Thrill-seeking refugee notches up 20 years in business
IN 1987, the refugee Tibor Glesk landed in Australia from Czechoslovakia.
He had a backpack, no English and $12, which he blew on a single phone call to his brother to tell him he had arrived safely.
In 2014, the businessman Tibor Glesk celebrates 20 years of operating his Sunshine Coast Skydivers business out of Caloundra.
He talks of memories living in communist Czechoslovakia, and risking being shot to cross the border illegally in order to make his escape to Australia.
"I didn't like the communist time," he said. "I wanted to achieve things and be free. The only way was to run away.
"Legally, you couldn't leave (then). I was national (skydiving) champion, so I lied to the government and told them I had to go to Yugoslavia for a skydiving championships."
The thrill of that risk has been replayed ever since, as he made a living jumping out of a plane.
"You need to try it to know what I'm talking about. It's out of this world...that feeling when you are standing in a door just about to leap.
"I am really lucky to do it as a business and I love making it happen for other people.
"I have taken up people in a wheelchair and a 97-year-old. 99.9% of them say it's the best thing they've ever done."
Mr Glesk had spent two years working for a skydive operator on Hamilton Island, a role that required beach landings that perfectly aligned with his skill for accuracy. Dreams of his own business caused him to save every dollar and buy a tandem parachute rig and hire a plane before setting up his business in Caloundra.
"We grew to be the biggest in Australia. In 2002, we did 10,000 people a year and had 36 staff. (The business now has 17 staff and does 3000 jumps a year.)
"We were the first in Australia to land on the beach, others copy us now.
"I was a hotel manager, so service is the first thing for me. Every guest must go out with a big smile on their face, otherwise it's not good enough for me.
"The majority of our business was backpackers, every agency had us on their list. But then with SARS and the war, our tourist numbers went down.
"To keep the service, we couldn't cut corners so we reinvented ourselves. Now, we still have backpackers, but also locals and people from Toowoomba, Brisbane and New Zealand."
Mr Glesk wished the State Government did more to promote the Sunshine Coast, and that the council gave his business more recognition.
But he said he was more than happy with the choice he made as a wide-eyed refugee decades ago.
"This is my home, I love Australia. It allows anybody to achieve anything they like. If I have done it, anybody can do it."
He said the secret to longevity in business was having a good product or service and to keep testing it.
TIBOR GLESK - FACTFILE
How many jumps? 16,000
When did you start jumping?: 1974
Notable achievements: Australian record holder for accuracy (landing on a 10-cent piece from 3500 feet), 35 gold medals
Competitions in 2014? National Championships in WA in April; World Championships in Bosnia in August