HELUZ | Culture and Commitment
Building a strong family culture brick by brick
For a family business that was founded in 1876, it might seem strange that it wasn’t until 11 years ago that the HELUZ Company – a Czech manufacturer of masonry products – started embedding its name on every brick it sold. But for four decades, that decision was taken out of its hands. The company was nationalized in 1950 after its country fell under Communist rule, and it wasn’t until 1990 that it got the chance to take it back. Vladimir Heluz was delivering a new color TV to his mother-in-law in Raspenava, close to the Polish border, and he happened to notice a letter sitting on the kitchen table. It was from the newly installed government, offering his family the opportunity to retake ownership of the company.
“It was a stroke of luck,” says Vladimir’s son, Roman, who runs the company today, along with his father and younger brother, Michal.
Luck has nothing to do with the company’s success since then. HELUZ has become one of the top three producers of masonry systems in the region. In addition to producing high-quality products, the company credits a strong culture that taps into its long history and family ownership.
For a long time, masons colloquially referred to the company’s products under the nickname of “Heluzky.” In 2010, the company’s owners and management decided to make it official by stamping the family name on every brick block that leaves its factories. The goal was to share pride of ownership with its employees and send a strong message to its customers. “My father wanted everyone to know we as a family are proud of our products and responsible for them,” Roman says.
“It's important for them to understand why we're turning left instead of right.”
Visibility is a theme that extends well beyond the company’s brand. Like many global family businesses, HELUZ stresses access to leadership as one of its key advantages. Before the COVID-19 pandemic struck, Roman and other members of the ownership group made a point to mingle with employees on a nearly daily basis at HELUZ’s headquarters in Dolni Bukovsko, and they typically visited at least one of the company’s four production facilities each month. After it’s over, HELUZ will be looking to resume these interactions, as well as its annual “Boss on the Grill” cookout, where employees can ask Roman and his brother Michal questions as they tell them how they would like their steak prepared. “It’s important for them to understand why we’re turning left instead of right,” Roman says. “They need to share our belief that every decision is the right one for the company.”
Communication is a two-way street at HELUZ. Many ideas for changes in direction come from production-floor employees and lower levels of management, supporting a culture of innovation. Members of the company’s research and development group, after hearing of persistent delays on construction sites caused by lack of skilled labor, started working on a new product that would replace the need to make on-site mortar, a slow and laborious process. HELUZ SIDI, a pre-prepared masonry mortar that can be rolled on like paint, was the result. “Our customers love it because it speeds up construction and it gets rid of the risk that the job won’t be done professionally,” Roman says.
In addition to getting the opportunity to directly contribute to the company’s success, employees know that the company will support them if they want to pursue a new interest or skill. If someone has the ability to take on a new role, HELUZ often makes the switch rather than leave their competencies untapped. Often, positions left vacant by promotions are tweaked to suit available candidates’ skills. “We try to find jobs for capable people rather than the other way around,” says Chief Executive Officer Jan Smola. “It’s about adaptability and ensuring each employee finds their natural place here.”