LEADING TRADE FAIR ORGANISER IN THE BALTIC STATES

Interview with Viesturs Tile - International Exhibition Company "BT 1" Chairman of the Board.

"We are business marketing compilation – we organise and manage business for other businessmen. We are matchmakers!" Viesturs Tile describes his company with a smile on his face.

What are the three most important facts about the company you are running?
"BT 1" is approaching its 20th anniversary. From a small company it has grown to be the leading international exhibition company in the Baltic states. This is a company that organises business for other businessmen.

Why do you work for this company?
(Smiles) Because I founded it, alone at first. There are a couple more founders who are working for "BT 1". Most importantly because this time everything is just right! This is fulfilling work – it is both a hobby and daily routine. My work is not a burden. It gives me joy!


What pleases and what saddens you when you think about the industry you represent?
It pleases me that we have managed to create a company that organises exhibits that are useful to others. Many people complain about the lack of support from the Latvian government. But the main thing is that the government doesn't prevent us from doing; from working. It doesn't create artificial obstacles! I am pleased that while developing our business we didn't face artificially created obstacles and that we have become the leading exhibition organiser in the Baltics.
What I am not satisfied with is the industry classification system that doesn't represent our industry! Our industry is classified as "Other". Yes, we also offer advertising services, but basically we business marketing compilation – we organise and manage business for other businessmen. We are matchmakers! That may sound very Latvian.

What pleases and what saddens you when you think about the Republic of Latvia?
We are the Republic of Latvia! That's why I don't understand those who yell: this country is not giving me anything, it doesn't support me! We are the ones who shape this country! The country is like its society! It annoys me that we do not engage in nation-building. Young people need to be involved in politics! In my company there are also many young and strong employees who could get engaged in politics – help to develop this country, solve a lot of things.
We can't reach anything by meowing! We have to work and invest in our country. Developing without setbacks is not impossible. There will always be some crisis and its consequences, regardless of what is happening in Latvia. And any businessman and any member of society must be psychologically prepared for it. Must be organised, must react to the situation to survive and to continue to evolve. Even in difficult situations we must not lose optimism!

Can you and the company you represent be found on social networking sites? Why – Yes or No?
It can be found! You could always wish for more, but you also have to know the boundaries – too much of something can be a bad thing. Actively communicating about exhibitions and events on project websites, social networking sites and media, we actually maintain the information space about the exhibition business in Latvia. It is not an easy task in an age oversaturated with information. We always have to talk to people, leaving out the unnecessary information, constantly have to keep up with the latest news and evolve. We can't allow ourselves not to be on social networking sites!

Do you have a shortage of staff?
No, we don't. There's another problem – there hasn't been any turnover in the company during the last two years. There are some concerns that employees might become complacent. I, as the owner and manager, am interested in having employees with strong and capable minds.

What are the facts to take into account before applying for a job in your company?
Exhibition business is mainly project management, and most of the "BT 1" employees have come here with an initiative to create a new project. Yes, indeed, if you have a fresh idea for a new exhibition project, then you might become a "BT 1" employee. We will evaluate and bring your ideas to life. You can also come with rational ideas on how to improve our existing projects, because sometimes from the outside potential improvements are more obvious.
The specifics of our everyday work doesn't require eight hours in the office. However, you must keep in mind that when the exhibition time is approaching and during the exhibition employees have to put in a lot more hours and work. I am glad that most of the "BT 1" project managers do their job with joy, interest and have become important players in their field.
Employees must have the desire to improve. Education plays a role, but, first of all, you need to have the desire to go into a particular field and explore how it is evolving not only in Latvia, but also in the nearest region and around the world. These days you will also need language skills, good communication skills and knowledge of using electronic devices. Be self-critical! Changing staff is not an end in itself, but should be done if necessary. Our door is open to new talent with new and rational ideas!

What are the company's short and long term goals?
Our immediate goals are very casual, but important overall – to continue to develop exhibitions and to adapt them according to the represented industry's situation in Latvia and in the region. We have clearly defined development and transformation projects, such as "Nature Expo". That is not an easy task! We are already arranging the venues, the exhibition centre's facade, the flagpoles and the electronic invitations registration system.
One of the long term goals is to resolve the issue of entering and exiting Kipsala with Riga City Council to avoid traffic jams during exhibits. We wish for this long term goal to become a short term goal. We also have to arrange a partnership with Riga Technical University.
A positive example is when state, local governments and partner institutions closely cooperate with the organisers of the exhibitions, such as in Germany and other European countries. They are planning the exhibition centre's infrastructure and logistics.
If these situations are resolved and the trends continue then we can consider building another multi-purpose exhibition hall. With the correct approach it is possible!

