Author Richard Solomon is a conflicts and crisis management lawyer with 50 years of experience in business development, antitrust and franchise law, management counseling and dispute resolution including trials and crisis management.
When I first began to conceptualize Tamerlane Projects I was looking at a laundry list that no human could ever parse in my chosen model. The more complex the scope of a concept becomes, the less easily it lends itself to insightful execution without having to resort to large numbers of people.
What I needed to do at the outset was to set the parameters of its possibilities and then select from that what could be accomplished within the limits of start up resources. When operationality is optimized at that level, it is easier to move the boundaries outward to encompass greater diversity and complexity. Having arrived at that second step, I now believe that Tamerlane Projects will have a long and productive life. Not falling for the temptation to pretend to be large and important when you are not, or at least not yet, permits qualitative priority to trump quantitative goals. The emphasis on the qualitative is really what facilitates quantitative metrics.
How does one begin to articulate a mission at the very outset. It is more than just flying around the world on other people’s money? That is messenger boy level thinking. What then differentiates this concept from Federal Express thinking?
In the late 90s I tried a case in which a new venture had come apart because of inadequate pre investment due diligence. My client was the person who brought up that the due diligence was inadequate and that the lapse would probably produce failure. He was ostracized from the group and they closed on the deal anyway. They were scammed because the seller, a large international company, could simply reassure them in meetings without needing to corroborate what was said. Only my client knew enough to call them to account, at which they pretended to be offended and the team leader on the buyer’s side lacked the experience, insight and courage to insist. When the project collapsed soon after the closing of the deal, the attempt was made to pin it on my client’s failure to provide the expertise he was hired for. Those two versions of the events brought about a federal court fraud lawsuit.
Those seeking to make my client pay for their mistake were sure they would not have a hard time buying the pot with throw weight trial tactics. Their apparatus for testimonial artistry broke down and they not only lost but also had to pay my clients expenses and legal fees. That client returned to the UK and spoke highly of what I had done and how I had done it to enough people so that very soon I was invited to go to England to talk with a company there wanting to project its presence onto the American market. A two day visit with them resulted in my getting the client. I didn’t get it because I had won the earlier case. I got it because I learned what the company did before I went to visit, and could respond competently to tactical problems associated with the intended move in the context of their business. A light went off in my head.
That was when the concept of Tamerlane Projects began to percolate in my mind. It had to be more than just the availability of a generic professional business lawyer with a plane ticket. I would have to do due diligence on each assignment so that I would bring functional competence to the project.
Many international projects can be effectuated with anonymity, at least in the beginning until it becomes successful and the client wants to go public about it. No one wants to be “outed” if the proposal does not lead to transactional success. To achieve that level cut out, the “messenger” would have to be able to represent the real operational interests of his client. He wouldn’t be sent somewhere just to take dictation and report back. To be sure, he would have to be in constant availability to his client for sorting out issues as they might arise. But he would, with that input, then be able to provide representation at executive level quality, closing the deal or completing the project in anonymity so that the parties could then decide how best they wanted to publicize their transactional success.
The umbilical connection with the client substitutes in today’s technological capability with taking a team of people with you. Team support can now be done in private across international and any other kind of boundary.
In addition to the technical knowledge associated with many projects, sensitivity to the cultural profiles of the opposite side of the table is indispensable. You have to be a true internationalist and have the sensibilities of an internationalist to facilitate transactional bonding. Intercultural negotiating and deal execution fail most frequently from cultural insensitivity. Technical competency may be the second reason for deal failure, but the innate willingness and ability to “relate” to others of another cultural profile pave the road to get past the rough spots. And there will always be rough spots. Just knowing how not to overpromise relationship quality among people and companies from different cultures requires fairly acute insight.
The first few assignments assured me that I was on the right track. Since that works, I intend not to embellish it. The goal is to make the client feel sufficiently comfortable that you can represent his interests, even if the event is no more than a one day encounter, providing the attractiveness of using us as a cut out rather than some big name consulting firm. There will always be companies that feel the need of squads of people in every room, and there are large consulting firms for them. Do they work out better than we do with essentially a one man show? Sometimes yes and most of the time no. Obviously no one man show is going to be able to merge mega companies. On the other hand, I have negotiated a few joint ventures with little or no help, especially when they may be initiated as teaming agreements. One professional with good skill sets and open lines of conference with the client usually does rather well and brings home what he was sent to achieve.
The Tamerlane Projects mix of services includes far more than this more involved participation. Sometimes it is little more than providing cut out service to a firm wishing to protect anonymity for a short project not requiring negotiations. Sometimes it is negotiating to free a hostage or other paramilitary events. Establishing a presence on Cyprus was a very good decision. Cyprus provides us with what would otherwise require two or three more locations to facilitate. With Cyprus, we can more easily use international resources throughout Africa, the Middle East and Europe.
I doubt that Tamerlane Projects will ever become just a constant international vacation on someone else’s money. It was never intended to become that. We are much more than just tourists. Therein lies our value.