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16th May 2022

Tamás Gazdag, the Sporty Businessman

by Mar 13, 2022Business, Hungary, Interview

Who never gives up

“It’s only worth doing business if you don’t forget why you started it in the first place”.

Tamás Gazdag lives an above-average life, in the UK and Hungary. With good business acumen, he has created a life for himself to which many people aspire. Yet he believes money isn’t everything. There are more important things…

I met Tamás when he came to me with an unusual request. He asked me to do an illustration for a book he was writing for his wife to celebrate their wedding anniversary. He wanted to express the immense love he still has for her after almost 10 years. While drawing, more and more was revealed about Tamás. Among other things, his wealth is not ordinary: he has several businesses; a sports club; he has lived through the abyss; worked as a croupier in casinos; and he is increasingly realising what drives happiness.

I wanted him to tell us where he started, where he came from, how he achieved what he has, what his inner motivation is.

Youth: Sport and Sport…

̶    Despite not being born into a wealthy, well-off family, you are now 47 and can afford to spend Valentine’s Day in the Seychelles to reaffirm your love and loyalty to your wife.  Can you tell us where you started from? Did it have anything to do with being active in sport? I think you ran your first marathon when you were 17…

Tamás Gazdag, the Sporty Businessman

Wedding on Valentine’s Day in the Seychelles

Yes, I ran my first Marathon when I was 17. Even though the minimum age was 18, I had been preparing for this race for over a year; I didn’t want to wait for another one, so I started. What I’m particularly proud of is that, although my legs were running out, I found a sponsor to fund my training and travel expenses. It wasn’t much of a promotion for them, but rather I was touched by the director and, being a sportsman, he rewarded my perseverance in wanting to go to the tournament at any cost. I had “accidentally” written my birth year a year earlier on the entry form, hoping that they would not check. They did and I was able to enter without any problems. I was a distance runner for 12 years. I had to stop because of the wear and tear in my knee; I had to choose between having surgery or stop running. I was afraid to have the surgery.

My parents insisted that learning came first after school. So I had to go home and learn everything they had given up. I have daughters aged 13 and a half and 14, and I know exactly how that hasn’t changed!  I could have gone to training afterwards. But that started at around 3-4-5pm and not 6-7pm when I finished my studies. We lived in a block of flats in an outer district of Budapest, next door to the school. Since I was the one who had the best results in the district sports competitions at school, I started playing athletics. I liked and did well in all sports except the weight throw (long jump, high jump, small ball throw, short distance running).

Tamás Gazdag the Sporty Businessman, Portrait

Gazdag Tamás, President of the Szigethalom Sport Club

The only way I could exercise was to go down and run around the school. As the years went by, the distance increased and we measured out a 5, 10 and 13 km lap. I could combine these. I had no outstanding results, I wasn’t out to beat others, I was out to beat my real opponent: myself and my limits.

In the month of my 17th birthday I completed the 42.195m distance. Then I ran it again when I was 18, both in Vienna. At the time, people back home saw us runners as eccentrics who ran and as the cause of the problem, paralysing the city’s traffic for a day at the weekend.

I have heard the psychological statement that running is a life of escaping from problems. For me, the reason was more prosaic, as I mentioned earlier, I had no other option. For me, it was my meditation. Running for 1-1.5 hours every day, including warm up and cool down, 2 hours when I was alone with my thoughts, when I could sort out and plan for the future. The next day and the distant future…

– Despite the fact that you were unable to continue long distance running for health reasons, sport has not been absent from your life. You still play sport today. You also have a sports club of which you are the president. All this is not just a financial investment for you, I think, it is much more than that. Can you tell us about that?

I didn’t do any active sports for 2-3 years after I stopped running. But as I cannot do without sport, I looked for a new challenge. I started playing squash. Just a few months ago, I went back to my first coach, who calculated that we had started working together 19 years ago. I competed for years, until a new generation came along who were half my age and twice my height. I didn’t even know where the ball was during the game and felt more like a clumsy fencer on the court than a racquetball competitor. These experiences made me stop competing, but I kept training. Dissatisfied with my lack of results, I tried again and got my first win in a competition this year.

Tamás Gazdag,the Sporty Businessman, Volleyball.

“I returned to my first volleyball coach, Rudolf Sas, with whom I started working 19 years ago”.

Yes, I also have a sports club. The way I put it is that I am only the president, the results are not my merit, I am in the background and I provide the basic conditions for its operation. The father of my foster daughter was a member of the Hungarian national football team and played hundreds of games in the first division, won the Hungarian Cup and there is hardly a European country where he has not played. He also played for Ferencváros, who reached the main draw of the Champions League last season. If he visits Cyprus, it will be in the papers as he played there for 6 years. Béla Kovács is responsible for everything the club has achieved professionally. Béla is loved by so many people, his life is football, he is known and appreciated by everyone in the profession. It was obvious that he could make his mark in this field, but he needed someone who could manage, cover, insure and be trusted for “everything else” outside football. That was me.

What does it Take to Succeed?

̶  I have a tricky question for you. You said you ran your first marathon at 17, but the minimum age was 18. Do you like pushing the limits? Is there a situation in business where it’s essential to cross it? For you, what does the saying “he who dares wins” mean?

Yes, I like to push the limits! I enjoy poking around the law to interpret it and find a loophole that can be exploited, but is not yet illegal.

I didn’t hurt anyone else when I pretended to be 18 at 17. I do not cross the line in a way that harms others. It will backfire, fate will backfire on everyone! Business is no exception! In fact, a rash decision can ruin a well built business, no matter what its history and no matter how big the company. ENRON was not a small company and what happened to it?

“Ninety percent of those who fail don’t actually fail, they just give up too soon!”

Those who dare to be first and do something that is not there yet, that has the potential to fail, but do everything to succeed and do it in the right scale and time and believe in it, win! That’s what the saying means to me. I share the opinion that ninety percent of those who fail don’t actually fail, they just give up too soon!

You may be running away from something, but it has taught me to persevere. Many times I don’t give up even when I should or someone else would. Maybe this is bordering on stubbornness, but I find it hard to believe and accept, but mostly I give in when something is not feasible the way I imagined it, the way I want it.

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Abigel Szodoray-Paradi
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