalac“, when meeting people I did not want to say where I worked, but was only saying my name and surname. Now I first say „Metalac“and then my name. This shift is a proof that a step forward as regards the image of „ Metalac“has been made- Vukadinović says.

So how did you make the brand „Metalac“?

– „Metalac“started from a handicraft shop. It worked with varying success. It even had some plunges. Twenty-three years ago it was bankrupt, that is, it was in a rehabilitation programme, as it was then called. But at that time twenty of us were occupying managerial positions in „Metalac“. And we agreed to see what the world was doing right and take from it all we could to apply in our company. We said: why should we lag a few years behind the world. It is all right if we are six months or a year behind, but not more than that.

What was the volume of that initial production?

– The total production then was worth 35 million Deutsch marks and 1,500 people worked. My first attitude was that the number of people was to be reduced, because it was established that we had redundancy. But as that was the time of Ante Marković’s reforms I received criticism from some elder colleagues that „there are no redundant workers, only inefficient directors that cannot provide jobs for everyone“. And I realized then that I should introduce new programmes and employ the people. We did so and in a few years we opened the non-stick coating dishes factories, and later a sink production facility and afterwards an inox dishes factory. In the meantime there was a voluntary departure of people and not we are a firm with 1,250 employees, there are four production programmes, an approximately world work productivity, high quality and value of total production of 50 million euros, with 250 employees less.

A surprise gift

– On my desk there are two metal, cast figures weighing three to five kilograms, which I received as a gift from the partners from Germany, from the company Baumgarten, which is located between Frankfurt and Cologne. It is a German partner who came to „Metalac“on business on 25 June 1991., on the very day when Slovenia separated from former SFRY (Socialist Federative Republic of Yugoslavia) As we know, all sorts of things were happening in the meantime, and when he came to Serbia in 2003. he could not believe that it was that same „Metalac“. We had built a new business building, opened new facilities, developed production, survived sanctions. When he returned to Germany he sent me this gift and wrote a letter, which more or less went like this:” My father worked in the Ruhr area which was rich in coal in 1918., but later there came a great economic crisis. Then Father decided to leave the coal business and found a firm which would deal in casting. That was the best decision he had ever made, although it was made in the most difficult moment. The best decisions are made in the most difficult moments…“
My sons have developed the casting business and they are also producing parts for automobile industry. „Metalac“is procuring handles for dishes from that German partner. The production of dishes’ handles is very complicated, but they have specialized for that and are making dishes’ handles for the whole world- Dragoljub Vukadinović told us. 

Is the largest part of dishes exported?

– Yes, the largest part of dishes produced, that is around 70 percent is exported. But including other facilities we export 40 percent of total production. „Metalac“has built its image on the fact that in the past 20 years there have been no complaints on its products and none of its goods exported have been returned from abroad. We work precisely for the day indicated in the contract. Our delivery deadlines with the English, for example, contain a clause that we will not be more than four days late and if we are- we pay penalties. We have never paid penalties because we have never been late. We accept only the orders we can fulfil. In Europe we supply hypermarkets and big trade suppliers. Today, in Europe, „Metalac“is best known for its reliability. Our competitors say that we have a German-like organization. Export prices are approximately the same as in the domestic market, and there is no extended 90 day payment deadline.

If it is well known that dishes are consumable goods, but not something that is bought every day, and there are many producers in the world, the questions is- how did you make it?

– First it was important to apply the most modern world technology, to train a great number of employees for the jobs at the level of the developed countries and to create an organization which corresponded to those demands. That is a process which cannot be completed over night, but we have shown that it can be achieved. Thanks to reliability and quality, our dishes factory is a brand in Europe as well. Yearly we deliver over four million pieces of dishes to Europe and America. Last year we exported into 26 countries. We work with the best firms in Germany, England, France, Spain, Russia… highest quality imported raw materials. If we count US Steel as a foreign firm, then 95 percent of raw materials are from abroad. Sometimes we import cardboard as well if it turns out that the one on the domestic market is bad. But that is why we have a good quality of products, there are no complaints, and that is possible to achieve only if you have quality raw materials.

The employees of „Metalac“ will certainly agree with that as well, because it is one of the rare domestic firms in the majority ownership of its employees- shareholders.

– „Metalac“ has conducted the most honest privatization in which through the system of increase of share capital, by the laws from the time of Ante Marković has been carried out. Around 42 percent of the state owned capital which was transformed later was left, so we had finally arrived at the current situation in which the workers own 55 percent of the company, while a few investment funds have bought minority blocks of shares of five or six percent of shares each on the stock market, that is, in total, 35 percent of the capital. The shares are quoted on Belgrade Stock Market: we started on 4 April 2002. with the price of 168 a stock, quickly got to the price of over 3,000 dinars and now a single stock of „Metalac“ is more than 5,000 dinars worth. It is certain that the price of stocks will grow, because according to the last year’s annual balance sheet we have a net income of over five million euros. That means that the workers will get the 13. pay and dividends. The ratio of profits division is fifty-fifty, that is half will go to the pays and dividends and half to investments.

What are you always asked in the story of You and „Metalac“?

– I am always asked: what is your greatest success? And I always say to that: my first and greatest success is freedom, the fact that I have always been independent and have never been a member of a party, I have a clear biography, I have no crime or affair to be associated with, I have always put the interests of my company before my own and through the success of the company perceived my own interests. My second success is my family and my two sons who have finished faculties and are successfully working, and my third success is „Metalac“.

R. Nikolić
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