Tell us about your path to the current position and what your first job was.
My first paid job was when I was in 7th grade and worked in a forest near Ventspils cleaning ditches. The next job I had was teaching electrical engineering in Riga State Gymnasium No. 3 while I was in my 4th year studying industrial engineering in Riga Polytechnic Institute. But then I became more interested in mathematics which was my favourite subject. I was working as a teacher of mathematics and an assistant director in Riga State Gymnasium No. 3. Mathematics and geometry require a strong imagination, spatial transformation of objects. (Laughs) Mathematics for me has always come naturally and it helps now too.
In 1989, at the beginning of the democratic changes, I was offered a head position in the Culture and Sports Department in Riga City Vidzeme District Executive Committee, because by then I was already associated with folk art. And then came sports! The Latvian Tourism Association was looking for someone to help organise the first tourism exhibition. At that time I hadn't organised any exhibitions, but I was told to submit my candidacy. They picked me and let me keep both jobs. As a result in 1994 the first "Balttour" exhibition was made in Riga Motion Pictures Studio. It was an unusual school! I had had a taste and that is why later that year I created "BT 1".

How and when did you create the name and the logo for you company?
The company's name "BT 1" is a derivative of "Balttour" – the name of the first exhibition. I have heard different versions for its extended meaning, but I myself like Business Tango the best. The logo is developed by the famous stage designer Aigars Ozolins, to whom our logo design was one of the first public works. The logo consists of the letters "BT" and the waves of the Baltic Sea.

Tell us a fact that our readers still don't know about the company you represent.
It is our own Latvian company. (Smiles) There are three shareholders and they all work at "BT 1". Although there have been offers, we haven't "sold out".

What legislative changes would you like to see?
I don't know if I want to have a special law for exhibitions, as it is in Germany. Many things have to be arranged. And we have to pay taxes that would be much smaller if everyone paid them. State Revenue Service data shows that currently only 3% of companies paid 97% of their income taxes. Micro-enterprises, however, should be strictly regulated, because those are small family businesses. At first these companies are of course necessary for the business to pick up and grow faster, but not forever, because the big companies will start to take advantage of that. The current dissatisfaction of micro-enterprises about the planned tax increase from 9 to 11% is an injustice against someone like me who pays all taxes.
There should be a special state law to inform and educate citizens about the formation of taxes, salaries, pensions, what type of taxes are paid and where they are used, education would create an understanding of taxes. Everyone should have this knowledge and then there would be more patriots.

Is there anything that has really surprised you lately – pleasantly or unpleasantly?
Now, many years after the war, there is a new geopolitical crisis and we are balancing on the brink of war – that is an unpleasant surprise. I used to be "for" a presidential republic, but now I am "against". Sometimes powerful presidents can cause a lot of trouble. Sometimes the power corrupts people, and some of our politicians support this theory.
I was pleasantly surprised about how calm people were during this geopolitical crisis, no panic attacks, not like after the collapse of the Parex Bank in 2008. Hysterical!
I was pleasantly surprised by the extensive cultural programme of "Riga 2014 European Capital of Culture". Lovers of culture can't even manage to go to all the events!

What is your favourite food and drink?
I don't have a favourite! (Thinks) A good herring with curd and potatoes. But the herring has to be natural, not too salty. But I don't eat it every day! I also like crepes with ice cream. There's also ice cream called "Viesturs", but that's a secret. (Laughs) Favourite drinks – water and coffee. I like carrot juice too.

Which book and film has had the greatest impact on you – professionally and personally?
That's a difficult question. I'll admit that I don't read that many books anymore, but I used to read a lot. When I was in school I really liked the book "The Little Prince". I reread it several times, analysed it and tried to understand its deep philosophy. Later I enjoyed reading science fiction about the cosmos. One of my best essays is written on this topic. During the Soviet era there was the magazine "Znanije sila" that had articles about galaxies and black holes. Other magazines didn't write about that. I liked it very much!
Latvians have made many good films. A film from the Soviet era that I like is "My Frivolous Friend", but one from the modern era – "The Dream Team". Very good films that show that together we can achieve a lot. This applies not only to sports, but to different spheres of life. Our company gets international appraisal – we receive compliments from major counterparts in Europe about our ability to accomplish great things in our little exhibition centre.

What is the best way to regain energy and rest after work?
To go to a concert or a cultural event. It used to be folk dances – for 19 years I directed the folk dance group "Teiksma". I like theatre as well. It's the best! When I want to rest after a weekday, I watch football on "VIASAT Sport Baltic". I like to see close ups of referee rulings and balls flying. It's dynamic! However, I can doze off during some games. I am not a football fan, but that is how I can "disengage" from daily stress.

Please tell something funny or interesting that has happened in your life or at work.
After one of the competitions for young fashion designers "Habitus Baltija" our staff organised a fashion show using some elements that were left over. Such virtuosity and rapture! I've never seen a show like that since! It was impromptu and no amount of money would have made it better. Lots of laughter and unforgettable memories of the event.

What else would you like to say to "bt1.lv" readers?
Think positive! Remember that we the people, we are the country and only we can shape it. I wish success, satisfaction and the benefits that business can bring to you and your family. Don't give up and be strong even in difficult times! Have a lot of wonderful moments and human relationships!



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