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Overseas client meetings

A lovely autumn day on the Amstel. Photo: Author

The phrase ‘it’s who you know, not what you know’ is banded about a lot in business. It’s true that face-to face networking meetings can go a long way to getting your name out there, and making useful contacts. But what if your only contact is via email and telephone, due to distance?
Wordhouse has no clients in the local area – in fact no regular clients in the whole of Ireland; they are spread across half the globe from the east coast of the USA to India. Over the years, relationships have developed and strengthened but last October I flew to Amsterdam for a meeting with one of several Dutch clients. In many ways it was a step into the unknown – project managers have come and gone over the years we have been working together and it felt almost surreal to visit real people in a real office. Despite looking up key contacts on LinkedIn so I could picture them more clearly, it was still a surprise when we came face-to-face. The Dutch are wonderful to work with. They are highly collaborative, great communicators, all speak English fluently, are charming and hard working. My modest gift of Irish whiskey and Lily O’Brien chocolates went down well. So well, that the staff from other departments soon drifted in, including the general manager. They were all curious to see the person behind hundreds of emails and the odd phone call and asked quite a lot of work-related questions that would never have been broached via email. Did I have any other languages? What other areas did I work in? Interestingly, they all spoke English while I was there, even to each other, which is a mark of their extreme courtesy and willingness to put me at ease.
We all left together, my joke about having light-coloured hair and carrying an Albert Heijn supermarket bag making me look, perhaps, like a Dutch person being met with ‘no, you’re too short to be Dutch!’ I caught the same train as one of the project managers who has dogs so we chatted a lot, and I missed my stop.

Since coming home, the volume of work from this client has definitely increased. It may have been a long way to go for an hour’s chat, but it was worth it for many reasons and they were all positive. I would recommend to anyone with remote clients to take the trouble to go and visit them. It cements relationships a little more firmly, can do wonders for your small business and can give you the chance to spend a couple of days in a new city and enjoy what it has to offer.
This year (2018) I will be off to Milan – and calling in at Amsterdam on the way back!

Gill Pavey


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