The personal touch . It’s what really counts in business, especially when you are trying to crack a new market. And this was exactly the case for us when we were trying to get Western Union (link) to Lithuania to establish one of the first SSCs here.
At that time, SSCs were pretty new to Lithuania. Vilnius’ first major centre had been established by Barclays just 6 months before.
Back then, the regional centres of gravity were Poland and the Czech Republic. Lithuania had barely started to register (which is pretty hard to believe today). Out of our team of 8 at Invest Lithuania, only one was working with SSCs.
The new government was leading a push to find foreign investment leads and shared services was the obvious direction to move in. We had a talented, multi-lingual workforce, and for many young people landing a job with an international company was their number one goal.
To catch the attention of investors, the government was leveraging its network of embassies and consulates. They forged links with businesses and distributed promotional material. One of the most active was the American Lithuanian consulate in Chicago, where the is a big Lithuanian community.
A few weeks into this new initiative, we were contacted by one of the staff at the Chicago consulate. They had a very promising, highly confidential lead, and we would be receiving an email shortly from someone in their HR team.
And sure enough, a couple of days down the line an email arrived from a Human Resources VP at a globally-renowned US company. The company in question – Western Union.
And guess who that VP turned out to be: an American Lithuanian whose parents were very active in the Lithuanian community in Chicago. And he was, from then on, to become a key player in the whole project.
Western Union were already a long way down the line in finding a location for a European SSC. In fact, they had been working on the project for 3 years and had already done preselection on potential locations.
With Lithuania not in the frame, we decided to take a risk and jump onto a moving train. I made a personal guarantee to our contact that we had experience and would not let him down. After further discussions we agreed on a two day visit.
On day two of the visit, the key event arrived; a meeting at the Prime Minister’s office. Fortunately, by this stage I was already certain the meeting would go well. Why?
Firstly, I knew the Government would do all they could to facilitate this deal. The PM had already rearranged his schedule to give 20 minutes to Western Union (in the end, the meeting lasted almost an hour).
Secondly, I was confident because by this stage, our contact at Western Union was completely on side. He knew that Vilnius was the right location for them and was completely open about this. This meant I could regularly ask him how things were going and find out what we could do to exceed their expectations.
Before the meeting with the PM we had an informal chat, and he explained that they had some concerns regarding the level of government support. So I asked him what kind of reassurances the PM could give during the meeting. Then I got in touch with the PM’s advisers and gave them some suggestions on what points to address.
And of course, after this everything ran smoothly. The PM was positive and friendly, and the company could see the government was fully behind them.
So what’s the lesson in all of this? To be successful, it’s always best to get someone on the inside, on your side. If you’ve got an ally, you can work together as a team. You’ll find that the other party are more willing to see things from your perspective, and to value what exactly it is that you have to offer.