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Ambassadors without diplomatic passport - Nikos Balamotis

Another personality from the series Ambassadors Without A Diplomatic Passport is Nikos Balamotis, a managing partner in QED GROUP Company, facilitator, lecturer and coach with more than 20 years of experience in retail and business.  I chose Nikos from two reasons. First, I wanted to pay tribute to all Czech entrepreneurs successful on foreign markets for contributing

to spreading a good reputation of the Czech Republic, the second reason being my interest in human resources, learning and development. 

Since 2010, Nikos has been a managing partner in the QED GROUP Company, developing partnership network of Sociomapping and 4Elements products in the USA and other countries (the Netherlands, Switzerland, Central and Eastern European region and others). He coaches both teams and individuals in the Czech Republic, Europe, USA or Canada. Nikos came to Czechoslovakia three years before the Velvet Revolution from Greece. Consequently, he graduated from biochemistry but while still studying, he begun doing business. At first he was a tour operator and later he worked for the Faculty of Medicine as an organizer of student exchanges. Then he did business with Folli Follie, Attrattivo and since 2003 he had been cooperating with the public company Coffeeheaven International plc, Together with his partners , they built a network of more than 90 cafes in 7 CEE countries, later sold to Costa Coffee. 

Every encounter with Nikos fills me with inspiration, deep admiration and unique experience. During the last course I took with him I managed to break an arrow over the wall using the hollow of my neck, all I needed was encouragement and determination! Nikos shares both his achievements and failures with the participants of his courses, he is able to stand on the ground with both feet and still have his head full of visions and be himself (he doesn’t like suits which is why he doesn’t wear them). As a true entrepreneur, he tries to improve and enrich the traditional meaning of the word “businessmen” and free it from the stigmata of dishonest practice, which is an opinion prevailing from the past regime or the 90’s of last century.

Nikos, first traditional question – how do you perceive today’s world?

Today’s world is full of contrasts. Nature probably taught us how to live with them. After all, we are used to natural contrasts: extreme droughts – floods, hot – freezing, desserts and rainforests. Our world is full of good and evil, fair play and dirty tricks, wrongdoings and justice, earthly paradises and hells, poverty and fortune. I perceive our world fully in accordance with prevailing human nature, which has been recorded in our history for 3000 years.  If you don’t live in one of the God forsaken countries like Syria, Afghanistan and some others, then the world we live in can be quite nice.  By all measurable indicators, today’s world is much better place than ever before. Respondent’s personality is often reflected in the answer to this question, at least you can tell an optimist from pessimist. For myself, I like to believe and live by the fact that I have an influence on events. The world is as good as I make it. And if not the whole world then at least it’s my micro-world I can affect.

And how do you perceive the Czech Republic?

Again, it depends on the reference point and which characteristics I follow right now. Greece has got better weather, but I wouldn’t want to do business there. Singapore has got better environment for business but I wouldn’t want to live there. I think that despite of all that could be reproached to the Czech Republic, business still has got large degree of freedom, the standard of living is above-average, geographic location is strategic and the only thing I miss is the sea and waves, but I can easily fly to those.

You switched from the traditional business (retail) to sphere of human resources, which is still underestimated and undervalued in many companies. How do you cope with that?

I don’t have to try extra hard.  I am lucky enough to work with a fantastic team in a company that from the broad field of HR focuses on the most rewarding one, which is development of people. It is true that we don’t need to sell our service actively. Our clients come to us because they know how important it is to invest in people and together we decide on the best way to do it.

Sociomapping is a method developed by Radvan Bahbouh in the 1990s. This method has penetrated into many areas, from scientific research, counseling for management and organization to analysis of behavior of complex systems. From the prestigious projects I will mention the Czech Republic Army and international research project MARS 500, which was the first human simulation of flight to Mars planet.   What are other areas of application besides the sphere of management?

Sociomapping is actually a method of 3D visualization of information-data among which there is a relation. The method uses a metaphor of landscape, otherwise well known as 3D geographic maps for placing subjects (e.g. people) or objects (e.g. products). The simplicity of visualization will help us understand information that used to take plenty of excel tables, within a few minutes. A Sociomap can visualize relationships between people, departments of a company or values and factors of employees’ engagement. Applications are in the sphere of marketing research and engagement surveys. However, we see the primary value in being able to offer the management a perspective in effectiveness of cooperation between individuals, project teams or departments of a company and help teams get a reflection of how they work together.

