Friends and associates sipped champagne and focused their attention on him. Sitting in his tuxedo between corporate representatives from Air France and Swiss Air, Alexander Škovran looked a bit out of his element. Škovran was, after all, the person who had taken money from his young children just four years ago in order to form his own travel agency, Agentura Alex.
But the celebration of Agentura Alex's fourth anniversary illustrated just how far the 36-year-old entrepreneur has come since he dipped into the 5,000 Sk bank accounts his three children had been given by their grandparents. Now, with an agency that will do more than 100 million Sk of business in 1995, Škovran is tasting the high life.
From the six-square-meter windowless room in a Petržalka basement that was Agentura Alex's first office, the company has grown to occupy 200 square meters where 14 employees sell 50 air tickets on a good day.
In addition to profits, Škovran's business has also garnered praise from industry peers. "Agentura Alex is very deft," Miroslav Černy, Air France's sales manager for Slovakia and the Czech Republic, said, describing the company. "Agentura Alex is among the three or four agencies with the highest sales of our tickets in Slovakia."
Škovran is especially proud of becoming, as he said, the first private Slovak agency to gain IATA (International Air Transport Association) status, which Agentura Alex attained in September 1994. As one of about a dozen IATA agencies presently in Slovakia, Agentura Alex "can sell a ticket to anywhere in the world, as long as there is an airport," according to Škovran.
With an estimated 1,000 travel agents in Slovakia, competition is stiff, but Škovran is not worried. "Everyone with a hole in his behind thinks he can sell tickets," Škovran said in his characteristically playful way. Elaborating further, Škovran said most competitors are not willing to work hard enough to be successful. "Many people [in Slovakia] want socialist work and a capitalist life," he said. Meanwhile, Škovran, who earned a doctorate in geophysics before starting his own business, is setting his sights on further expansion.
He said he wants to build and own his own office in the future. And his children's future? "I didn't open them new accounts, because from those 5,000 crowns have come 5,000 Austrian shillings, which became 5,000 American dollars, which became 5,000 British pounds."