Yes! This is true! On September 18th in the iconic Infinity building in Amsterdam the recently founded non-profit organization Benelux Baltics in Business organized its first face-to-face conference. Considering the speed of sold-out tickets and participants turnout rate, we confidently call this conference a true success.
The vibe was so lively! Students, fresh graduates, young and experienced professionals getting to know each other and sharing their expertise, contacts and knowledge. Let’s not forget how much we missed this real human connection after being locked at home with digital screens for almost two years.
Opening the conference
However, we all met at this conference not only to connect with each other, but also learn! This is why we had a quite packed agenda full of inspiring, motivating and insightful speakers. Before we got there, as traditional for all great conferences, we had a few honour guests giving opening speeches.
Briefly, but very powerfully we had Vidmantas Purlys, the Ambassador of Lithuania to the Netherlands talking about his personal view on the importance of this newly created organization. We were happy to hear his commitment to continue supporting the Benelux Baltics in Business organization.
We were also pleased that Jovita Neliupšienė, the Vice Minister at the Ministry of Economy and Innovation made a short stop in Amsterdam after her business trip in the USA. Jovita talked about the importance of innovation, sustainability and international cooperation. The themes we are exactly planning to develop more during the future Benelux Baltics in Business events.
Finally, we heard Jurga Baltram, the co-founder of the Benelux Baltics in Business organization, talking about her personal experience and the reason why she decided to work on this non-profit networking platform.
What did we learn from our keynote speaker Aad van Vliet?
In total we had six speakers on the stage and we started with Aad van Vliet who was brought to us by our education partner BMI. Aad’s speech was full of research figures, insights and tips for our leaders.
For example, did you know that 90% of employees in purpose-driven companies say they are engaged in their work vs. 32% in other companies? Aad said it's not surprising that focusing employees around a company’s purpose boasts annual growth rates nearly triple for the whole sector.
Did you also know that only 10-15% of people are fully self-aware? According to Aad, this means we too often don't see our blind spots (i.e. although an individual perceives it as a strength, outside world think of it as a weakness). You may ask - how can we notice our blind spots? Aad would advise that looking at feedback as a gift is extremely important. So don't be afraid to ask for it regularly and rather focus on building your strengths than weaknesses.
One of the conference participants Arno M. d'Haens mentioned that his biggest learning from Aad’s speech was about the importance of employee self-awareness and rapid learning cycles. The self-awareness and need to examine your feelings and behaviors also got stuck with Vilma Telemans. Dovile Corrigan added that lack of self-awareness points to all untapped potential we have in ourselves.
Choose your own boss by Lotta Croiset van Uchelen Feberwee
After’s Aad speech which was full of lots of different concepts and ideas, our next speaker Lotta Croiset van Uchelen Feberwee chose a completely opposite format to deliver her message about self-steering teams (with no managers). Lotta had only a few slides and instead of walking through them, she immediately asked our audience - what would you like to learn from me here today?
This sparked a discussion directly with our audience. Many questions and raised eyebrows popped up. What does it mean to work in a company with no hierarchy? How does it work? How do you do your performance reviews?
Lotta didn’t glorify that self-steering teams at Schuberg Philis are easy to work with. Sometimes it does take longer to make decisions, but using the consent approach they are sure they are doing the right thing for their customers with experts in the lead. Looking at Schuberg Philis business results and the highest customer satisfaction scores over the consecutive 15 years, it definitely made us rethink our leadership.
The difference among the Baltic states by Aigars Germanis
We have received lots of great feedback about our annual conference. The participants particularly enjoyed a diverse group of speakers (e.g. gender, nationality, generation).
Aigars Germanis spoke about his personal experience working with "Baltic people". He made us laugh so many times sharing his personal and professional stories from all the Baltic countries. Many might think that these three small countries (i.e. Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania) don't have many differences, but Aigars proved it otherwise.
It was insightful to go through all the Hofstede cultural framework dimensions and see where each Baltic country stands backed by Aigars personal experience.
In fact, Aigars even wrote a book "Little instruction book on managing Baltics: Latvians, Lithuanians and Estonians" which you can purchase if you are interested to learn more.
How a watermelon overcame a “millennial crisis” by Agne Nainyte
We are proud of our own Agne Nainyte who is also one of the Benelux Baltics in Business co-founders to go on stage and deliver her speech. Agne is a representative of the late millennial generation who recently survived what she calls a "millennial crisis" when she decided to quit her successful corporate career and pursue volunteering in rural Uganda.
Although Agne came back to work in business, she became an advocate for finding purpose both for individuals and organizations. Her speech delivered 3 key messages:
We appreciated Agne’s refreshingly young perspective on leadership and wish her to continue doing her great work in Uganda by selling the "Bracelets with a story".
Conference closing with Endre Szabo on leadership authenticity
One of the final speeches was given by Endre Szabo, who shared his authentic, vulnerable and open perspective on the meaning of work and life. Endre's topic was not easy! We asked him to talk about the authenticity and meaning of work in the new global pandemic period of time.
Endre decided to share his own personal life story which includes lots of endeavours, unexpected turns and how he dealt with it. It was remarkable to hear how such an accomplished international executive as Endre told his career story, but also how much he is involved in doing charity work.
He is a true role model and example of a vulnerable, purpose-driven and accomplished executive who is giving so much to the disadvantaged people around the world.
Last but not least, a performance by BLESZ
Although the Benelux Baltics in Business networking organization is mainly focused on the business theme as it is highlighted in our title, we believe that earth without art would be just ‘eh’ and that the artistic perspective on business makes it only stronger.
Therefore, we are super proud that our conference was closed with an impressive, touching and deep speech which rather deserves to be called a performance by the spoken word poet and rap artist BLESZ.
BLESZ truly made us swing, sing and dance in our chairs where we spent almost a whole sunny Saturday day in Amsterdam's iconic building Infinity.
"It is a new day. A day with new possibilities, new opportunities, another chance to grow. A chance to be better than yesterday, a chance to plant seeds for tomorrow."
Thank you BLESZ for your inspiring performance!