Countries are subject to the influence of world circumstances, in connection with them the business and investment environment changes. The political situation plays a significant role in the economic situation of the given country as well as in its progress. A strong economy attracts investors and new opportunities. After the fall of communism, Slovakia began to change rapidly. In the 1990s, a huge space for investment groups was created in Slovakia. It is my great honor to speak with Mr. Igor Rattaj, who is one of the most important investors in Slovakia and Europe.
Le Globless: Mr. Rattaj, you are an important businessman in Slovakia, you also have business interests in neighboring countries, did you always want to be a financier?
Igor Rattaj: On the contrary, as a child I wanted to devote myself to the artistic sphere, I enjoyed theater and skits. In high school, we went to performances and played theater successfully. Even as children, my classmates and I were such a group of entertainers and it made us happy to entertain the audience. We prepared various skits and participated in theater performances. We were looking for every opportunity where we could be involved in our theatrical artistic sphere.
The environment at that time was not very favorable to artistic souls. Children grew into adults who had to work and go to college. I was accepted to a Slovak technical University, faculty of electrical engineering.
Le Globless: How did you actually get involved in the financial investment world?
Igor Rattaj: After college, I started working at VUB Bank. I started as a financial specialist, financial analyst, in the capital market, but at that time the term capital market meant nothing to anyone. Back then, anyone could do it, no one really understood it.
In the 1990s, there were no rules in business. After the revolution in Slovakia, everything was possible, the possibilities were endless. It began to be privatized, bought and built. There were no clear rules. It was one huge Klondike.
*Klondike River, the landmark after which is named: Klondike Gold Rush, a historical migration to this part of the Yukon, meaning a rich source of something/
It was a world of endless possibilities for those who quickly came to their senses and studied information from America, universities from whole world and Harvard. The winner was simply the one who got to the information and found his way quickly. The fastest wins. So that was my start in the capital market. Everything happened from there.
Later, several of us got together and joined the J&T group. J&T Group is the leading investment group in Slovakia. In recent years, it entered several investment and non-investment opportunities and expanded from Slovakia to the Czech Republic and then to half of Europe.
Business is one crazy ride, sometimes just a second before you think it’s one huge “mess up”,
it completely turns around.
Le Globless: It is commonly known abou you mainly work in the hotel industry, but your portfolio is probably larger. What area of investment are you mainly involved in
I.Rattaj: Hotel industry is only one of the smaller parts, but it belonged to the beginnings with the J&T group. It started with some real estate, with the purchase of businesses, development projects. We had no competition in the market, that’s why it was so much fun. I went to the Czech Republic I built a bank and team. In 2000 I returned to Slovakia.
“We bought the hotels for entertainment purposes so that we would have a place to go skiing. “
There was an opportunity to buy lifts and cable cars and whole hotel businesses actually came by chance. We bought it more as a joke to have a place to ski, but the business started growing expanding. In 2008, large-scale investment in hotels began, resulting in a huge conglomerate of resorts and hotels. But that’s not the only thing, besides that, I have a lot of other businesses in real estate and with development.
Real shot is:
Come, buy, get rich, sell and leave.
Investing is that I strategically choose what I will go into because it has value/yield, I will wait until it appreciates in value and only then sell.
Le Globless: What about ups and downs in business ?
I.Rattaj: In my life so far, I have gone through all possible investment opportunities, from wild and innovative to stable development projects. A young person has a lot of vision and idealization, he can change the world with his attitude, and he has enough time to achieve amazing things. Build huge projects.
,,I made a lot of mistakes and investments that ended up not being very good. But every single mistake was a great lesson, it taught me something new. Every experience is valuable. There were trades that shot me up sharply, they are the most dangerous. Sometimes you can lose your head when everything is going well and in such moments it is very important to keep calm and humble. “
Le Globless: How do you perceive Start ups?
I.Rattaj: Very big fashion and not always guaranteed success. Often times it’s just the enthusiasm of young people. I’m not saying that it’s bad, but many start-ups are just an idea, a thought on paper without experience, which is not backed by anything real.
You know, everyone thinks that they will come up with something innovative, amazing and perfect and become extremely rich. Investing in Start up is only about the desire to be there and own that wonderful idea, which in reality can only remain an idea. Today, visions are sold. As if we were buying a bet on the future. Maybe we just want to be drunk with the idea that I’m the one who sees it differently.
For sure, you can get rich, even on that. I basically have respect for these people. Nothing is good or bad and everything can be used in two ways.
You should not forget that the value of an idea can be great, but it can also not be worth anything. When you own a factory, you own a chimney, you own land, the value may decrease, but it will never be worth nothing.
Investing is that I strategically choose what I will go into because it has value/yield, I will wait and only then sell.
Just take the gold rush in America, there were certainly some poor people who discovered gold, then they were murdered or robbed, but do you know who gained the wealth?
Those who became the richest during the gold rush in America were those who sold pickaxes, shovels, sieves and jeans. That’s how the whole of San Francisco was built, and that’s when Levis was born. Not those who mined gold, but those who provided service got rich.
It is also possible with these start-ups, no one will possibly get very rich, but it may create a completely different infrastructure and space.
Le Globless: What are the most common mistakes people make in business and investing?
It’s not even mistakes, it’s just about a person’s unpreparedness, maybe I perceive a few things repeatedly around me. People have always made the biggest mistakes when they accidentally got one good and big deal. And they just couldn’t stand the pressure and lost everything. They started buying nonsense and presenting that they have a lot of money. With the wave of success comes people who flatter you, a lot of so-called friends. But you become immune to them. Most of us investors are constantly turning over money and investing. There are a lot of billionaires in debt. We are just creating a good image.
Success is about constant progress, thousands of mistakes and how you climb the ladder step by step. You collect a lot of experience. Learn. You don’t give up.
Le Globless: In recent years, you have also been active in acting, who is your biggest role model in film and business?
I.Rattaj: It changes over the years.
Film: I had a period when I really liked Tom Hanks, then Michael Douglas in a few films, but in recent years I started to like Leonardo Di Caprio, I think he is more mature as an actor and he plays harder every film and more demanding roles.
History: And in terms of business, it is very difficult: He is interesting as a genius in a sense Elon Musk, but if I could possibly look for someone solid and stable in history, it would be Bata, who left behind long-lasting values and knew how to make excellent decisions. He did humane business.
Personal leaders: In my personal life, Patrik Tkáč is a role model, and at the same time, he has greatly influenced me and those around me, because of his consistent style of promoting his visions. He didn’t learn how to do business from anyone, he got it from God. From my point of view, he is a great phenomenon.
Ivana Vieriková: Slovak business and investors play an increasingly important role on a global scale. Thank you for your transparency, Mr. Igor Rattaj, as well as a pleasant and refreshing interview.
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