Benke Aikell - owner and publisher of the Prague Leaders Magazine


Benke Aikell, foto: Lenka Hatašová
22.08.2013 02:34 | Hana Robinson

Many people from around the world visit the Czech Republic and then fall in love with this small country and wish to stay longer. But not everybody is capable of overcoming the cultural differences and starting a new business in a new country is a different story alltogether. Benke Aikell had some ideas that came at the right time. After several years in the real estate business Benke decided to start an upscale magazine, which would focus on high profile events, art,and culture of the Czech Republic and also cover EU related issues. Prague Leaders Magazine has become popular especially among politicians and businessmen. With a circulation of fifteen thousand prints every other month and distribution to all top officials in Brussels, Benke's idea turned into a successful business.

Benke Aikell, foto: Lenka Hatašová
Foto: Lenka Hatašová

 

Was it a a coencidence or a well-thought-out plan that made you stay in the Czech Republic and start a business here?

I visited the Czech Republic for the first time in the spring of 1990 and honestly, it was just out of curiosity. But I felt in love with Prague right away. I do not have to stress that it was very different back then. After a week I went back to Sweden and spoke to my business partner about some business ideas I had in mind. I was working in real estate at that time in Sweden and thought that at that time there were some good oportunities to invest in the real estate in Czechoslovakia.

 

What was it that made you fall in love with Prague?

The atmosphere was absolutely thrilling in the nineties, something new was being born. I liked the people, they were open-minded and nice. Women were beautiful. There were many opportunities for everybody after the Velvet Revolution. Very exciting times.

 

So as a businessman you saw the opportunity and decided to make most of it...

Of course. After about a year of traveling between Sweden and Prague we started a real estate company and bought several properties in Prague, of which one was also in  Parizska street. We ran into some problems with tenants, but usually it was ok. We were rather a small company, because it was very difficult to borrow money from banks in Sweden. Nobody knew how things were going to turn out in Czechoslovakia and getting money from banks in Prague was impossible.

Benke Aikell, foto: Lenka Hatašová
Foto: Lenka Hatašová

 

When did you come up with the idea of starting a business magazine and what did you see as its purpose or mission? 

Apart from the real estate business I was involved in the golfing society. I have been playing golf for years. We were running a golf club and were hosting many golf tournaments. I decided to start a small club magazine, in English, of course. I took photos myself and wrote most of the articles. I remember that the very first issue had only twelve pages and after a couple of years we expended to forty eight pages. Unfortunately, soon larger companies started to host their own tournaments and we realized that we needed to find another concept for the magazine. That was when I launched Prague Leaders Magazine in 2001.

 

You were coming out of a sport background, but your magazine does not cover sport events. Why?

There have been enough magazines and publications covering sport. Our concept with the magazine has been to cover politics, business, culture and important events in these fields. Sometimes we cover education or history issues, but this is not our main focus.

Benke Aikell, foto: Lenka Hatašová
Foto: Lenka Hatašová

 

What is your target group?

Politicians, business people and culture personalities. Anybody who can read in English and is interested or involved in politics, culture and business in the Czech Republic.

 

What is your circulation? 

We put around ten to fifteen thousand prints every other month. Leaders magazine is not that kind of magazine, which you would throw away when you finish reading it. People usually keep it on the coffee table for some time.

 

Was is difficult to find employees with good language skills? What does your team look like? 

We try to be efficient. Our team has only four people, but of course we are outsourcing printing, photographers and others. It is easier nowadays to find English speaking employees than it used to be, for example when I was working in real estate business fifteen years ago. It was a real challenge then.

Benke Aikell, foto: Lenka Hatašová
Foto: Lenka Hatašová

 

Do you still take pictures and write articles yourself? 

Laugh. No, I definitely do not take pictures myself anymore and except for my Publisher‘s note in each issue I rarely write articles in the magazine myself.

 

What has been the biggest challenge in the publishing business? 

The biggest challenge has been to survive. We believe that quality pays off. We have a niche where we are quite alone and this is very important for us. We are also expanding to Brussels, every issue we cover six pages from Brussels and doing some PR for the Czech Republic.

 

Can one actually buy the magazine?  Where? 

