We Started from the Bottom, only with a Vision to Successfully Launch the Company, Says C-IN Managing Partner Tomáš Maxa
We bring you the interview led by the C-IN company with one of their managing partners - Tomáš Maxa. Read the full story of one of our successful PCO companies!
Photo: C-IN team at the ERA-EDTA 2011 Congress, Prague Congress Centre
CZECH-IN has been in existence since 2002, which means it has been 21 years since its establishment, what preceded it? How was the idea created?
The idea for the company, which was founded in 2002, came from my friend and colleague Petr Marhoul. He noticed a gap in the market for a new congress agency and invited me and two other former colleagues to join him in starting the business. The four of us each had a specific agenda to oversee, and we were fortunate to secure our first events right from the outset. Our initial office was located on the tennis courts at Štvanice in Prague, and we remained there until 2002 when the office was destroyed by floods.
You mentioned that the very first office was at the Štvanice in Prague, but today we are talking at the Prague Congress Centre at Vyšehrad. When did you move here?
After the floods in 2002, we set out to find new premises for our business. The Prague Congress Centre caught our attention as it was a suitable base for our operations, given the nature of our work. We've had a long-standing partnership with the Congress Centre, which is a fantastic venue for large-scale events in Prague. Its stunning views and high-quality meeting and event spaces make it an ideal location. Furthermore, the Congress Centre is a convenient logistical choice for us, especially when events go late into the night because we have our facilities on site.
Were there any similar companies back then?
Yes, when we founded the company in 2002, there were already several firms offering congress and conference organization services. To set ourselves apart, we decided to focus on corporate events initially. These types of events were quicker to acquire and prepare than congresses. However, at the same time, we were traveling around Europe trying to get congresses and conferences with experts from various fields to Prague. In 2003, we organized our first comprehensive congress, which was unique.
What were the events at the very beginning?
One of our earliest events was organized for Varta Bosch, a company that produced and perhaps still produces car batteries in Česká Lípa. We hosted a meeting in Prague for a group of approximately 100 workers from across Europe and organized a trip to the production plant in Česká Lípa. After this, our contracts started to take off, and we were fortunate to work with TPCA (Toyota Motor Manufacturing Czech Republic) on events related to the construction and opening of their factory. We won a tender for these events and played a key role in the foundation-laying ceremony and the opening of the factory. These events were attended by journalists from abroad, as well as representatives from the Czech government, ministries, and municipalities. These were the first few steps of the company.
Were you able to manage everything just within the four founding members?
At first, yes. But in our business, it is common to hire external collaborators for individual events. The first employee was my colleague Anička and later we expanded the company as the business required.
What does the name CZECH-IN stand for? Why do most of the employees use the abbreviation C-IN?
When we founded our company in 2002, we named it CZECH-IN, with the "CZECH" representing the Czech Republic and "IN" referring to incoming events and conferences. So together that meant the realization of events and conferences in the Czech Republic. However, as our business expanded beyond the Czech Republic, we realized that our name no longer accurately reflected our services. In 2008, we began to think about a new name and trademark that would better reflect our business. We ultimately settled on the name C-IN, which is a shortened version of our original name while also conveying the meaning of "SEE IN" in English, which means to understand things and to be professional in something.
C-IN is the so-called PCO, which means a professional core organizer of congresses and conferences. Last year you even very successfully organized governmental events, which was the Czech Presidency in the Council of the European Union. What is your main agenda? What kind of services do you offer?
We operate as a PCO (Professional Congress Organizer). We are responsible for all agendas related to the organization of conferences and congresses. This includes creating websites, processing registrations, and scientific papers, securing sponsorships, and ensuring a seamless implementation of the event at the chosen venue. The main specificity of PCO services is that the company usually takes on the financial risks associated with a particular conference. We work closely with a range of industry associations to help them bring their events to life while also managing their financial risk. We also provide associated services to international associations, which usually do conferences with us. This creates synergies where we take care of the management of membership fees, the website, and the secretariat of the association, right through to the actual organization of the conference.
Who are your long-term clients?
We have developed strong expertise in the field of pediatrics. One of our most significant clients is the European Society of Paediatric Dermatology (ESPD), for whom we provide association management services and organize their annual conference. This year, the conference will be held in Malaga, Spain. We also have a long-standing relationship with the European Society of Dermatology Research (ESDR) and provide conference management services for them. In addition to these associations, we also work with the European International Study Association (EISA) to provide association management services and organize their conferences. We have also been providing association management services to the International Pediatric Nephrology Association (IPNA) for many years and have had the opportunity to organize their conference in Calgary, Canada, last year. The next IPNA conference is planned to be held in South Africa in three years. Other long-term clients of our agency include the European Society of Surgical Oncology (ESSO) and the International Confederation of Midwives (ICM). With ICM, we have been working on organizing their conference in Bali, Indonesia. Originally, the conference was scheduled to take place in 2020, but due to COVID-19, we first organized a virtual conference in 2021 and are now preparing for a physical event in Bali this year.
What makes C-IN different from the competition?
