13 Aug 2015 19:21 IST

Stop, think, and don’t say ‘pass’

The difference between a great and a mediocre manger is one of spotting opportunities

No opportunity is too small or too difficult for it to be missed. In fact, sometimes, the very difference between a good manager and a mediocre one is the former’s ability to spot an opportunity, where the latter might not see any.

I was reminded of this quality by a real-life incident; a young manager in a company received an e-mail from an official in another company, till then unknown to him. The official had written to the young manager asking for help in certain areas that his company didn’t deal with. But rather than close the correspondence, the young manager handled the situation differently.

Case study

I analyse here his handling of the situation as I think the effective steps can be easily adapted by us in different work situations. Here’s how the enquiry went:

Dear Mr Neel Kanth

Your company, ABC, has been recommended to us in regard to our plans of expanding our business to India. I, together with one of our divisional heads, visited Orissa for an initial reconnaissance and we believe the potential is good.

We wonder whether your company provides ‘intelligence services’ on local institutions, Government departments, decision makers, their requirements with regard to using local labour, work safety, pollution control requirements, skills availability and training.

Looking forward to hearing from you.

Kind regards

Robert Standish

CEO, XYZ Company

Neel knew he couldn’t offer those services, but that if the company did enter India, there were many services his firm could offer, if not the ones they had initially asked for. He didn’t want to commit himself to areas where his firm had no competence, but at the same time, wanted to be remembered by them. “What would work?”, he asked himself. He came up with the following response.

Neel’s e-mail:

Dear Mr Standish,

Thank you for your kind words. It is very exciting to hear that your company is actively considering doing business in India. You received good advice regarding the need to seek help on the political/cultural side of things as there are many pitfalls that one simply cannot be prepared for unless someone ‘on the ground’ explains it to you.

Our firm helps businesses coming to India with overall strategy, understanding the Indian mindset, and communicating with Indians. However, we will not be able to provide assistance for your specific needs as we don’t liaise with local governments.

Our advice to you would be to follow-up with regional political/legal advisers for the specific area you want to move into. They will be better suited to answer your specific questions from a local perspective.

Thank you very much for thinking about us. If you would like assistance in the areas that we specialise in, please don’t hesitate to contact us. Please visit our website, www.abc.xxx for an idea of the services we offer.

Best of luck in this great endeavour!


Neel Kanth

Manager – Business Strategy

Why’s it right?

So why was the mail sent by Neel the right way to do it?

Neel began by showing appreciation and enthusiasm for the potential client’s initiative — “It is very exciting to hear…”

He followed this up by broadly outlining his company’s area of expertise — “Our firm helps businesses…”

Then he told them directly that his firm couldn’t help the potential client with the specific need referred to, but went on to explain the reasons in a positive way — “However, we will not be able to provide…”

He ended by reiterating the offer of help, and provided the link to the company website so that it would remain on the potential client’s radar — “If you would like assistance…”

And finally, the tone of the e-mail was polite and helpful, without being over-enthusiastic or unrealistic.

Further development

I’m sure you’d like to know how the story developed: XYZ Company did start operations in Orissa. Neel followed its progress in the news and when he felt negotiations had reached a crucial stage, he sent a chaser to Mr Standish, congratulating him and welcoming his firm into India. The recall for Neel’s company was thus underlined, and XYZ became a valued client in due course.

So, it took a little bit of insight, a dash of helpfulness and a seasoning of politeness for Neel to cook up a happy ending.

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