Fast confession - Olga Grillová, daughter of Ivana Tykač: Instead of a thief, they arrested me in Vietnam!
The Tykač couple is not unknown to the public. The fact that they have a lot of children together is no secret either, but specific information about them is hard to come by. That's why Luxury Prague Life interviewed one of Ivana Tykač's daughters, Olga. Despite being under thirty, Olga Grillová is already a well-known business woman - and not just in the real estate field. She runs business with her mother and her younger sister, with whom she invented a new travel application. In the interview, you will also find out what this attractive young woman likes to do when she is not "taming" guys on construction sites.
Olga, your mother is a well-known personality, but not much is known about you. What’s your story?
I worked as a consultant at Ernst & Young for a few years, but a little over a year ago I have returned to my mom's company. There was a lot of operational work that needed to be done, since business with short-term rentals was growing fast. I’ve always liked processes, their development, application and improvement. That’s why I got excited about it and considered it a challenge. While the hotel industry wasn’t one in which I had much experience, I gained a great mentor. He helped me understand the business and taught me a lot.
My expertise is to automatize processes, improve them, and achieve the highest possible performance. Basically, we manage more and more apartments with the same number of people. I have a great team I can pass my vision on, knowing they will work relentlessly on making it reality. And the results are coming.
But you don’t just rent apartments, you also build them…
Each of our apartments is created unique. Not only do we build and operate them, but we also create them from start to finish. Everything is done by our people and with our handwriting, from design to the last fork. I think that’s something which makes us unique, something we differ in.
Over time I also became interested in the construction part and I found out that I enjoyed it very much. I guess I have that after my mom. (laughs) Although she prefers design...
This is actually the second area in which I am now engaged. We build and reconstruct properties for both short and long term rentals as well as for development projects. It's a fast moving train. I am looking forward to a new project at the moment. We are going to build a very modern residence that will incorporate new technologies. We would like to expand our portfolio with the concept of a hotel of the future. For example, I am not very fond of the receptionist service - I don’t like being stopped and questioned if I had a nice flight. When I travel somewhere and I’ve arrived to my destination, I mainly want to experience the place, and I think that’s what’s missing in Prague. Abroad, such a concept is already working, and it is one of the visions that I have brought from my travels and want to set in motion in our company.
Currently there is a huge housing crisis in Prague. Do you want to focus only on short-term rentals, or are you also thinking about some developer projects for apartment sale?
We offer both, we also build apartments for sale. Currently, we are working on a project in a residential area in Braník, for instance. But we also have solitary apartments in our portfolio for sale. Some apartments or residences are available for short-term rentals, but we offer most of our apartments for long-term rentals.
People are looking for a variety of real estates, there’s not a universal solution for everyone, and each person has different needs or expectations. In practice, we can see that, for example, people are not very interested in living in Prague 1 long-term. Today, families want to live within easy reach of the city center, but also in close proximity to nature, they want a garage and a reception with services so that they’d have a place to send their purchases from the Internet to and so on. Prague 1, where it’s nearly impossible to park your car, is not all that attractive for them, which I think is presented in the media in a somewhat different light than the reality.
Do you want an example? After about three months of trying, we’ve just managed to rent an apartment in Malá Strana long-term. However, it went to a person who had fallen in love with this place, enjoys the atmosphere of Malá Strana and that is his priority. Not everything they say is true.
Yes, it is said that Prague 1 is depopulating and nobody wants to stay there. It is a miracle you found someone.
Yes, I often hear that shared accommodation is the main reason behind the depopulation of the city center. But nobody tells you that it is primarily the consequence of people not being able to park and crowds of tourists everywhere, or that construction and modernization are forbidden here. Prague 1 has become an open-air museum. Leadership is missing - even in construction. Yes, we should respect history and carefully preserve its traces for generations to come, but times are changing and we should be progressive, too.
Isn't it hard to be a woman in construction or real estate in general?