Prague Leaders Magazine is sold at the Luxor book store in Wenceslas Square in Prague. People can obviously also subscribe. Usually, the magazine is handed out at special events or seminars free of charge. We also have a very popular online version.

Benke Aikell, foto: Lenka Hatašová
Foto: Lenka Hatašová

 

How many readers does the magazine have today?

At the moment, we have online around five hundred thousand page views a month, sixty five thousand visitors and unique visitors close to thirty five thousand readers every month. In terms of the printed version, it is obviously difficult to say.

 

The magazine is printed on a high quality paper. It is pretty much given to people. How do you finance it all?

Quality is very important to us. We call it an upscale magazine, because it is mostly for upscale people. As most magazines, we finance it through advertising.

 

Is it difficult to find clients for advertising in your magazine? 

Yes, it is, especially when the country is going through difficult economic times. Companies and individuals do not have the financial support for advertising. Also, lots of advertising is in hands of advertising agencies and they follow their own rules.

Benke Aikell, foto: Lenka Hatašová
Foto: Lenka Hatašová

 

Has the magazine changed over the years and how?

For example, we used to publish it quarterly for several years. We realized that we need to be more in time with the events we are covering. Today the magazine comes out every other month.

 

Prague Leaders Magazine is published only in English. Do you believe that people in the Czech Republic speak well enough English to be able to comfortably read it? 

From time to time we publish an article or two in the Czech language as well, but not very often. Top managers usually speak very good English. Unfortunately I cannot say that about politicians.

 

Do you see this as a problem? Do you think this harms our relations with other countries?

I see it as a big problem for the country. Politicians have to go the Brussels and to other countries and with no English they cannot represent the country well. I hope that younger generation will do better.

 

Do you think that dubbing of movies and series on TV further deepens the problem?

Dubbing is very bad. The government should do what is best for the people and not for the dubbing business. In Sweden, most of the movies and films are played in TV in original sound with subtitles.

Benke Aikell, foto: Lenka Hatašová
Foto: Lenka Hatašová

 

You have been living in the Czech Republic for over twenty years. What is your opinion about the political scene?

It’s a very tough question. To make it short…the politicians could do so much better. Everybody involved in politics should think of the country and well being of its people first and then about themselves. Unfortunately it is happening exactly the other way around.

 

Do you still follow the Swedish political scene? What are the main differences?

In Sweden, everything is more regulated by the government. It is not possible to get away with things that you can get away here. We have our own political scandals, of course, but the laws are very tough if you make a mistake as a politician, even in a small matter.

 

Many politicians made it to the cover page of your magazine. Have you become friends with some of them?

Well, friends is a strong word. I have become acquaintance with some of them. I regularly meet with politicians and entrepreneurs at conferences, various business events or seminars.

Benke Aikell, foto: Lenka Hatašová
Foto: Lenka Hatašová

 

Not long time ago, we had the first direct presidential elections. What do you think of our new president?

I have met with president Zeman a few times before. He is straight forward, quite well spoken and he is the choice of the people. Let’s not forget this fact. I believe that he is one of the few politicians who actually care for the country and the people.

 

What has been your biggest reward for you over the years? 

The fact, that Prague Leaders Magazine is well received and respected by most people and the promotion of excellent PR for the Czech Republic via our web page to many countries around the world.

 

Is there anything you would have done differently?

Not really.

 

Are there other publishing or related projects in your future?  

Yes, franchise opportunities of the concept are on our agenda.

 

What keys to success can you leave for upcoming publishers and leaders?

Hard work, never give up, be positive and optimistic even in bad times. But mainly, do not expect to get rich. Laugh.

 

Thank you for the interview.

 

 

Interview: Hana Robinson

Photo: Lenka Hatašová www.lenkahatasova.com

Location: Hotel Radisson Blu Alcron www.alcron.cz

Publisher: magazine Best of www.ibestof.cz

Benke Aikell, foto: Lenka Hatašová
Benke Aikell, foto: Lenka Hatašová
Benke Aikell, foto: Lenka Hatašová
Benke Aikell, foto: Lenka Hatašová
Benke Aikell, foto: Lenka Hatašová
Benke Aikell, foto: Lenka Hatašová
Benke Aikell, foto: Lenka Hatašová
Benke Aikell, foto: Lenka Hatašová
Benke Aikell, foto: Lenka Hatašová

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