An interview with Jerzy Hołozubiec, founder and CEO of LTT, for "Muzyka i Technologia" magazine

Interview originally published in "Muzyka i Technologia" (Music and Technology) in the May 2009 issue (issue no. 43).

Download interview as .PDF (original Polish version)

Show must go on!

Let's imagine I am a director of a theater or an owner of a club. What LTT provide me with regarding stage lighting?

Firstly, professional service. We are dialogue-oriented in our relations with Clients. Diversity of offered products, changing trends and rapid technology development make it necessary for us to not only sell products but also act as advisors. Often, we help our Client find the right solution for their needs; our Clients appreciate that we can demonstrate newest equipment in our showroom.

All LTT employees that work with Clients are experts in their fields.

Do I understand correctly that LTT employees share their know-how with the Clients?

Definitely. All LTT employees that work with Clients are experts in their fields. Some have previous practical experience working with event production. Those that start their careers at LTT gain necessary knowledge under the guidance of senior colleagues before they can take on their own projects. We have succeeded in creating a very competent team of experts.

You mentioned new products that keep appearing on the market. What do you do to keep up?

We devote a lot of time to track new solutions and be able to add them to our offer. Our employees go abroad to get training from producers, visit trade shows and study interesting cases of lighting implementation. These are all very important educational elements. We also do internal training, often given by our suppliers' representatives or industry experts. This way our employees can learn the possibilites of our products and their usage.

So first you learn the needs of your Client, then you fulfill their order and provide training. Is that the end of your relationship?

A very important element of implementing a lighting system is cooperating with the Client after the devices have been installed. This is the task of our technical team, consisting of top professionals. Training staff in the use and maintenance of installed systems is often a time-consuming task, requiring also active cooperation on our Client's side. Our employees know the characteristics of working with stage events and they realize that Show must go on!. Knowledge and experience that we pass to the future users of our systems are our longest lasting product.

Which projects are you most proud of?

Most importantly of those projects that the Clients are happy with — the staff, the director, scenography and light designers. However, we do not always have influence on what and how we install. The guidelines for creating specs and winning contracts through public bids are rather specific; sometimes making any adjustments, even if they bring advantages with no additional cost to the Client, is difficult or downright impossible. We are most satisfied with projects that let us work with the staff and end users directly, especially when we are met with their engagement and eagerness to learn the new system. This guarantees both sides' satisfaction.

Of course, certain projects can be called milestones for LTT. Some of these include a new lighting control system in the National Theater (1994), the People's Hall in Wroclaw, the New Theater and Congress Hall in Warsaw (1997). In 2001 we implemented our first complete lighting system in Polish Television's TV studio in Bydgoszcz, and in 2004 in the Wroclaw Opera. Especially the latter brought us a lot of new experience. Another new challenge was the contract for the entire stage technology for the Krakow Opera, where we gained experience as a consortium leader, coordinating works including stage mechanics. These projects were LTT's biggest challenges so far.

LTT just moved its headquarters. Does this move signal a revolution?

The word revolution, particularly in our part of Europe, does not sound very well. I don't want the relocation to be a revolution. Instead, it ought to become an important element of improving our customer service. The new HQ will let us make significan changes in that respect, but we will try to make this an evolution rather than a revolution.

What will the Clients gain?

The new HQ gives us about 2000 square meters, about 2.5 times of our previous location. Extra area will allow us to beter service our Clients, for instance the technical department will have about four times as much space. Storage conditions, hardware demonstration capacity and meeting space will all improve. A 300 square meter showroom will be arranged like a small theater, with the ability to showcase the entire stage event support system. We wouldn't like to limit ourselves just to demonstrating lighting equipment, we are also thinking about its use and installation, including such elements as lattices, fly bars and hoists. We also expect to improve conditions for our training sessions and finding space to expand the design bureau, which will soon be able to accept new employees. Lastly, there is the important matter of providing our Clients with more parking space. A necessary transition period will be a downside. We plan to do most of the building adaptation after we move in already.

So the new showroom will offer a full simulation of stage systems?

Certainly more complete than right now. At this time we can only show the devices and the effects they create; in the new HQ we will be able to also demonstrate their installation and use in a real-world setting.

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We want every employee to feel LTT is a place where they can grow, without the constant threat of being fired.

Since this is such a large investment, how is the company affected by the crisis? How many employees did you have to let go?

None! In fact, we hired new people just recently. We have many employees who have been with us for over a decade. It's an amazing result proving LTT to be a stable employer with great value for our staff. We want every employee to feel LTT is a place where they can grow, without the constant threat of being fired. It's easy to dimiss my words as an empty slogan, but the LTT corporate culture really supports independence and self-development. We spend a large part of our lives working, so work should bring satisfaction, not just financial security.

Let's focus on this slogan, then. What is the corporate culture like in LTT?

Our culture is based on teamwork. We demand from each employee to feel the company's responsibility to the Client. We do not promote individual competition. We do not pit our employees against each other to motivate them, we do not want to make them prove they are better than their colleagues. We believe proper customer service requires cooperation, not competition — for one thing, knowledge is very scattered nowadays, there are no know-it-alls. Creating a good offer requires knowledge of commerce, stage lighting, control systems as well as experience with setting up and placing equipment in a given type of building. Without close cooperation of the entire team it is not possible to create an atmosphere in which the Client would feel they are getting all the help they need and their money is being spent in an optimal way. We try to let every employee develop in their field and make sure they work on tasks close to their interests.

Is LTT the longest running company on this market in Poland?

No, not the longest. When we entered the market in 1992, we already had quite a competition from many companies...

Are there big differences in the industry between the beginnings of LTT and now?

The biggest changes were brought about by common access to the Internet, wide-spread knowledge of English and increasing customer awareness of new technologies being implemented in Poland. It is no longer enough to offer a good product; one needs to show the Client why the should choose certain solutions over others. Another important factor is the way lighting technology has changed. When we were starting our business, halogen lights were the staples of theatrical lighting; soon, moving lights (such as scanners and moving heads) entered the market, currently followed by a surge in LED-based lighting. Video systems are also starting to play an important role in lighting and scenography. Another factor are changes in law and regulations, particularly regarding winning contracts. From free, sole-sourced orders we moved to the public bid system. It is a good opportunity for companies with fine reputation, but, on the other hand, the new system often makes formal technicalities deciding factors or causes trivial mistakes to eliminate bids despite their technical or economical merits. Finally, the mentality, awareness and expectations of employees have all changed significantly, which influences the way the company is managed.

Conditions of company operations in the XXI century are changing at an ever-increasing pace; we must all be open to constant learning and gaining experience from our work, especially if expansion and development are a part of one's strategy.

Do you own your own brand of products?

No. Our input is to use our knowledge, which translates to the choice of configuration, choice of devices, proper training and creating designs for our Clients. Production is not a part of our strategy.

How much money must I have to be able to afford a decent lighting system?

"Lighting system" is a broad term, so it depends on what you are asking about. For instance, a one-man company — a person who handles small events — needs between 10 and 20 thousand PLN to buy a reliable set. The pricing spread is huge and making a proper choice depends on one's needs. Some rooms only use about a dozen or so devices, but a professional theater will typically have a few hundred. A cost of a full theatrical installation is in the range of a few million PLN.

After years of work we have many friends and loyal partners.

How do you see the future of the company?

Optimistically. After years of work we have many friends and loyal partners. We have great trust in them and we see evidence that they trust us as well. I would like to thank everyone who continue to do business with LTT, and I can promise we will work hard for their trust. With partners like these, we do not fear economic slowdown.

interview by Magdalena Andrzejewska