It is difficult. One has to be a quick learner and learn to see through different tricks. But it's a challenge and I like the challenges.
For example, in the case of builders of the older generation who had been doing their profession for a long time, I had to figure it out. Sometimes they think you don't understand things, be it because of your age, gender, or experience. They just… Try how far they can go. Those are the tricks I have in mind. You can’t let them intimidate you or lose your face, you have to take them on boldly. Sometimes you have to let them release a bit of steam, raise their voice and go headfirst, but that’s unavoidable. Once you fail and allow them do with you as they please, you’ll never gain their respect and they won’t see you as an authority. And without respect, cooperation would be difficult. I don’t like it, but that’s how it works in this predominantly male profession.
You mentioned you had a good mentor in the hotel industry. Who was he?
It was Mr. Chadima from Four Seasons, an amazing person. It was him who brought Four Seasons to the Czech republic, he started it all here. Prior to that, he used to be a director of Four Seasons in the United States, where he opened many hotels in this chain. I think that he is one of the greatest personalities in the hotel industry in the Czech Republic.
How does your new Travelling a la carte application fit in with all that?
That’s mainly my sister’s responsibility now, I don’t really have the time anymore. It started with a simple idea. Since we travel a lot in my family, it’s happened to me a few times that I booked a plane ticket or a hotel room for the wrong day. We buy everything quickly on digital platforms, basically, "on the fly", so it’s easy to make a mistake or mismatch in the time and date without even noticing. As a result, you waste time and money.
This is why my sister and me came up with an application that combines all the proven functions of our favorite digital platforms - with the purpose of making it easily comprehensible for everyone, helping people who are always on the move and, most importantly, saving them effort, time and also nerves. Once you enter the dates, you immediately receive ticket and hotel offers, all you have to do is choose. And as soon as you’ve paid, everything shows in your calendar right away, including all your confirmations. You won’t have to look them up in your e-mail and risk being completely lost, if you happen to find yourself without a wireless connection. I know what I'm talking about, it happened to me several times.
That was the first part of it. Then I went traveling with my sister around Shanghai. We were attending a fair at the time and both of us had trouble to buy anything, because we always had to have cash on us, which is a little unusual for me - I pay everything with my card. So we downloaded WeChat there and started paying through it. That gave us the idea to add such an option also to our application - and travel wallet was born.
And is it doing well? Do people like it and do they know about it already?
My sister is currently in the USA and there’s a lot of interest in the app there. In the Czech Republic, thing have slowed down a little, because the legislation on travel agency concessions and package definitions has changed. We fell into a higher category. We are currently dealing with some administrative things and with the authorities.
So I can't download it and start using it right now?
You can download the app, but only a package from the travel agency is available for purchase. Unfortunately, you wouldn’t be able to choose everything according to your needs in the Czech Republic.
So we have a red light here in the Czech Republic...
Unfortunately, we can't start offering the product on the Czech market until we’ve solved the problem with the travel agency concession. Because of these complications, the application will be launched earlier in the USA.
That would discourage me from doing anything in our country...
It’s a business risk. I think the saddest thing is that in the case of dynamically developing digital platforms, the authorities are basically clueless as to how to judge things, there is a lack of legislation. We have been discussing the concession with lawyers for about nine months, the authorities are still analyzing it, they always ask for more supporting documents, but it’s not going anywhere. So we are focusing mainly on the USA now.
You said that you spend the most money on plane tickets and that you enjoy traveling. Is it possible to combine it with your professional and personal life? How often do you travel and where do you like it best?
I make sure to have a VPN computer when traveling, that's important for getting into all your work folders. I think it’s enough - a connection and a VPN. Now I have to be here a lot, though, because of the constructions. They cannot be overseen remotely.
I travel a lot on weekends. I’m planning a longer journey during Christmas and over the holidays. And I was also thinking that I might fly to Peru for my birthday in July, where I would practice yoga and travel around.
Do you travel alone?
Aren’t you afraid?
