Čačak-based company Slovas, a leader in trade in the stainless steel industry and the production of processing equipment, has spent a full three decades satisfying all the needs and demands of its customers across the region and throughout Europe, and for the year in which it it is commemorating its jubilee, it plans to build a new business and service centre complete with new equipment
Despite not hiding his satisfaction with everything the company’s achieved to date, Slovas director Slobodan Vasilijević doesn’t hide his desire to achieve even better results with the new generation, with his own children and those of his employees. That’s why he announces that the company’s jubileee year will be marked by the construction of a new production plant with new equipment.
You are awaited by a major jubilee year for the company. We congratulate you on your perseverance, strength and tenacity, on everything that has been achieved over these three decades. How do you view the path that you’ve traversed since establishing Slovas?
We celebrate 30 years of our existence and successful operations next year. No path is easy, but you must have a desire and vision, a goal that you want to achieve, determination and tenacity, but also a love for the work that you do. Without that, and particularly without determination, tenacity and devoted work, there can be no results.
From this vantage point, I can say that no year was easy, but nothing is difficult when you see that the company is developing, progressing. Years are just numbers, which is why we are heading towards new victories with new enthusiasm.
What forms the basis of your company’s success?
I founded the company in 1993, immediately after graduating from college. It wasn’t easy to start during that time of crisis, sanctions, wars and hyperinflation, without working capital. There were many challenges, but that’s also why Slovas today boasts 10,000 customers and more than 24,000 products. The company’s core activity is trade in stainless steel and the production of processing equipment, and we don’t have our own specialised production programme, but rather we make products in accordance with the demands and needs of the market and customers.
Our customers come from Serbia, the countries of the former Yugoslavia, Germany, Austria, Italy, France, Sweden, Russia, Ukraine etc. We acquire new customers year after year, between 15 and 20 on a monthly basis. We have amassed 30 years of operations, which is enough for us to show the quality of our products and services, our relations towards customers, adherence to all standards, delivery deadlines etc. This testifies the most about us and represents our best recommendation. The year that’s behind us was marked by intense growth in the volume of business we do with Austria, Germany, Italy and some other countries, thus today exports account for more than 45 per cent of our sales.
How do you keep pace with the demands and expectations of the market?
Our production programme expands constantly, such that today we have over 24,800 items, because we introduce new products in accordance with the requirements of the market and customers. In order to satisfy our customers, we must offer them the maximum possible choice, so that they can acquire everything they need in one place, instead of having to search in multiple locations. It is only in this way that we can rely on them remaining loyal to us over the longer term.
How did you happen to also start working on the design and production of equipment, and the implementation of works? It was from 2006/7 that clients began more frequently asking us to offer them finished products and services, and we came to the realisation that this is the right way to go. In order to use raw materials to make finished products, we first started working with subcontractors, which we have 65 of today.
The basic concept of Slovas is that our customers are simultaneously also our suppliers, which means that they procure raw materials from us, then process certain products and services for us, before returning the finished products to us. They practically grow and develop together with us, and acquire a new operational dimension. Slovas today has 65 permanent subcontractors throughout Serbia, who work in accordance with the demands of our customers and markets, and who grow together with us and become more serious companies. Each of those companies specialises in a specific activity, and it’s thanks to this that we don’t need to have our own production, but rather we deal with the servicing, preparation, cutting, processing and delivery of materials. This is how we reduce the price of finished products and gain more products per unit of time, and are thus able to engage more subcontractors…
What did you gain with the 2008 opening of your state-of-the-art service centre for processing stainless steel?
The centre was first established in 2008, but to this day we’ve continued to invest in it and replacing the equipment constantly, improving the technology and operations, in order for us to be able to offer customers new and better quality services, in order for us to receive new added value for our products and be able to deliver finished products or services in a relatively short period, depending on their requirements and needs.
There were many challenges, but that’s why Slovas today boasts 10,000 customers and more than 24,000 products
We have been investing constantly since 2008, changing and replacing equipment every four to five years, so for the jubilee year of 2023 we plan to build a new business and service centre complete with new equipment. Part of the machinery has already arrived, while the larger part will arrive next year, so we will round off our first 30 years of doing business with a new investment and new technological equipment. It is thanks to this that we will be able to respond to new demands, new needs and new markets.
Can your workers keep pace with all that? Are you satisfied with your staff?
Slovas has 42 permanently employed workers, which includes those who’ve been with us for a full 28 years. Employee satisfaction is very important to us, which is why we try to provide them with the best possible working conditions and stimulating salaries that are sufficient for them to provide for their families and remain with us over the longer term. Alongside parents who’ve been working with us for 26/27 years, we’ve also started employing their children, so the second generation of workers has arrived. That is our great success.
I have three children who will one day work at Slovas. My eldest daughter, Anđela, is in the third year of mechanical engineering studies at Queen Mary University of London. She accompanied me on business trips around the world and followed in my footsteps from the sixth grade of primary school. She will complete her studies in another two years, and I hope that she will then begin engaging actively in the company’s work. She will receive some special tasks, on the internationalisation of trade and services, deepening the contacts that she’s acquired during her studies and conquering new markets. I’ve also been introducing my younger daughter to the business world from an early age, as well as my son, who is only 10 years old, but has been in and around the company in some way since the age of four or five. He will also receive specific responsibilities when he grows up, some adequate position, but he must be dedicated and committed. Our wish is to achieve even better results with the new generation, which is why I want to build a new production plant with new equipment in this jubilee year, so that our children can be proud of us and what we’ve created.
Apart from showing that you care for clients, partners and employees, you have shown through numerous donations that you also care about the local community…
Our stance is that all those who are in distress should be helped, but I don’t want boast and speak about that. We’ve participated in numerous humanitarian campaigns and helped everyone needing essential help, and that’s our enduring commitment. We believe it is primarily necessary to help with healthcare services and secure the best possible conditions for treatment, because that’s where citizens and users of healthcare services will primarily feel the benefit. I also recommend that my colleagues engage in helping the community in accordance with their own possibilities, because we will then all live better.