They were one of the biggest publically traded companies we had ever worked with. And, though the manufacturing project they were here to discuss didn’t work out, I’ll never forget the insight I got into their decision making process, and especially how, in one wrong move, a rival country on the shortlist managed to spectacularly sabotage their own bid.
I picked up the guest, the most senior member of the delegation, at the airport at around 8 pm. The others were flying in later.
We had a friendly chat and I brought him to the hotel where he took a closer look at the agenda we had prepared for the upcoming two days.
With everything sorted I headed off, only to get a call from our guest at 10 pm. “Is it possible to replace the meeting tomorrow with the minister for one with the Prime Minister?” he enquired. In a small, dynamic place like Lithuania, anything is possible. So, despite the late hour, the team hit the phones and made it happen; the next day they did indeed meet with the Prime Minister.
It's easy when we are a big company. I can always tell the media that we are traveling for some business reason or other. In the end, it's a matter of trust. How can we trust the country, if we can’t even trust the Prime Minister?
Arranging the meeting was our chance to go the extra mile, to show that we meant business. And in my experience, this is a crucial way of building trust with our clients; it shows we are thinking about their needs and responding to their feedback.
In the car the next day, the same executive was discussing with his colleagues the different investment locations the company was considering. Lithuania was the third location that team had visited.
As he was going through his blackberry he suddenly said: “Very disappointing.” His colleagues asked what had happened and he explained that in another country in the region that they were considering, details of their visit had been leaked to the press. “It’s all over the news,” he continued. “They’re off the list.” Just like that.
He turned to me. “It’s easy when we are a big company. I can always tell the media that we are traveling for some business reason or other,” he explained. “In the end, it’s a matter of trust. How can we trust the country, if we can’t even trust the Prime Minister?”
Investment is all about trust. And, as this case showed, an investor will trust a country when they see their expectations and needs being met, and being respected.