“There’s nothing more important than listening to and focusing on your customer.”
Ákos Dömötör is the CEO at OptoForce. Since 2014, Ákos has helped transform the company from an engineering-focused organization to a true global corporation. Leveraging the company’s expertise of developing technically-advanced sensors, he has strengthened its business strategy and management control systems and put forth a comprehensive customer relations program across international markets. From these efforts, OptoForce has become a recognized name and worldwide market leader in industrial robotics. The company’s 6-axis force/torque sensors are in high demand from companies looking to improve production operations through industrial robotics and automation.
Where did the idea for OptoForce come from?
OptoForce was founded in 2012 as a university project when the two founders of the company – Ákos Tar Ph.D. and József Veres Ph.D. were both studying bionics and robotics in the same class at university. They started a project to build a two-legged robot. One of the focus areas was to develop the senses of the robot so they needed to measure forces acting on the leg along the X-Y-Z axes. They developed a layered structure in which silicone would actually change its form more under a greater load and this made measurement in all directions possible.
I joined OptoForce in 2014 to help with the business side of the organization and to take the company to the next level. Since then, we have worked diligently on our business strategy, product plans, and customer relations, while we continue to grow as a global organization.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I generally meet with management and staff in the morning and decide what is the most important priorities of the day. In addition, I evaluate current initiatives, plans, schedules, and deadlines, and from that information, I determine which course of action is necessary for the day. This allows me to have structure but flexibility as well.
How do you bring ideas to life?
To bring new ideas to life I start with our customers. We spend a lot of time listening to our customer base. From this evaluation, we can determine what their needs are and what challenges they face. By listening, we can ascertain vital information that can help us formulate new ideas and develop new technology to help them improve their production and manufacturing operations. From this insight, we can then show our customers what their operations would look like for them moving forward and how we can help them become more efficient by saving time, money, and resources.
What’s one trend that excites you?
There is an ongoing paradigm shift in robotics. Robots are now smarter and more precise than ever before. It is quite exciting to be part of this industry at this time. It used to be that companies would have to change their process or production layout to leverage robots. But now, robots are more sophisticated, agile, and easy to use. They are smarter and can do more. New software, such as what we provide at OptoForce, helps robots “think” and become more responsive to customer needs and requirements.
In addition, new robotics software has had another impact on production. Traditionally, robots either performed simple tasks or were at the other end of the spectrum and were very complex and hard to use. Not any longer. Now, it is easier to program robots, which means less training of people who work with the robots. This has had a dramatic impact on industrial automation.
We believe we’ve had a big impact on this emergence, and on helping to shape the industry and improve the intelligence capabilities of industrial robots. OptoForce designs and supplies multi-axis force and torque sensors for industrial robots, and our sensors include both the hardware and software. We have dedicated a lot of resources in building and offering a wide range of applications which improve the capabilities and performance (and intelligence) of the industrial robot.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I work a lot with to-do lists. Getting a to-do list in place for the coming week ensures that I take the time to get a good overview and it makes it much easier to see which tasks I want to do. It also helps a lot with prioritizing.
What advice would you give your younger self?
I would say to be more willing to try new adventures. I would encourage young entrepreneurs and those aspiring for a career in business to look for new opportunities and projects and jump in and try to make it work. From this, comes a vast amount of experience. You can learn from your failures and successes. Having this background, helps you become more diverse, more accomplished, and strengthens your wisdom and intuition. Go out, try new things, have fun, and gain knowledge.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on?
You don’t need a lot of holiday to be ready for new challenges. People tend to emphasize the importance of annual leave saying that this really helps them to refresh – I think what we really need is clarity in what we do. If we are clear on what we do and why, this gives us a peace of mind that is needed to work effectively. If we don’t have that, holiday will be just a time of escape and the last days of holiday will be full of anxiety about what will happen in the office. If we have a clear understanding, we can be emotionally stable during hard times.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
There’s nothing more important than listening to and focusing on your customer. Having a customer-first approach, ensures that you are always facing reality. Have an open mind, listen to feedback and learn where you’re at in the eyes of one of your most important stakeholders. This gap analysis shores up where the customer wants to be and where they think you’re currently at. From there, you should make adjustments with the overall goal of providing value and meeting their goals, objectives, and expectations.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.
Looking at what customers are doing and determining how their production and processes can be made easier with robotics and automation. We’re constantly determining what value we can provide to their processes that could be automated. And, we’re always trying to learn how we can design new applications that the robot can do to improve industrial automation for a customer and the industry as a whole.
For instance, how does the robot assemble a certain product or how does the robot do other tasks such as deburring? If it cannot be done at this time, why not and let’s figure out a solution and make it happen. By looking at what is possible and generating a solution for that possibility, we can make production more efficient — something all companies strive for on a daily basis.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
When I first started with OptoForce, the company wasn’t as focused as it could have been. The engineering was very strong but we needed to improve our overall business organization.
I begin by asking essential questions, “What is in the best interest of the customer?” “What business are we in?”
Once we determined these answers we were able to focus in on the right products; hardware, software and applications to provide the most value for customers in need of industrial robotics and automation. This blueprint has been heavily supported with an overall corporate strategy, strong customer relations, great employees, and proper line extension to blend it all together to strengthen our company as we become an emerging global organization.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
My advice is that more people should explore and consider getting into industrial automation. There is a huge demand and labor shortages for this skill set. This field is very strong today and will continue to get even stronger for years to come. Companies are constantly looking to automate and improve their production environment to save time and costs, while improving quality and output, but they need skilled professionals to lead these programs and perform these efforts.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I buy a lot of books and enjoy gathering new knowledge and information. I am always on the lookout for leading research, the best new management principle, or current discussion taking place about robotics and automation. For relatively little money, a great book can literally help you become a much more informative person than you were earlier in the day.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?
I use OneNote to keep track of my to-dos, but I could use any note taking app or to-do list, it doesn’t really matter. The most important thing is that I sit down, make a list and then follow up on that list. The action points need to be very specific, so that they are actionable. I guess that is the most important part. Keeping my to-do synchronized with all my devices is an added benefit.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
I highly recommend Andy Grove’s book titled, “High Output Management” This is a must read for any executive building, managing, and leading a company.
What is your favorite quote?
“I will either find a way, or make one.” – Hannibal.
I like this quote because I believe there’s always a solution, but to find it, you need to believe in your capabilities and that you will eventually succeed.
• Business strategy should always begin with a customer-first approach. Listen to the customer, take their feedback, make adjustments and strive daily to provide even greater customer value.
• OptoForce’s 6-axis force/torque sensors are in high demand around the world given our combination of hardware, software, and applications – enabling industrial robots to automate and perform tasks that the production environment can greatly benefit from.
• Industrial robots can do more now to improve production that has traditionally not been possible. These capabilities have vastly improved over the years, and continue to improve to this day, given new software and technology advancements provided by companies like OptoForce.