EuroSpaPoolNews interviewed Jaroslav Smetana, the Founder of Albixon, a leader in the manufacturing of swimming pools and pool enclosures. He tells us about the impressive development of the company and what he wishes for it for the future.

Satisfying the interests and high expectations of customers: the key to more than 30 years of success

Jaroslav Smetana, you founded ALBIXON more than 30 years ago with your brother in your parents' garage. Can you tell us a little about that? 

Jaroslav Smetana: Thirty years sounds a bit historical, but the history actually goes back even a bit further. I was already in business in the 1980s, at a time when this was even a crime under socialism. We started out making swimming pools by making the first pool for my daughter. We lived in a rocky part of Prague, but I launched construction with enthusiasm and dug a hole for the desired pool by hand with a pickaxe and a shovel. At first, we hired a company to do it, but we didn't like the pace or the quality of their work, so eventually my brother and I built the pool on our own. And we liked it and it seemed relatively easy, so we thought we'd give it a shot. But that semblance of simplicity soon left us, because even here, if you want to do something properly, you can't look for easy ways, because they are short-lived. Perhaps our history proves that we have not made things easy for ourselves, and we have approached our business, and still do, with integrity. Digging in that rock by hand and the challenging beginnings of our business go symbolically hand in hand for me.

What was your dream back then? Was it to become a world leader in pool sales? Did that success surprise you? What do you consider to be the key decisions you have made during ALBIXON's existence?

J. S.: I didn't have any dreams. I just wanted to run my own business, not be employed, do things my own way, make a name, make money for my family. Period. The moral fabric of that entrepreneurial order came later, and I confess that it is now a guiding aspect of doing business. But in the beginning, it wasn't and probably couldn't have been. It was only with gradual success, stabilization and a bit of money earned that those considerations for technical and business expansion came. So, it can be said that the successes we achieved step by step really surprised us, but there was no time to dwell on that in the early years.

One of the correct and certainly key decisions was to add enclosures to the production of swimming pools.

Our original idea was not to export pool enclosures assembled, but in boxes. However, I consider our efforts to acquire associates for our business to have been of key importance, to have them on our side and to lean on a company culture of sharing success.

QBIG Benefit Pool with Monaco cover by Albixon

QBIG BENEFIT Pool with Monaco Enclosure

You make no secret of the fact that you were inspired by the ideas and methods of Tomás Bat'a, one of the greatest Czech entrepreneurs and founder of the shoe company Bat'a. What inspires you most about Bat'a? And is there any individual who inspires you now?

J. S.: For me, Mr. Tomás Bat'a is the greatest Czechoslovakian and  in my eyes, he far surpasses other historical figures in our history. He was able to use his intelligence, diligence, ability to lead and be a role model to his people and even to his competitors and bureaucratic enemies in a practical way and with demonstrable results that benefited especially his colleagues and customers. 

I think his ideas, and especially their implementation in practice, are timeless, still valid today, and I see nothing outdated - quite the opposite. And what inspires me about him? Practically everything, but to name something typical, it is his dedication to his work and that moral attitude towards responsibility, his people, measurable results. 

You have turned over the management and assets of this large company to a family board and professional management. Why did you make that decision and how did it work?

J. S.: No one lives forever, and intergenerational transfer applies to any company that is successful and whose success is not squandered by the founding generation.

Again, to quote the industrialist Tomás Bat'a:

The desire to become indispensable is the lever of progress, but an obstacle to progress is our desire to remain indispensable.

It was a long and complicated process that gave each family member an opportunity to reflect on themselves, their relationship to the family property, to set their own personal vision and its alignment with the family vision, etc. I went through this process myself and I am glad for it.

Where do you see the future of the pool industry as a whole? 

J. S.: As the planet warms, the quality of water in natural pools and their availability will become more and more problematic. This is certainly an issue that our society is aware of and thinking about. Our technological solutions are always moving forward so that they are as friendly as possible not only to natural resources, but ultimately to our customers' wallets. Whether we are talking about swimming pools, enclosures, and pool liners. We also select new products for our portfolio very carefully with the environment in mind.  The fact that we are doing the right thing and going in the right direction is confirmed not only by the very positive reactions from our customers, but also by the fact that people in their neighbourhood are very often inspired and approach us with their enquiries. 

Movable terrace by Albixon

BERGEN Movable terrace by Albixon

How do you see the future of ALBIXON, or what would you like to see for it?

J. S.: I would like ALBIXON to fulfil the ideas and legacy of industrialist Tomás Bat'a, especially the necessity of satisfying the interests and high expectations of his customers, our co-workers, but also our family as owners.
We want our products to be as sustainable as possible, even though at first glance it may seem impossible in our industry. But in the time, we've been in the pool business, we've come a long way in that direction. It used to be that chemically treated water was dumped down the drain after each season, but now you don't have to dump the water from our smart pools; it will last for years. The water is treated with more environmentally friendly smart technologies that help minimize the use of pool chemicals. Even older pools not made by ALBIXON can be equipped with this technology. Enclosures, in turn, help keep the water warm so you don't have to heat it and you save on pool chemicals at the same time.

Modern technology makes it possible to use water and energy as efficiently as possible so that the burden on the environment is as low as possible. This is important not only for ALBIXON, but also for our customers who want to behave responsibly.

We also see that a private swimming pool is no longer just a "bathing vessel" somewhere in the garden but is part of the family atmosphere and a natural addition to everyday life. The garden is thus naturally becoming a second outdoor home and I am proud that ALBIXON is an active part of this shift and an esteemed partner in this area.  Now, not only swimming pools and enclosures, but also patio enclosures, hot tubs and of course other accessories such as garden showers, etc. can be purchased from us. 

Moover solar motorization Albixon

MOOVER by Albixon: solar motorization for swimming pool enclosure - Reddot winner 2023

What are you up to now? Do you have any business plans for the future?

J. S.: For many years now I have been involved in scientific literature, self-education and gaining practical knowledge and experience in property management. New perspectives on the company, the family holding, ownership relationships and sustainability of family business bring with them new angles of looking at the business or rather its results and their sustainability. It's just a completely different discipline than business itself, and I'm glad that this opportunity to learn about it all and put it all into practice, and with a new generation at that, has arisen while I am still in a productive age. I am also working on several inventions. I have handed over the actual business to young people and the management of the company. I plan to take more time for myself and am considering writing humorous or rather tragic-humorous stories that I have had the opportunity to experience or be present at. After all, I've been encouraged to do so by many people, not just those closest to me, when I tell them from time to time.