Sigrún’s guest post from yesterday — about the Icelandic way of doing business — resonated with me bigtime. I knew some of you would feel the same way; after all, this is not a new discussion on this blog — a number of you have complained about the “wall of silence” that you’ve hit when trying to contact Icelanders with proposals or even just basic questions.
I know some people have wondered whether Icelanders are only this way when it comes to foreigners — I’m here to tell you that this is definitely not the case. I’ve come up against this problem many times myself, even all when the correspondence has been in Icelandic and when the person in question is located in the same city as me.
As a matter of fact, I had an intensely frustrating incident of this nature very recently, which definitely incorporates what Sigrún calls the “sure, we’ll do it, no problem” mantra.
It went like this: A certain person approached in a fairly informal setting — let’s call it a conference, for the sake of argument — and asked if I’d be interested in a collaboration. This person was representing a company in which he called the shots, albeit in cooperation with others. As it happened, I was very interested in the collaboration. I’d already had the same idea myself and thought it was brilliant, the sort of thing that would be win-win for both parties and could open up a lot of exciting possibilities. This this person felt the same way — or at least said he did.
Over the succeeding two days we met several times in this same setting and further discussed the proposed collaboration. When the conference was over we decided that the other person would talk to his colleagues and set up a meeting. When I asked when he’d have a chance to speak to them, his response was “later today” and that he’d subsequently be in touch. We parted with the intention to set up a meeting asap, since he would be going away for several weeks in a few days’ time and we wanted to get the ball rolling.
So a couple of days went by and I heard nothing back. After a suitable length of time I sent off an email, asking what the status of the meeting was. To my surprise I received a reply more or less instantly, asking if I’d be free to meet up, either today or tomorrow. I wrote back and said when during those two days I was free.
And received no response.
By this time I was already starting to get the feeling that this might be one of those all-talk-no-action situations. I decided to wait and see what would happen.
And nothing did. Days passed, and the individual in question left the country.
I thought it was a shame, really a drag, because — as I said, the potential was brilliant. So I decided to have one more go, called the person in question and said I wanted to follow up on our ideas. Asked what the status was. His response was that he’d made the suggestion to his colleagues, but it had not got any further than that. We again had a brief discussion about the inherent possibilities, and he said he’d contact his collaborators and send me an email.
When no email arrived, I called again. That time I got a colleague, explained the situation, and he said he’d pass on the message to the man in question.
That was about a month ago and there’s been no contact from the guy whatsoever.
So how to handle situations like this? Well — in my case, I pretty much outline for myself how far I’m prepared to go before I throw in the towel. In the case of this particular situation, I decided I’d make those two last calls and then call it quits. After all, when someone doesn’t want to make the effort to meet you halfway, you just have to let it go.
Of course — and this I hasten to add — not all Icelanders are like this. I’ve run my own business now for 16 years and, by and large, I’ve had very good relations with people. [Although, mind you, most of those people come to ME wanting something -- and I always deliver on my promises.] Hmm … actually, come to think of it, most of the problems arise when there’s the question of doing something new and innovative, something that hasn’t been done before. I’ve written about some of those situations in the past, like my relations with the Iceland Tourist Board, or that weird incident with the publisher a couple of years ago. Sometimes it gets to the “sure we’ll do it, no problem” stage, and sometimes it doesn’t get past the initial email stage. Either way it’s extremely frustrating, and — I imagine — severely off-putting for outsiders who try to enter into a collaboration in good faith.