You have successfully introduced the concept of Sociomapping in Dallas, Washington DC, Silicon Valley and Toronto. In the area of manager trends and development it is countries like USA who sets the trends. How difficult was it to get on the market? What other markets are you focusing on?

It may seem odd but USA particularly is perhaps the best market for Sociomapping. It is true that USA sets the trends in this area, especially because a significant number of international corporations takes over the best practice and tools from American parent companies. Moreover, number of reputable researches which proved close relationship between quality of communication and cooperation and financial results of companies, come also from the USA. That’s why we are there. Our first experiences show that simplicity of the instrument and high engagement of the group (Sociomaps arise in real time before eyes of participators) look like tailored for American target group, which is very open and Sociomap is valued as a great impulse for the opening of communication about relationships among team members or divisions.

How difficult was it to penetrate foreign markets? 

I think we have taken only the first step and I am sure it was the right move to the right direction. It wouldn’t be truth saying we have penetrated foreign markets. We have a great product, but more than that a vision that I believe is worth pursuing. I am deeply convinced we help building better teams by helping people communicating more effectively. We help building better organizations, better places to work and live. This is just worth striving for and the foreign market penetration is a just very natural getting this dream materialized. Its not difficult and it is not easy. It is just our route to go and we will face high tides and great downhill rides.

Have you ever encountered any prejudices for being from the Czech Republic?

More the opposite. The Czech Republic has a great name in technology / IT development. Many great companies and products have their origin in the Czech Republic and there is a great awareness of that in the US.

Your products allow for building and managing highly effective teams which are in demand in these days. Do you observe a reverse trend from focusing on individuals within learning and development approaches from the 90s?

I would like to have observed such a trend already. However, we are nowhere near that yet. I dare to say that clients to whom we are close have done a great job in this area. Still the primary focus on individuals is deeply rooted in the corporate culture, evaluation systems, evaluation interviews and elsewhere. USA is certainly further in this area which is another reason to focus on its market.

You are originally from Greece, living in the Czech Republic and your teams and clients are all over the world. Do you consider yourself to be a Czech, a European or a world-citizen?

I eat and drink wine like a Greek, I do sports like a Czech, I do business like a European and I travel like a world citizen.  Almost always when my wife and I find ourselves in a new place I’m thinking: “I could live here,” but my wife usually brings me down to earth again.

Your motto is: “Don’t be a rich man, live a rich life.” What is your advice for work-life balance?

I don’t believe in work-life balance, I don’t like the concept. Life is only one. And if you do what you really enjoy, this is usually not an issue. What you call to be my motto can be misunderstood. I think it’s necessary for everyone to set their personal value system. There belongs the definition of wealth. For me the most important part is time. Distribution of time between work, family, traveling and sport should be in line with this value system and then the work-life balance can be omitted. The truth is that one has to accept that he can’t manage to do everything.

Finally – which trends in management would you like to point out for Leaders Magazine readers?

I think that as good leaders, we should take responsibility for motivation of people whom we have decided to work with. Concept I personally find to be the most effective is called Empowering Teams. It is a set of activities, approaches and attitudes that strengthens and enhances the company’s small structures, or small teams, and where the value for shareholder/owner or leader arises by cooperation of individuals instead of competing and comparing of egos.

Previous article in this series:

Ambassadors without diplomatic passport - Jana Adamcová
Ambassadors without diplomatic passport - Vladimíra Glatzová

Ambassadors without diplomatic passport - Pavel Telička

Linda Štucbartová
 graduated from the Institute of International Territorial Studies. After a one year scholarship at the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies, she obtained a Diplome d’études supérieures from the Graduate Institute of International Studies in Geneva. Between the years 2002 and 2006, she worked in senior positions at the Diplomatic Academy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Since 2006 she has functioned in the private sphere, and lectures at the Anglo-American University, where she was named the Chair of the Department of Diplomacy. In addition to training in negotiation and communication of clients from the private, public and non-profit sector, she regularly collaborates with NGOs in the projects of the International Global Young Leaders Conference and the Women and Leadership Programme. Linda Štucbartová is a member of the Rotary Club Prague International. She currently works for ŠKODA AUTO a.s. as a Learning and Development Specialist. Articles are extracts from her book Velvyslanci i bez diplomatického pasu (Eng. “Ambassadors without a Diplomatic Passport”).

Source: Leaders Magazine - 

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