Learn how to write. Most people don’t understand the writing process so, as I’ve reiterated before, you need to practice writing, even if that means writing all the time. Great writers are great communicators and, in order to be successful, you must be good communicator.

With the shortage of labor, companies are now looking at how robots can replace some of the lost labor force. See here for example. The truth is that this is not really a novel idea, as companies like Amazon have been using robots for a while now. What can we expect to see in the robotics industry over the next few years? How will robots be used? What kinds of robots are being produced? To what extent can robots help address the shortage of labor? Which jobs can robots replace, and which jobs need humans? In our series called “The Future Of Robotics Over The Next Few Years” we are talking to leaders of Robotics companies, AI companies, and Hi-Tech Manufacturing companies who can address these questions and share insights from their experience. As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Tim Kubista.

Tim specializes in revenue growth, acquisition, sales training and building dealer networks — helping transform small businesses into powerhouse enterprises. He has had two companies on the INC 5000 list and comes to RC Mowers with vast knowledge of the commercial mowing industry, having contributed significantly to growth at Diamond Mowers. Tim brings over 30 years experience in leadership, strategy, people development, financial management and market expansion to lead RC Mowers’ sales and marketing teams.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started in robotics?

My background is in sales and marketing, but I’ve worked in diverse industries and have owned and operated my own companies. One of the businesses I owned, and the last 2 companies I’ve worked in, have made it to the Inc. 5000 list. I originally began working in the landscaping industry when I was recruited by Diamond Mowers to establish and lead a revenue growth strategy for the company.

My work there provided me with a significant understanding of the lawn and landscape industry. I have taken this knowledge to RC Mowers where I am helping to scale and market our products, which include the Autonomous Mowing Robots™ line and the Remote-Operated Robotic Mowers line.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

I was in international operations for a very large food company when the CEO called me in for a meeting. He told me that we needed someone to run the company’s international marketing. I agreed with him and reminded him that I had suggested that several times.

That’s when he told me that he’d chosen me to do it. I told him that I knew nothing about marketing. He reached behind him for a book by Theodore Lovett called, “The Marketing Imagination,” handed it to me and said, “Read this. You start Monday. You’ll do great.”

That was how I got into marketing. I didn’t know anything about that field prior to that discussion and, within two weeks, I was meeting with two ad agencies and with our PR agencies to develop plans. I learned on the job.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I have two, but they are related. The first is, “There is one way to be great at anything: practice.” And, the second is, “Success leaves clues.”

What both of these point to is that your success doesn’t just happen. Successful people are relentless about their goals and in order to reach those goals, they practice. Look at Tiger Woods or the late Kobe Bryant. Both would practice and practice and practice some more. For example, Kobe Bryant’s team would practice twice a day, and he knew that if he got up at 4 a.m., he could get in another practice. He had discovered that just by doing that extra daily practice, he would be light years ahead of his competitors.

In today’s era, too many of our young people want to do 10 minutes’ work and become a famous singer or Instagram star, and it just doesn’t happen that way. Real success is not possible without practice.

Ok wonderful. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. Can you tell our readers about the most interesting projects you are working on now?

As a marketer, I have been involved in scaling and marketing ideas that are an adaptation of others’ work. But with the Autonomous Mowing Robot (AMR), we are promoting and selling a ground-up invention. It’s rare in a career when you get to work on an invention.

That makes marketing the AMR a challenge because you have two types of consumers when it comes to inventions: those who are early adopters and those who are resistant to ideas that they don’t yet understand. While the early adopters understand the potential, you have to work really hard to educate those who don’t yet see it.

It’s like the journey we saw with personal computers. When PCs were first introduced, people like my father, for example, wouldn’t create an email address because it was new and unknown. Now, many years later, email is his main form of communication. Developing and scaling the marketing and sales of our Autonomous Mowing Robots will be a multi-year journey and a long transition, but I can see a day when just one lawn and landscape operator shows up to a job, sets three AMRs to do the mowing, and then does handwork while they mow — and that will be commonplace.

How do you think this might change the world?

I’m not sure the AMRs will change the world, but they will certainly change the lawn and landscape industry.

Our biggest challenge is to correct the perception that the AMRs — and robots, in general — are taking jobs away. This is simply not true. Right now, in the landscaping industry, entry level jobs are hard to fill. I have one customer who is only at 14% employment. In other words, for every 100 workers they need to do a job, they only have 14 employees to do it. These entry level jobs are hard to do. They’re noisy, dusty, loud and difficult, and few want to do these jobs. That means there is a dwindling pool of potential employees.

But, with the AMR, lawn and landscaping companies can overcome some of the turnover and labor shortages they currently face. And, because their current employees will be managing more expensive assets, their work will become more valuable, which will result in higher pay for those employees managing the robotic fleet.

Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind, can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?

While I don’t really see long-term drawbacks to the AMRs, I can understand that there will be a learning curve. As I’ve already mentioned, we will have to overcome the perception that the AMR takes away employment by replacing that perception with the reality that it will make landscaping companies more efficient. It will also allow landscaping companies to offer better pay to the operators who learn to use this equipment.

These machines will also start to decrease the number of accidents, injuries and deaths associated with the lawn and landscaping industry because they are programmed to avoid human errors like running into trees or ponds or other people.

