Roman Kluska, founder of the Optimus computer company, was unlawfully arrested in 2002. Remembering those years, he emphasizes the great role that faith played for him at that time, and especially the words in The Diary of St. Faustina. Kluska is a symbol of an entrepreneur’s struggle with dishonest officials, but also a symbol of ethics based on a deep faith in God. Below we present his extraordinary testimony
Following the fall of communism in Poland, I started my own company in the IT industry, which began to grow very fast. Our success was the result of hard work of all the employees and our intellectual abilities. Within a few years, we had become one of the 20 most prestigious Polish companies, and in 1997 we received an award from the Parkiet Exchange for the second company in the primary market. Imagine – having nothing and then eight years later having a company in the second place in the Exchange. A company that was no longer one company, but grew to 30 enterprises, of which three were leaders in their industries. Optimus in the computer industry; Onet in the Internet; OPTIMUS-IC, now called Novitus, in fiscal cash registers. The remaining 27 companies developed wonderfully in almost all fields that were connected to us. We had achieved such high quality in our products that we were the absolute leader in computer sales in Poland. Apart from us, only the Japanese managed to maintain a leading position in computer sales in their own country. Everywhere else in the world, American companies had the best positions. Therefore, it is not surprising that we received a lot of recognition from US companies, including an offer from the well-known American company Lockheed Martin to create a joint entity or a joint venture (jointly established by two independent enterprises to implement a specific project – ed.) with 50 % of the shares. In this way, Optimus-Lockheed Martin was born. At that time, we were one of two companies in the world that offered this type of cooperation by Lockheed Martin. We gained access to their unique technology.
It seemed then that there was no limit to our development, that Optimus together with Lockheed and our companies would become a world power.
There is No Real Success without a Business Based on Ethics
I am convinced that there is no real, long-term success without a business based on ethics. As proof, I will give one significant example. When I was still managing Optimus, I was invited to Germany, to one of the largest computer factories in Europe. Despite my initial delight over its technological advancement on the assembly line, where only robots were working, I soon came to be convinced of the fundamental shortcomings in the functioning of this factory. During my visit to this plant, a “cage” unexpectedly fell on me, which – as it turned out later – was an element of standard control and protection against numerous cases of theft of electronic components. It turned out that although this system of cages for randomly selected employees was extremely expensive, it did not eliminate the problem of theft, which generated huge losses for this company.
I could not understand how it happened that despite being completely innocent, I was treated like the worst criminal
During the return trip to Poland, a surprising thought occurred to me: in Optimus, the problem of components theft did not occur! During the entire 10 years of my management, there were no more than 5 very small thefts – in comparison with this German company it was nothing! Where did this difference come from? The answer turned out to be extremely simple: instead of sophisticated security systems, we had introduced a company system based on ethics! It consisted of three very simple principles:
1. The company is the greatest value for the employee (in the context of work).
2. Never demand from anyone more than you would from yourself!
3. A fish rots from the head down.
Re. 1. What does it mean that the company is the greatest value? This means a complete re-evaluation of the employee’s attitude to his work and adopting the attitude of service for the common good.
Re 2. “Never demand from anyone more than you would from yourself.” This means that I, as the boss, for example, have to be always on time at work. Throughout all the years of managing the company, I had never been late, not even by a minute! Otherwise, I could not require my employees to be punctual, because I could not demand from my subordinates what I myself would not practice. I could require no more from my deputies than from myself – and this rule applied to all my employees.
Re 3. “A fish rots from the head.” This principle means that the most important example comes from above.
How were these three simple rules implemented? In an uncomplicated way. Each newly hired employee at the beginning of work met up with me and then with my deputies, and we explained to them that we did not want employees but partners – people who would shape and develop the company and benefit from it together. This was the first element of this system. I showed that this is not someone else’s company, but it is our company – “our” because we work together and share success together. The second aspect: “Never demand from anyone more than you would from yourself!” This principle is very simple to implement. Let me give you an example: my wife goes on a private errand in my company car, driven by my company driver. The company is mine – for a long time I owned 100% of the shares, so in theory everything was mine. So everything is fine – but is it really? When my wife comes back, I say to my secretary: “Mrs. Danusia, please check how much this service would cost in a regular transport company, and please bill it to me.” “But, Mr. Kluska,” said the secretary, “this is your car!” But the secretary could not refuse me, the CEO, when I insisted on issuing the invoice for me and I always paid it myself. Imagine that just as I did not even take a blank sheet of paper from the company, so my deputy did not dare take it, and if he did not take anything, the manager did not take it, and if he did not take anything, neither did any employee. These simple principles allowed the company to have much less internal administration. Thanks to this, it is much more flexible, and in our industry such flexibility (that is, adjustment to technological progress) was the “to be or not to be” principle for the company. A company based on ethics does not have to have rigid internal structures, auditors, rules or bans. This is because we do not work in the company, but we serve it. So the company is not bureaucratic – it is flexible and is not susceptible to internal corruption, because we all serve this company. In such an enterprise there is also much less self-interest or backstairs influence. You cannot defeat a company based on ethics! No organization system can become better if there is no ethics!