What’s the most dangerous country you have visited?
India. I've been there with a friend. Probably the worst thing was when we found out that we were sleeping at opposite ends of the night train. I was really scared. I told her I wasn't afraid, but that was a lie. Then we called each other in the morning to ask if we were both alive.
Do you have any dangerous experience from your travels?
I was robbed in Vietnam. Then I found my phone on a disabled man, so I told the police that I was probably robbed by him and after that they locked me up. (laughs)
You’ve been in a Vietnamese prison?
I wasn't exactly in a cell, but they detained me until the morning. They were waiting for the boss to come and resolve it with me because they didn’t believe I could have been robbed by a disabled person.
And what happened then?
I was there until about four in the morning. They wouldn’t even let me go to the toilet, I always had an escort following me. In the morning, my Vietnamese acquaintances came and everything was sorted out. I received a confirmation on a lined A4 paper, which said I had been robbed after all - for my insurance company, but it was all in Vietnamese. I really felt like I was in prison. (laughs)
Your mother also likes to travel. Do you go somewhere together every now and then?
Last time, we went together to Anguilla. I had absolutely nothing to do there, so I got some mini projects every day, otherwise I’d have died of boredom. Eventually, I left for Cuba and Puerto Rico. Our travel regimens are simply a little different, a relaxed one versus an action packed one... We don't go on vacation together very often.
But someone had to bring you to traveling.
Yes, I get that from my mom.
Working with family members in a family business can also cause friction. How do you get on with your mom?
There’s a lot of friction, we have glorious fights - two hot heads. (smiles)
But you usually find a solution?
We pout for a while, we don't talk together, but in the end we always resolve it somehow. And most of the time, an even better solution comes out of it. I think it's alright and it actually works. After all, mom has a lot of experience, she can give me a direction or show me a different point of view. In exchange, I'm helping her out by providing clever shortcuts when we need to solve something. That way we complement each other.
How about your personal life?
For now, work fulfills me completely.
You are 29 years old, how long do you plan to be pursuing your career? Are you thinking about family life?
Yes, I grew up in it, I would definitely like to have a family. My youngest sister is 6 years old, I always come for a snuggle, then I give her back and I’m fine. (laughs)
You mentioned that home is home. You’ve already lived and studied abroad, would you ever consider leaving here and living somewhere else?
I've always been attracted by big cities. I used to work in New York and in various other places, but they’ve already found solutions to pretty much everything over there. Here, we still lack a lot of things. We may be a small country, but I find it more interesting to live here than somewhere, where most things have been resolved.
Does that mean you consider Czech Republic your home?
Yes. If I were to consider living elsewhere at some point, it would be India. It is a developing country where a lot of things still need to be invented, created, resolved.
Didn’t you say that India was terribly dangerous?
That is true. The part we visited is the most violent one.
Where do you see yourself in ten years? Do you plan so far ahead?
I have no idea.
In your fast confession, you said a man should invite you to a deer stand, which surprised me. Why?
I am dedicated to hunting, it is a beautiful return to the Czech tradition and I am an outdoor person, it’s a bliss to go to the forest and relax. I’m useless at looking for mushrooms, so the other option is hunting.
You are into hunting, yoga... How about cooking or fashion?
I like to make reservations in restaurants, that's my hobby, I'm good at that. (laughs) I don't cook much.
Talking to you gives me the feeling that you need to have everything planned out. I guess you aren’t the kind of person who suddenly decides to go to Paris the next day...
No really. I have a dream that one day I’ll go to the airport and buying the first ticket available, without even knowing the destination. I’m not all about planning. If you have enough time and an application that can do so many things for you, it gives you freedom. When I was traveling in India, you don’t really make plans there beyond where you’d like to get to in two days. So many things can happen, or maybe you'll enjoy a particular place… You can't plan that. These complementary things only help you to an even better experience it.
You probably can't imagine a day without your phone...
It is difficult. (laughs) It's fun.