In the long run, the AMRs will make lawn and landscaping companies more efficient as it makes human beings more productive.

What are the three things that most excite you about the robotics industry? Why?

When I was in high school, I remember thinking that I was born during the wrong time because I thought I’d never see any new technological advances in my lifetime that hadn’t already been created. I was wrong.

And I’m excited about this new technology. I can see how it:

  1. Positively impacts the lives of real people. It will not only help make businesses more productive; when employed correctly, it will also create better and higher-paying jobs in the industry.
  2. Integrates the technology developed by others and leverages that technology to transform how we do business. When Steve Jobs developed the Apple iPod, he didn’t reinvent the wheel — he just took the technology that already existed and packaged it so that it transformed the way we listen to music.
  3. Improves the learning curve. This is something that has never been done before, and there will be a learning curve by both the early adopters in the industry and the general public to begin to accept their development. It’s a hard job for my team as we set out to educate others, but it’s been very rewarding.

What are the three things that concern you about the robotics industry? Why?

  1. The first is the public perception that robots take jobs. It is my job to develop a sales and marketing plan that seeks to educate others about how they supplement the industry and improve working conditions.
  2. We can’t become complacent and create machines that aren’t safe. Robots are tools that should help improve the lives of humans, not do harm. We have to keep up high levels of awareness to ensure that we don’t go down the wrong path.
  3. We have to be focused on our ability to deploy robots safely and effectively into the marketplace. We run the risk of not being able to convince skeptical business owners that they should spend money on something that is completely foreign to the way they are currently operating.

As you know, there is an ongoing debate between prominent scientists, (personified as a debate between Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg,) about whether advanced AI has the potential to pose a danger to humanity in the future. What is your position about this?

AI in its simplest form is machine learning. That is simply a computer that learns a language to give you answers or do the work for you. That isn’t the danger. The danger may be in how AI or the robots defend themselves. Most of the intelligence behind robotic technology is housed on multiple servers and in multiple locations, so it can’t simply be shut off. We’ll have to build in safeguards so that we are able to control the technology.

My expertise is in product security, so I’m particularly interested in this question. In today’s environment, hackers break into the software running the robotics, for ransomware, to damage brands or for other malicious purposes. Based on your experience, what should manufacturing companies do to uncover vulnerabilities in the development process to safeguard their robotics?

There has always been a war between good people and bad people. Technology is developed and the bad people find a way to exploit it and get ahead. Then the good people find a way to fix that and they get ahead. This is nothing new and, in a lot of ways, is completely normal.

What we have to do is create new technology with security and safety in mind as it is developed. For example, we knew that our machines would be deployed in public places and we knew that some people like to do silly things. We anticipated that we would need a way to prevent people from sneaking up on the machines and taking them over. Without going into details, we built a way to combat those events during our development.

Between providing dual-factor authentication, anticipating the need for safety and security during the development and staying vigilant of emerging threats, manufacturing can limit vulnerabilities.

Given the cost and resources that it takes to develop robotics, how do you safeguard your intellectual property during development and also once the robot is deployed in industry?

Our most valuable intellectual property is already available in the public domain for those who know where to look. What we have to do is protect how our code works — the underlying design — and, more importantly, how we go to market.

You can file patents, but, quite honestly, once those are filed, most of your trade secrets become public knowledge.

The best thing we can do is instill security within our company culture and know how to keep our secrets, secret.

Fantastic. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things You Need to Create a Highly Successful Career in the Robotics Industry?

  1. Success leaves clues. You need to identify the people who have had success in the field you want to join and emulate their success by following their clues. Follow their careers and take their advice on how they succeeded.
  2. Practice makes perfect. If you ask any great musician what the secret of their success is, the honest ones will tell you that it’s practice.
  3. Be the best. If you have an assignment, complete it. Come early to work and stay late. Let leadership know that you can be counted on.
  4. Be curious. Never stop asking, “Why?” Continue to read about your industry, or if you don’t like to read or don’t have time, listen to podcasts. You must stay informed.
  5. Learn how to write. Most people don’t understand the writing process so, as I’ve reiterated before, you need to practice writing, even if that means writing all the time. Great writers are great communicators and, in order to be successful, you must be good communicator.

As you know, there are not that many women in this industry. Can you advise what is needed to engage more women in the robotics industry?

We need to get the thought of gender preferences out of our heads. As managers, we should simply hire the best and many times that is a woman. At RC Mowers, about 40% of our designers are women. It’s not some quota we envisioned, we just hired the best.

And, for parents, educators and others who are involved in the development of children, we should also encourage girls to try science. For those who really like it, we need to ensure that we guide them toward careers in science and stop ourselves from trying to shape girls toward more traditional roles. I have a daughter who was building machines as a young child, and we’ve always encouraged her to continue this interest.

We don’t need new laws or policies. We just need good humans to do good things.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

This may be controversial, but I think we should put faith back into schools.

I also believe that we have too many absent fathers. Fathers need to be around and more involved in their children’s lives. I don’t have a plan for how to encourage this, but I can’t see any drawbacks in promoting it.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/tim-kubista-0104b54/

Website: https://www.rcmowersusa.com/

Thank you for sharing your insights. We appreciate the gift of your time and wish you continued success and good health.