more refective, even sombre. “There is only so much
I can say on the record. Let me put it this way, 60-70%
of the Czech market is operated by the large foreign
conglomerates. The company of which I am executive
chairman, VaK Havlickuv Brod, by way of comparison, is
a small 90% municipally owned water entity supplying
around 100,000 people, our geographical base being in the
middle of the Czech Republic, some 100km to the east of
Prague in an area known as the Czech highlands.”
So not exactly a fair fght then?
“This is sometimes true. It’s Muhammad Ali against,
I don’t know, a featherweight teenage girl in the ring.
Anyway, I don’t want to overdo this boxing analogy –
suffce it to say that we have had to learn to box clever.”
And box clever Pavel Policar did, beating off the big boys
on more than one occasion, but most particularly in the
small neighbouring town of Vlasim (population: 30,000)
even if his victory ended up being contested in the courts.
But before being able to put on his gloves Policar realized
that he would have his own internal battle on his hands
when he was appointed as executive chairman seven years
THE “BU TCHER” GOES TO WORK
For while his management team was with him from the
outset, the local trade unions were singularly unimpressed
by his determination to introduce the ethos and values of
private sector effciency into the public domain. And he
dared mention the P word - proftability - a concept not
known for being bandied about in the public sector. It
would be something of an understatement to say that the
trade unions were hostile to the root and branch reforms he
was proposing - their approach can best be encapsulated in
the nickname they came up with for Policar - ‘the butcher’.
As the butcher set about wielding his knife - it was in
action for the best part of four years - VaK Havlickuv
Brod underwent a veritable metamorphism, managing
its infrastructure effectively, reinvesting “wisely full”
depreciations, operating effciently, reducing tariffs to
around 25% below the national average, reducing NRW
to an impressive 11%, dramatically improving customer
service, expanding internally and externally.
The utility also diversifed into non-core areas such as
pipe cleaning and photovoltaic power plants, involving staff
in a wide variety of measurable and motivating schemes
and slowly but surely over an often traumatic four year
period the so-called butcher won his critics over.
He had succeeded in transforming an almost loss-making
municipal entity into a highly proftable organisation in
which each and every employee – from senior executives
to plant engineers – began to have a real and meaningful
stake in the enterprise. In fact the proof of the private style
pudding was in the municipal proft-making.
“And it was because of this dramatic turnaround that
we have come to rub shoulders with the big players in the
large neighbouring districts. In fact we are the only Czech
municipal company to be found in such tenders.”
Would it be safe to assume that Policar has done well for
You’ve got to be kidding,” he responds quickly. “I
deliberately receive around a couple of hundred euros each