12) Government Work - U.S., 2009: "seize the day"
After writing a white paper as a sample of what Bridges had to offer in terms of concepts about broad political problems, I was confident of serious follow-on work. The concept paper, written with humorous overtones but including some serious ideas, is given under Papers: "The U.S. Health Care System, A Modest Proposal."
It was written the summer of 2009 during a trip to South Carolina. There an acquaintance, not a close friend, but someone I have known casually and respect, had decided to run for governor. He was particularly interested in attracting foreign direct investment to the state. One of South Carolina´s most successful governors ever, reelected with a landslide majority of 80%, had achieved this feat decades ago by doing just that – and providing lots of voters jobs as a result.
The follow-on work I was looking for would have been based on a more serious white paper I would write about how now to attract such investment to South Carolina. I had some ideas for that, as it was a subject I had peripherally followed ever since writing an MBA thesis about foreign direct investment into the U.S.
Based on the Bridges ethic of “First, provide value,” I planned a three step sales approach. Step I was to provide information about the use of social media in electoral campaigns. Therefore I gave him a copy of Obama versus Clinton: The YouTube Primary a 23-page marketing Harvard Business School Case Study by John Deighton and Leora Kornfeld, Oct, 2008 (revised Nov. 2009). This step led to a meeting, as I had hoped.
The second step was to submit the health paper, receive some comments and feedback on it. I would incorporate these into the serious effort for the white paper on attracting companies to South Carolina. In this last paper I would also describe a role for Bridges to play.
However there was never any response to the white paper on health at all. There was not even an acknowledgment of its receipt, despite a couple of friendly E-Mail hints, “to jog your memory.” Perhaps the vein of humor in it had been off-putting. Perhaps it was never even looked at. Whatever the reason, I had put up what in basketball is termed “an air ball.”
When you have been successful in inflicting your presence upon someone busy and powerful, do not follow up by taking the subtle, humorous, long way round the barn. You need to seize the opportunity and get straight to the point. The social media information in the Harvard case study was well received and had led to a meeting.
For that meeting, I should have brought with me a concrete, phased proposal for the white paper on foreign direct investment, with a timeline – and an explicit mention of follow-on work. The white paper on the U.S. health care system, irrelevant for a South Carolina governor, was a wasted effort. It reflected my interest in it, my concern about it, as a voter in national elections, and not his as a candidate for governor.
South Carolina is not the first place that occurs to most when thinking of where to locate a new plant or factory in the U.S. However you might want to take a hard look at the success of the BMW operation in Spartanburg, S.C. and that of the Haier plant (white goods) in Campden, S.C.