CBCC member interview - Jan Telensky, businessman and founder of the AquaCity waterpark

Jan Telensky shares his amazing ‘rags to riches’ story, hard beginnings, his philosophy and vision as well as his hopes for both Czech Republic and Slovakia, and so much more....

Can you please briefly summarise your life?

It would take me three days to describe everything but in a nutshell: born in Prague, my family was persecuted by the communists due to their religious beliefs and forbidden to acquire secondary education - I was always told that I’d be good for a bricklayer or a miner, so my future was rather bleak. In August 1969 I defected and arrived in the UK with no money and zero English knowledge.

I now run an empire as I call it and am about to receive the FIRST Award for Responsible Capitalism*, which I am very proud of. I have created more than 5,000 jobs in plumbing and electrics. I introduced a virtual reality training used as part of the students’ journey to becoming a fully qualified trade person; it was created for students to get practice before they go onto our building sites and it has won 11 E-Learning Awards. In addition, I developed a ‘rent to buy’ scheme for people who do not have a deposit for a mortgage. Through this scheme I rent a property, agree with the tenants its purchase price, and three years later the paid rent is made available to cover the deposit. So by paying a rent, they are actually saving a deposit which they can use to buy the property.

But you do much more…

Yes, I’ve rescued children who had been taken from their family, I pursue responsible and sustainable farming at my farms, and I own the most green leisure resort in Europe, AquaCity waterpark in High Tatras, Slovakia, saving about 7 tonnes of CO2 every day running on geothermal energy. Plus, a large portfolio of businesses in the UK and the Czech Republic.

I support various charities. In addition, I’ve arranged for erection of a 5-meter St. Giles (Svaty Jiri in Czech) statue in Poprad, Slovakia. He a patron saint of the handicapped who gave everything away to help. It will be unveiled by Archbishop Dominik Duka. And I could continue…

I believe I understand charity as I was homeless and built everything from nothing. I should be someone that is miserable, bitter, saying that the society owes me and blame everybody. I am not that kind of a person.

What are your most important lessons learned from hardship?

All of them. Mainly humility and making sure you never forget your beginnings and respect all kinds of people. I don’t do charity and sponsorship to get top marks in heaven, I do it because I understand what it is to need help as nobody has ever helped me. I had to do it all by myself.

You call yourself an environmental industrialist…

That’s correct. I describe myself like this because we need to save the nature but what is the nature? It is what we live in and the people. And I support people who are in need. That is why I am also getting the prize as I have mentioned. As I earn more, I give more away.

What drives you?

My philosophy is called PVC – not polyvinyl chloride, but passion, vision, communication. I am a visionary, I see. One example – years ago I tripped over a pipe in a derelict refuse dump in Poprad, Slovakia so I asked what it was and was told a pipe leading underground and from 1,600 m bringing water up at 10 l per second at 58 °C. And now there stands AquaCity, a waterpark visited by 10 million people so far, so 1 million people a year. The geothermal springs feed all the showers in all hotels and 14 pools including an Olympic size pool. Next to it I built a football stadium with a unique pitch heating system, using the geothermal water from AquaCity. We are now open and the hotel is full. We will have a fantastic summer. I am a born optimist. The only way to overcome a problem is to be optimistic, to have passion. As well as communications skills, they are essential. The English say that a good salesman would sell snow to the Eskimo but a great one would throw an ice cube maker in the deal.

What are you most proud of?

The two children I rescued. They were already adopted by two different families, a result of a social services mess-up. The case was on TV and someone called me about it. I hired the best lawyer in England - Stephen Bellamy - who never lost a case, invested a lot of money and got them back to their mother and grandmother. That I regard my biggest success as nobody believed I could do it.

While being involved in the case, I discovered something about women. When I asked the mother why she was still fighting for the children, she said: "I know I’ve lost them, I know I’ll never see them again but if one day they discover who their mother was, I want them to know that I have done everything possible to keep them." They got me on that one. I don’t think men are capable of that. Only ladies have that power.

Why did you join the CBCC?

First, Ladislav Hornan, CBCC Chairman, is a great man and I respect him. I also want to give back to my home - help my countrymen, sponsor new ventures in the UK and share my knowledge. I consider myself a Czechoslovak - I never accepted the split. I sponsor Czechs and Slovaks equally.

Last word?

I have great hopes for the Czech Republic. I was born in Prague 1, I am ‘Prazskej Pepik’ as they say. I am focusing on one more project there now, renovating derelict houses in Doksice, Cesky raj, bringing them back to life. It is interesting, COVID-19 suddenly made people realise that they are better off in a house outside of Prague than in a flat in Prague and that they can work from anywhere.

* Responsible Capitalism requires a fundamental integration of the needs of the wider community, care for the communities in which the business operates, environmental initiatives and support for the arts and culture, within the business’s goals and processes. Above all, it is about how successful business leaders apply the principles of moral and social responsibility in the running of their business, combining social commitment with business acumen and innovation, and building a coherent philosophy in which the company’s success is judged over the long-term by criteria that include sustainability, equity, and moral justice as well as standard financial benchmarks.

By Tereza Urbankova, member of the CBCC Executive Committee. 

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