Interview: When Elite Soldier Steps into Shoes of a Sales Director in a Lifesaving Business

Published 10. 7. 2024

When Radek Duchek, a former elite soldier and founder of 4M Systems, got an offer from his friend and fellow soldier in 2015, he had no idea how much his life was about to change. Transitioning from military missions in war zones to the business world, they aimed to create top-notch tactical gear for armed forces and other entities. How did he tackle early challenges? His story shows that even when times are tough, one can find the strength to keep heading towards success.


Radek Duchek is a great example of the importance of the practice and drive to create. And that it is often more important than the theoretical knowledge gained at school. He also shows how one can build one's career via different life paths.


Table of contents:
New Path
Soldier Yesterday, Director Today
Built With Charisma and Heart
Searching for New Opportunities Even in the Times of Crisis


New Path


You’ve been with the company for 10 years already, is that right? So, basically from the very beginning.

That’s right. When my former army colleague decided to start a business, he asked me for help. So, I started there as a sales director.


But you had an intriguing history before this new path.

I’ve been using ballistic protection for a long time. Especially when I and my friend, whom I run the business with, were part of the anti-terrorism unit in the Czech Army's Special Operations Group (SOP).

We went on several foreign missions in war zones and other high-risk areas.


So, you're a professional soldier your whole life.

I started as an elite police officer in special units. Then moved to the military anti-terrorism unit. After leaving the army, I became a personal bodyguard.


If one wants to go this path, do they need to study specialized fields?

There aren’t any fields like that. You learn and grow throughout career.

I was into martial arts and shooting already when I was 15. At 19, I was lucky enough to be accepted directly into the intervention unit in our region, so I started my career as a young police officer.


And how did you get to the army?

After 11th September 2001, a special SOG unit was established.

We have trained a division of around 60 people with my colleagues. This division was meant to fight terrorism. And help when freeing Czech hostages in foreign countries.

I was one of three commanders. This division was active till 2009. After that, I became an entrepreneur in the field of personal and property protection.

And then, as you already know, I got an offer from my fellow soldier in 2015. And that was my beginning in 4M Systems.


After this, you and your friend, Mr. Žižka, founded 4M Systems, which produces tactical equipment.

Exactly. Our aim was to sell top-quality products. Such that always have something extra. Something smart that would not only suit our customers but most importantly which they could rely on when fighting.

Plus, we wanted our products to be comfortable to carry and use. And we wanted them to be practical. As long-time users, we know what the armed forces are looking for. And we also know what new types we could offer them.


“When using a certain product for years, you know whether the other ones you see in the shops or at expos are good or not. Plus, you immediately know the reasons they don’t work the way they should.


We aim to sell products that are properly tested. And manufactured for combat.




Soldier Yesterday, Director Today


Did you have any experience with business before starting your own?

In 2004, we cooperated with a Czech company that specialized in development and production of backpacks. Together, we invented tactical gear. We went from their designs to our custom backpacks and bulletproof vests.

In the following years, when our military unit was in action, we were incredibly happy with this gear. That was my very first experience with the construction and production of tactical gear. Then in 2015, when starting a business, we could utilize our experience from the past.

We hope our customers appreciate that our tactical gear was designed with detailed functionality. And now I’m not talking only about the design itself or economic reasons.

Our customers must understand why the gear is different from other similar products on the market. It is so because we put the stress on reliability and safety - two key aspects when literally fighting for one’s life. One must look at things like lifespan or how comfortable the product is when carrying for 12-15 hours straight in extreme conditions. Even the smallest details matter here because they are shown either in difficult situations, or after a certain time of usage.


What was your initial investment in the business?

We wanted to design and produce everything ourselves from the beginning.

I inspect each of the products. And keep an eye on the development so we don’t go off our path, our mission.


“I test our backpacks by filling them with twenty kilograms of weight and taking them on hikes. Only then can I be sure they function as they should.”


Got it. However, I’m still interested in how you started when it comes to the financial side.

We got an initial investment from a silent partner who believed in our vision.

We started slowly. There were only six of us in the very beginning. We hired graduates from textile schools too. Today, there are eighteen of us in the company. The initial costs were not that high at the starting point.


Could you describe who your customer is?

Of course. It is the army, police, and security companies.

But we also provide to customs officers, firemen and paramedics. We can proudly say that Prague paramedics wear our uniforms. However, the majority of our customers are from foreign countries.

We have always focused on the international market. And the Colt CZ group helped a lot in this regard. The cooperation was beneficial for both of us. Why? Because one of their companies, Česká zbrojovka sells worldwide. Their list of partners is long. And they are in touch with our potential customers. Therefore, it seemed to be logical to offer tactical gear to the weapons they sell. And thanks to this, they paved the way for us to be in the center of the international market.




What is exciting about having a business in this field?

In these types of services, people retire at a quite young age. Often before they turn 40. When my colleague reached out to me in 2015, I was at the stage of my life when I thought of changing my career path. The reason was simple. I knew that what I did was not a job I could do my whole life.

Plus, being a bodyguard for personal protection turned out to be very boring. It sounds like a super exciting job but in the end, the majority of the time it consists of prevention, not action as such.

When an offer dropped on my desk to become a businessman, I knew it was the right time to step into these waters. I was curious about the whole thing. And I knew it would make sense because it was connected to what I did in the past.

Thanks to my experience, I know what touches and improvements our products need. And when looking at the product of our competitor, I immediately see what its flaws.


Do you think you have an advantage over your competitors thanks to your experience?

Surely. When I negotiate with customers, and it doesn’t matter whether it is a colonel or a soldier, I’m able to build trust quickly. I understand their needs and frustrations. And we discuss things as colleagues.

This is a huge advantage in the business. I’m able to recall what I did in the past and imagine better what exactly our customers are searching for.


How did eWay-CRM help you?

We decided to make our processes more effective in 2021 which included implementing a CRM system. This helps us to maximize the potential of our people. Enabling them to work effectively, creating a space in which they will improve their skills and grow.

Implementation of CRM turned out to be a great idea. It allows us to keep pace with all other colleagues because we have our MS Outlook apps synced. This is incredibly important because emails are 95% of our company’s interactions.

CRM is a tool that you have to be patient with when starting. But when grasping it, it enables you to achieve your goals quickly.


“My nights are much more peaceful thanks to CRM. I know that if one person leaves, I can easily hand their agenda over to someone new. Also, I see all the opportunities worldwide in a well-arranged way. The same goes for communication with our customers, and our approach to their needs as well as what we’ve already delivered and how the deliveries went. I would say CRM is a very useful tool for management.”



Built With Charisma and Heart


What is your motivation in the company?
I used to be a CSO for almost 7 years, till 2021. After our former director and co-founder decided to leave, I was offered a director’s seat.

In the beginning, when we were a startup, my salary used to be minimal. We wanted our company to prosper. And even after it became part of the Colt CZ group, we put all our hearts into it.


Do you personally feel the added value when contributing to saving lives?

When packing and sending thousands of vests, you know you’re saving lives.

It was really nice hearing the feedback from the Ukranian people. After they got our gear, they confirmed we contributed to saving lives.


Searching for New Opportunities Even in the Times of Crisis


Does it happen to you that your personal priorities interfere with your business ones? Or they blend into each other?

Well, it’s like this when one lives according to their strong beliefs.

I don’t think it is possible to take the mask off. Or the opposite, put it on and switch your behavior depending on whether you’re in the office or in your living room. That would be schizophrenic. Personality blends in between working and personal lives. And I think it’s impossible to build a wall between these two.