Founder and Chairman of Management Events
Creative, inspirational, passionate – the Founder and Chairman of Management Events is the epitome of a dynamic entrepreneur, burning with unending enthusiasm and excitement for face-to-face events. To commemorate 25 years of successful business matchmaking around the world, we journeyed down the emotion-charged road of the company’s beginnings, and snatched a glimpse of the future.
1. Do you remember how it all started 25 years ago? How did you come by the idea to establish an events company?
I was sixteen when I started making events in Helsinki. Nobody knew Olli Muurainen at that time, but everybody knew DJ Captain Freedom, my alter ego. Together with friends, we would organize techno raves in the outskirts of the Finnish capital.
I remember like it was yesterday – people mingling, dancing and having fun, and the air filled with music, laughter and chitchats. I was having fun as well, with these five hundred people I didn’t know, playing with the lights and the beat of techno music. I saw smiles on their faces and in their eyes, and I smiled too, the feeling of satisfaction lingering on until the early hours of the morning.
Every event taught us something new, and we came to realize that what we had started for fun turned out to be a very good business. And just like that, I had found my calling – I was an entrepreneur.
The magic that happens in face-to-face is unbeatable. It’s like a stunning cocktail mixed with excitement, ambition and freedom. Management Events was founded 25 years ago based on the big dream that we could bring that magic to the world of business events. Our strategy was, and still is, based on 1) customer service, 2) good value 3) and great leadership.
2. How was the events industry like back then? How was it different from today?
Lights, music, speakers and roundtables, they are pretty much the same with what we had in our events back in 1994 – only one or two notches smarter and bigger. But the event’s production at the site hasn’t changed much.
What has changed, and in a revolutionary way, is how we build up the concepts of the events, and how we market them.
25 years ago, we were licking stamps and carrying invitation letters to the post office. Today, we make use of social media, web-based marketing tools and applications before, during and after the events. We are extending the event outside the physical venue and with a longer post-event period by sharing aftermovies and other inspiring content. This is the biggest change in the events industry since 1994.
3. So after starting your own company, what happened next? What were your main challenges, and how did you overcome them? What was driving you?
Different times brought different kinds of challenges. During the first years of operation, it was pretty much hands-on – selling, vacuum cleaning, and writing marketing materials in the kitchen with the team.
As the company grew bigger and bigger, I focused less on the actual event productions and selling, and more on strategic work. But the most important driving factor for me is feedback.
Not only from the customers or employees, but also information on the happenings in the world, and the latest developments in business. Feedback is one of the most important things to succeed and grow the company to the size of hundreds of employees.
4. Looking back now, after 25 years in business, what do you consider your main achievement? What makes you proud?
The biggest achievement for Management Events is the leap out of our home base. We thought that if we could succeed in inspiring introverted Finns to network, we may have created a product that could be sold to other markets too.
We did our first event in Stockholm in 2005. I was there, of course, with our team. It looked pretty good, but we weren’t sure if our guests felt the same. Then I saw their feedback, and I started to cry.
It was exactly the same message that we got from spontaneous feedback in Finland. Our Swedish guests were thanking and telling us in many ways why the event was so good, and I was crying tears of happiness. That is probably the greatest moment of my career so far. I realized that day that my baby, my company, was an international company. I also saw our people growing – someone joining us as a rookie, taking up a manager position two years later, then leading a country and rising to high positions in the management team a few years after.
It’s all about the people. I am very proud of them and my company, taking care of our rising stars and helping them grow.
5. 25 years in business is a solid number. In your opinion, what is the direction of the events industry now?
The future looks so inspiring! Events are doing great. Not only what we do, but events business is going strong all over the world.
The Internet is doing great too. However, although it’s ultra-fast and super-accessible, it’s still not replacing face-to-face business. With people wanting to see, touch, feel and experience other people, the value of F2F will continue to rise in business.
6. And what is the plan for Management Events in the coming years?
We in Management Events are enthusiastically looking forward to the next 25 years. We will keep on improving our products, constantly innovating something new for our customers and coaching next-generation leaders.
I am so grateful to all the people who have helped, supported and encouraged me through the hardships and triumphs. I love this job!
7. As an experienced businessman who has gone through fire and water, what is your advice to young entrepreneurs who are just starting the journey towards their vision?
If somebody is interested to start a journey as a young entrepreneur, I would say, “Go ahead and do your dream! Congratulations!” If you want to improve your part of the world, just go and give it your all.
But if you only want money and your heart is not in it, please think twice.
I have seen so many different entrepreneurs. Many of them much more successful than I am, and the passion to change something is the force that unites them. Another thing these people have in common is that they never give up. You have to have the grit and resilience to go through whatever it takes to achieve your dreams.