When you first step out into the manufacturing area at R&D/ Leverage (formerly known as R&D Tool and Engineering) to take a tour, you can't help but stop and be amazed at a small 10-foot-by-10-foot room filled with pictures, a surface grinder and a decorative metal sign bearing the words “Ivan's Doorway to Opportunity, His Gift to Us.”
These words are the first indication that you are about to enter a very special place about a very special man.
Serving not only as a remembrance to Ivan Drienik, founder of this company, “The Room” was created by employees a little over a year ago to honor the one-year anniversary of his passing on Sept. 6, 2007.
The room is designed to ensure that everyone gets a small history lesson on the founder, his wife, Ardith, and their daughter Victoria. More important, everyone knows what [Drienik] meant to each and every employee and how many lives he touched. It has been [employees'] own special way of remembering and honoring the man who created so many opportunities for others.
If you survey most of the 25 or so employees [with] over 20 years of service, you will find a simple and common word that best describes what Ivan provided for people at R&D.
“Opportunity — that's what he was all about” said Terry White, a 25-year veteran employee at R&D. “Every employee felt like he always created opportunity for them.”
The success stories of people who Ivan reached out to and helped create opportunity for could be the material for many good books.
The story told on the four walls of this room is one which can only be classified as the American dream, according to Mike Parris, another 20-year employee of R&D: “Ivan was all about the American dream.”
Not only did [Drienik] live the American dream, he shared virtually all of it with everyone around him. His generosity for his employees and many people that he came in contact with was second to none.
Ivan's story goes back to Czechoslovakia, where he was born March 24, 1942, and lived in an orphanage for a portion of his childhood. He escaped from the country and eventually immigrated to the U.S. when he was 18. Once here, he was drafted into the U.S. Army.
While in the Army, [Drienik] met his wife and they eventually settled in Lee's Summit, Mo., where he founded R&D Tool and Engineering in 1976.
The company started out offering contract machining. In the mid-'80s it expanded into designing and manufacturing tooling and molds for producing plastic bottles.
Ivan was a true entrepreneur and visionary. He believed in reinvesting in technology and people. That philosophy and vision is why the company today employs over 250 people in the U.S. and also has facilities in England that employ another 70.
Luchtel is CEO of R&D/ Leverage, a privately owned toolmaker and design firm in Lee's Summit.