In advance of our first in-person client meeting, I was more nervous than most of my colleagues. Four days before leaving the U.S., we received an email that our main client contact planned to leave the firm. Our new point of contact would be the CEO and founder of ClimaCheck, Klas Berglöf, with whom we only spoke once, briefly. As a former strategic consultant, I knew firsthand that these types of last-second maneuvers can often be messy – both for the client and the consultant. Managing and meeting client expectations would be essential.
As we settled in our hotel conference room, Klas quickly assuaged my initial concerns. “I liked your report,” Klas began; “It confirmed much of our thinking.” Then the conversation turned into a detailed discussion of ClimaCheck’s business model, green building codes and legislation in the State of California, and the value of partnering with trade associations to raise brand awareness in U.S. market.
As I have learned in my time here, Swedes tend to be understated in their praise. So while I sensed our meeting was progressing smoothly, I did not hear explicit validation of our work. Finally, after nearly four hours, Klas uttered the words I wanted to hear: “I think this report will be useful to us.”
At that point, I felt a sense of deep relief. “Mission accomplished” I told myself. As the meeting wound down, I scampered up to my hotel room, retrieved a bottle of 18-year-old single malt scotch purchased from Duty Free in the Newark International Airport, and shared it with Klas and the ClimaCheck team. It seemed to an appropriate way to commemorate my first successful international business meeting.
For the other teams, the client meetings were not as anxiety filled. Over the past two months, GWSB students met regularly with their clients via Skype. Over this time, relationships were cultivated and strengthened. Accordingly, when they met with their clients in-person for the first time, business was conducted in the afternoon, and in the evening, our clients became our hosts in Malmo. The GWSB students working for Stamo and Cortus were treated to lavish dinners of traditional Swedish cuisine, including: pickled herring, reindeer, and Swedish meatballs. Not incidentally, each course was also accompanied by a different beverage: beer, schnapps, wine, and brandy. Simply put, the generosity exhibited by our hosts was overwhelming.
Unfortunately for team ClimaCheck, Klas had another engagement, so he was unavailable to spend the evening with us in Malmo. However, we have plans for a social gathering in Stockholm later this week. This time, Klas says he’ll bring the whiskey.
As a supplement to today’s blog entry, GMBA/JD candidate and resident food critic Nicholas Rajabzadeh will reflect on his initial culinary impressions of Sweden.
The food here is remarkable. Everything here features a large amount of salt, from their meats to their beverages. The Swedonians must be able to power hydraulics with their blood pressure alone. So far my favorite dish came from a wonderful place called the Bishops Arms in Malmo. In an atmosphere somewhere between Cheers and that bar from the beginning of Inglorious Basterds, with music so old I could swear the bartender was going to the back to turn the hand crank on his gramophone. I learned about and experienced mustardvariations (one word).
(Culinary mainstays in Sweden – pickled herring and Swedish meatballs; mustardvariations not shown)
Let me tell you about mustardvariations. People think that there are a set number of mustards in the world, but they are wrong. It’s like a person seeing a rainbow and thinking it is merely a handful of colors, when on closer examination they can see that it’s actually a spectrum with an infinite number of possibilities. Upon seeing my bountiful condiments I was overcome with joy, finally realizing what it must have been like for those few scientists who first cracked open the atom to find that it was made of yet smaller particles. When I tasted the food though, I wept. Like Alexander when he saw the breadth of his kingdom and knew that there were no more worlds to conquer, how could I ever again reach the pinnacle of deliciousness upon which I stood?