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Maia Bibiluri

Business is a Style of Life, Not Job Place

The Caucasus Business Week (CBW) introduces an interview with Maia Bibiluri, member of Women for Tomorrow association and director of BTL Georgia. The company operates in business tourism field, covers several directions  (Business Travel & MICE) and is one of the major, successful and reliable companies on the market. BTL Georgia functions exclusively for B2B market. 

– Mrs. Maia, how did you undertake your business?

– I was born in 1967, in Soviet Georgia. I graduated from a Russian-language secondary school and then I finished a university faculty of cybernetics and applied mathematics. From my first grade I wanted to become a mathematics teacher, because I wanted to explain this or that issue to pupils in my own way. For example, in my studentship years, I used to teach secondary school graduates. Based on “conduct” of trigonometry functions, I substantiated that the sinus was a male and the cosine was a female. After that no children has forgotten these formulas.

After university graduation I went to aviation sector and worked for Georgian airlines for 18 years. Having seen my personal and professional advancement ceased, I accepted an offer from a startup airline and continued studies abroad.  In this way I arrived in the USA and spent several months on studying various courses.

After I returned to Georgia, the airline suspended operation and for 6 months I stayed unemployed. Despite all efforts I could not find the vacant position of even a maid. In that period BTL founder arrived in Georgia for opening a domestic representation. In the process of staff selection, the company director took into account recommendations of my friend, as well as my experience. After an interview, I was offered to occupy the position of a director in the company. This was my first steps in business, because previously I had not worked as a manager. Thus, I came to business at my 42.

– What challenges have you faced when undertaking this business?

– The main challenge was that I did not have experience in doing business. I had been a hardworking and tireless worker every time, but I lacked for knowledge. I considered business to be a job, but it turned out a style of life. From the very first steps, I realized that the main thing was to settle relations with people with whom I had to do business. It is important that all individuals around you be as motivated as you. They must be sure they are able to make the best company without any doubts.

– How have to overcome these challenges?

– First of all, I started studying key principles and formulas of doing business from the BTL Ukraine director and founder. I understand everything better in the form of formulas. Then I got through a final stage of Swedish program and  learned strategic business management.

As to our team, I has individual attitude to my employees and my position of a director just made me more responsible.  In all other issues we are one team and we stand side by side in any case. If you want to arrange a genuine team, you should correctly distribute priorities, first of all, upon the people with whom you do business. And a company is shaped in this way. Only after that you have moral rights to think of your own welfare.

– What does BTL Georgia represent today?

– BTL Georgia is an only major and successful company on our market. We work on only business segment and we try to make contribution to tourism sector development, namely, to business tourism development. Initially, we hired only three employees. Now our team consists of 25 persons. As part of National Tourism Award project, in 2015 we won the Best Business Tourism nomination of the first national travel awards Welcome to Georgia, while in 2016 we won the Mice Report Awards 2012 “Best DMC Georgia” (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, Event And Exhibitions).

-This is a very difficult field that requires experience, professionalism, risks and luck. How have you managed to cope with al these tasks and what is your advantage compared to other competitors?

– This is a genuinely difficult and diverse field. Despite tourism is a priority field, it is very difficult to search out professional staff. In practice, we have to grow personnel ourselves. We appreciate every employee. Therefore, we show individual approaches to each of them to shape such a team. Our key advantage consists in the fact were make focus on clients, flexible and high-quality services thanks to independent, tireless and professional staff. Naturally, we also take erroneous decisions, but the whole team gets involved in the problem resolution process and we overcome all difficulties in this way.

– Have the job of so many years justified your expectations?

– We are proud of all content clients and successful projects. There are cases when we lose tenders despite customers want to cooperate with us and they wait for a new tender to continue cooperation with us. There are moments when you guess your abnormally heavy job have brought real results.

I would not specify any project. Our company is famous and popular. It occupies certain niche thanks to all projects implemented by us.

– What is the key challenge before the company at this stage?

– Like all business, major challenges arise when moving to a new stage of development. A company always needs stability, but continuous development is also very important for both the company and each member of the team. In 2016 we founded BTL Azerbaijan and the whole team is working on making BTL Azerbaijan successful and profitable.

Joining PCO (Professional Conference Organizer) is the next phase and the nearest key challenge for our company. We also want to participate in international projects as partners and organizers. A mega business forum IBF (International Business Forum) will be held in Batumi in 2017. We are official partners of the forum and our objective is to draw as many guests as possible and successfully hold the business forum.

– The issue of businesswomen has been actualized over the past years. What problems do women face today? Where do real problems exist and what are real needs in this direction?

– I think the main problem for a businesswoman is a relation between  family affairs and business. I cannot name other special problems. Would I have achieved anything easier being a male?!

– You are active member of Women for Tomorrow business association. How would you appraise performance of this organization?

-Business association of women is a rare case, when you realize the association has not established for formality, because motivation for growth brings real benefits and you go to any meeting with joy. Therefore, I welcome all similar activities and experience.

– Do you personally plan to take efforts in new business?

– At this stage I do not plan to launch new business, but I have thought of any other business activities that are close to our current specialization. Maybe, the time will come to take new efforts too.

– The ways and instructions of how to undertake business and achieve success is an ordinary topic of trainings and public lectures. What do you think how should we undertake business?

– This is an interesting question. I would not act as a mentor, because even I am “a beginner” in business. Nevertheless, based on my experience and past way, I would answer the question in this way:

You should not undertake business if:

  • You do not believe in success;
  • You have not analyzed risks and outcomes;
  • You are not hardworking (readiness for working for 24 hours)
  • you are not able to withstand and resolve problems
  • you do not like people
  • you are insolent and strive for leading positions (especially at initial phases, full involvement is required);
  • you do not have strategy and plan on how, where and how to move;

– What would you suggest to beginner businessmen?

– I would not make suggestions, because even I do not always follow suggestions. I would just say that business is not a job place. It is a style of life, because everything changes in the process of building and management. Maximally healthy and free environment is the most important thing for people who should work jointly with you, because discontent employee will never bring good results.