Have you met Mārtiņš? | Primend Latvia CEO
Imagine this: you’re building a company, that keeps growing and growing. But, you live in a little pond called Estonia, which means the market won’t keep up with your growth. It’s time to expand, and the first place to look are naturally the Baltic states. Would Primend Latvia be the same as Primend Estonia, or would a different culture make things difficult? Born in Riga, raised in a ‘super ordinary’ family, as he put it. Meet Mārtiņš, the General Manager of Primend Latvia.
Expanding a company to become an international rising star can be daunting. You need the right people. Has Primend found the right people for Latvia? Primend Latvia is three years old today with a team of 16 people working wonders there (June data). But it all started with just one: Mārtiņš.
Who is he and where does he come from? As already stated, he was born in Riga, raised in an ordinary family, graduated from an ordinary school (his own words). After graduation he felt the pull away from Riga and towards independent life, so he ended up in Denmark.
“I have a bachelors’ in Sales and Marketing. I didn’t know what I wanted, just a new country. It was a super experience. Denmark is a nice place for that. Free studies, lots of international people. I am still in contact with some of them, I went to a Lithuanian guy’s wedding, and we are good friends”.
Combining work and pleasure is a trait in him that goes back in time: working for a Danish nightclub was the perfect spot for that. In his third year, he switched jobs and gave an office job a try: it was a company that was importing and exporting frozen meat. The job wasn’t interesting, but he understood what it meant to be in an office environment. A little while later, he transferred to a hardware company, where his Baltic heritage was seen as a great benefit. The company wanted to start exporting to Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine. Mārtiņš has always liked taking computers apart.
What brought you back to Latvia?
“In Denmark, I learned how western companies operated, I liked it a lot. I always felt like an outsider. Everyone was cool, etc., and we still sometimes talk but it wasn’t my place. I wanted to come back after graduation. Back to LV”.
Back home, he stood at crossroads: should he choose hardware or software? Software won the battle, and he ended up in a company that was a Microsoft partner. Mārtiņš met his (then) future wife there. He then goes down the memory lane and speaks fondly of how their relationship started.
After he had been working for that company for a while, they wanted to set up office in Estonia. So Mārtiņš headed there, to develop the Estonian branch. Again, he didn’t feel like a local.
So begins Primend Latvia
At some point in time while he was working on growing the Estonian branch, he met Rene and Tõnis. Good job guys, in making a good first impression! Mārtiņš spent 4 days a week in Tallinn, but as he had got married by that time and his first baby was on her way, the commute just didn’t work any more. When he went back to Latvia, Rene called asking „What’s up?“. Alex, Rene and Toomas met up with him in Tallinn, telling him that Primend wanted to expand to Latvia. And so Primend Latvia was kicked off in Mārtiņš’s bedroom. The first 4 to 5 months were a struggle, but today, 3 years later, the work is super interesting and things are going well.
“The colleagues were always fine in my previous places, all except the direct managers. We didn’t always really get along. Now the founders use a combination of Scandinavian and Baltic management styles. More Scandi, if I compare with other LV companies.
I love that family is a regarded as a great value in Primend. Both my kids were born in Primend time. When I started at Primend, I said I had a kid coming and wouldn’t be able to give my full attention, and the guys totally understood, as everyone had several kids.”
“There was a competitive dance teacher in my school. All the girls wanted to go dancing, so I went too. My main motivation was to be with the girls (laughter). I started dancing and got to a quite okay level. At 16, youth level, I was 2 times Latvian champion, went to a world championship and I was 12th in the semi-finals. I liked it a lot and it grew on me. It is a physical activity, but it always felt as a form of art. I had one partner the whole time. She was also the creative type and went on to design school. I wasn’t into looking for a new partner, so this was the end for me. It was a very cool time, and it was never my goal to become a world champion.
I still hate it when people ask me to dance when they hear about all this. I am not your pole dancer (laughter).”
What has your dancing experience taught you?
“It doesn’t matter what extracurricular activity you take on. I had practice every evening, Monday to Friday. Competitions were in the weekends. It teaches consistency. One thing I learned is that if you do something from the heart and for a long time, then results will come. You need to put the hours in. Set smaller goals, as many small goas make up a big result.”
The connections between family and work-life
You seem like a family person, or at least proud to have kids
“I love my kids a lot, my kids are a source of happiness. The small things make you so happy. I knew I didn’t want to be the absent father that never saw his kids. I like to think I’m quite involved in everything. There are always challenging days, and nobody understands it until they have kids of their own. All in all, I think this is a different level of life. When you’re a couple, you just think about the two of you and do what you want, when you want to. When you have kids, your happiness moves outside of you. Before, you’d have played volleyball or got drunk and had a party, now when you see kids laughing and loving something, this so satisfying.”
Has being a father affected the way you lead your team?
“Maybe. Kids and grownups are different, but there are many tips that work on both kids and colleagues (laughter). With kids you have to be straightforward. I’m not some dictator manager at all, but you need to sometimes be super straightforward and exact so that everyone could interpret it the same way. This Latvian team, I also feel, is like my second family. We have two mom-figures, a few dads even maybe, and a few other family members.
I am still quite ... I appreciate that the founders just gave me this possibility. We had met but I was still a random person and they had trust in me.”
Have you used anything from the Danish or Estonian entrepreneurial culture in your work methods today?
“It might seem super basic, but the openness. In the management you sometimes need to make hard decisions you don’t want to, but you always need to be honest and not make tricky moves behind people’s back. In Denmark, everything was honest and nothing behind the table. Latvian companies, there were weird things people hid, sometimes there were reasons but most of the time there weren’t any good reasons. It always felt I was not involved. People will always find out. So yes, the honesty and openness. You talk about problems and find a solution.”
Do you have any weird hobbies?
“I am a peanut butter addict and I make my own peanut butter. I first discovered it for myself in Denmark. Now in Latvia, I try different brands and I want to make my own nut butters. Now I’m experimenting with making the perfect peanut butter. I have tried all other nut butters too, but peanut butter is still best for me. I’m quite nuts for nuts.”
Describe your ideal day off
“I like to travel a lot. Even if it’s just for one day, I want to be somewhere else. Experience something new. Be it a place, new food, or activity, I want to try something new. I’m quite an introverted person and my idea of this ideal day off would be just with the family, travelling somewhere, trying something new.”
If you could compare yourself to any animal, which would it be and why?
Not so easy to say. Maybe a turtle (laughter). I may not be super-fast, but if I think of where I want to go, I will get there eventually. I’m no lion or wolf, I think we need turtles in the wildlife, too.
If you had a choice between two superpowers, being invisible or the ability to fly, which would you choose?
“I think I would choose the ability to fly, though I don’t enjoy being very high up without security. I could go to a different country every evening and explore different places. When invisible, you could creep up on people, but ... (laughter).
I think Primend is a super good place not just to work but have a second family, and every person should understand and appreciate it and do their best. I think it’s maybe this stubbornness, patience and motivation, and then really sky is the limit. With Primend there really are no limits. I still am surprised about what we can do and all the possibilities we have. If you don’t want to just work for a company but to have a second family and have fun and have some challenges and great development possibilities, then this is a really great place to be. If any of us wants to show initiative, it is always appreciated and encouraged. I love being a Primendian.