We have always tried to be the proactive ones who come to clients and offer our services. A great deal of credit for this goes to one of the firm's co-founders and partners, Peter de Merlier, who sadly left us for good in 2016. We never passively waited for an inquiry to come in from a doctor or scientist to organize a conference. We were always one step ahead and sought candidatures at leadership levels of various European and international associations. Peter, and later other members of our team, were willing to travel great distances, whether by car or plane, to meet with potential clients and present our proposals.
You mentioned that C-IN's strength is its proactive approach to clients. What other strengths does the company have?
Our core strength lies in our exceptional organizational skills, honed over years of experience in executing successful events both domestically and internationally. Operating out of our headquarters in Prague, we can organize events across the globe, and we are known for being highly competitive in the industry. The lower cost of work in the Czech Republic compared to other European countries means that we can offer our services at a great value while being financially stable and reliable. Our goal is the successful realization of a conference with a positive outcome for the client.
We take pride in establishing a bond of trust between our clients and our services. We are aware that a local host "goes to the market" with a name that he has earned in the community, and therefore we try to think through the events to the last detail to present our client not only as an expert in his field but also as a quality conference organizer and host. We are pleased that feedback on our services often includes the fact that we are flexible, will do everything we can to make the conference a success, and can deal with crises. Simply as they say we are prepared to go that extra mile to make the event a success. At the same time, many of our business relationships with clients have resulted in long-standing friendships, which we are very pleased about. We are certainly not a traditional corporation, but rather a friendly company open to ideas.
How is the company structured? What departments does the company have and what is their job?
We have a company structured into several departments, each responsible for specific tasks. Our Business Development & Marketing department focuses on finding new contracts, preparing bids, and processing candidacies. Once we have secured a client, the Operations department takes over the planning and execution of the event. This department includes a team of project managers who act as coordinators for the entire event, as well as several specialized teams, such as the Registration department, which manages registration fees, the Scientific department, responsible for preparing the event program, the Sponsorship department, which seeks sponsors for the congress, and the IT Support department, responsible for managing the website, on-site technology, and mobile app preparation. The Association Management Department is another integral part of our company, providing full administrative services to specific associations, including membership fee management, website management, and preparation of newsletters and workshops.
How many people work for C-IN nowadays?
Currently, our company employs approximately 50 people. Each of the above-mentioned departments has its leader and we as co-owners also actively participate in the company's operations and have divided responsibilities among ourselves.
The preparation of the events is usually happening in a dynamic environment when the requirements of the client can change at any minute. Everything is about communication, what kind of advantages and disadvantages do you perceive in the MICE industry?
One advantage of our work is the ability to plan and have a clear idea of what we will be doing in the next few years, barring any unforeseen circumstances like the pandemic we experienced in 2020. However, this also means that we have to be proactive in planning and look far into the future to stay ahead of the competition. Another advantage is the opportunity for travel, which is a highly valued perk for many employees. We have the chance to experience new cultures and gain inspiration from the way events are organized in different parts of Europe and the world. Our work is diverse and allows us to gain a broad perspective that overlaps with society as a whole. Seeing the successful outcomes of our events is a great source of motivation for our team, and every praise from our clients is a driving force.
In what industry associations does C-IN participate?
For instance, we are affiliated with the ICCA, IAPCO, or the Prague Convention Bureau.
What do you consider the greatest success of C-IN?
Our company's biggest achievement is undoubtedly our international success in the European market. This vision was originally shared by our co-founder, Peter, who was initially considered a dreamer by some, but he would certainly be proud of us today that we have achieved all this. Despite facing several challenges such as the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, the floods in 2002, and the SARS epidemic in 2003, we have managed to survive and thrive. We are very fortunate to have a loyal and passionate work team that lives and breathes what we do. We are also proud of the many lifelong partnerships that have been formed in our workplace. Our company is also somewhat let's say "responsible" for the lives of a lot of children (some of whom are now teenagers). The company has simply found its place in the world over these 20 years and contributes positively to the overall functioning of our society.
What events are waiting for C-IN this year?
This year's main events include the World Road Congress (WRC) at the Prague Congress Centre, which will be attended by ministerial delegations from all over the world. Another major event we're hosting is the congress of the International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics (IUGG) in Berlin, which brings together eight associations over 11 days and is expected to draw around 5,000 attendees. This presents a significant challenge for us, but we're confident in our team's ability to deliver a successful event.
We're also continuing with our long-term projects, such as organizing the congress of the European Society of Surgical Oncology (ESSO) in Florence, the conference of the European Society for Movement Analysis in Adults and Children (ESMAC) in Athens, and the conference for the Particle Therapy Co-Operative Group (PTCOG) in Madrid.
What are your visions for the future?
We aim to maintain our long-term partnerships in conference organization and association management, while also expanding our portfolio of associations and services. We operate in a constantly evolving industry and remain open to exploring virtual and hybrid event formats. Our priority is to ensure the stability of the company. While we are not pursuing substantial growth, we strive to continuously enhance our services to meet new challenges and trends and also to maintain a high-quality team.