Last month we reminisced with you about our first USAID project in Romania. Here’s a run through of some of our other projects.
In the winter of 1999, we were off to Alexandria, Egypt. I was assigned to work with two partners who were hoping to have a trade show the following summer.
Gabriele had a client who had several retail stores and manufactured all the clothes that were sold there.
We had a junior suite of rooms at a Ramada Hotel and two almost okay restaurants to alternate for breakfast and dinner. Every Wednesday night the lobby would be jammed with dating and engaged couples eating bons-bons and listening to a local musical trio.
My client was hopelessly mired in conflicts about getting anything done and one partner wanted me to be an arbitrator. The other partner who had no trade show experience at all just wanted to be left alone to do things his way.
At the conclusion of the assignment, we went to Luxor and a cruise down the amazing Nile with 2,000-year-old temples.
I designed a website and developed copy for an exhibitor prospectus and attendee invitational materials. Nothing ever got produced and I cannot believe there was any chance of this event ever happening when no decisions could be made.
Gabriele’s assignment went beautifully. Every suggestion she made was immediately implemented.
In 2003, we went to Budapest and put on a two-day seminar for the consulting agency that arranged for projects in Hungary and Bulgaria. Then it was off to Sofia, Bulgaria, where we both had projects.
I met with a young, energetic woman who wanted to start another new business almost every day. Gabriele met with a group who were manufacturing for U.S. brands. They had problems but they weren’t terribly interested in solutions. They liked their problems.
Gabriele had an assignment outside of Bangkok, Thailand, with an apparel manufacturer. It was arranged by one of the large international consulting firms who wanted to direct all the discussions, as well as the input and the output.
When the assignment finished, we got to go to Northern Thailand, Chang Mai and Chang Rai, which was beautiful, and then on to Vietnam. We were one of the first American tourists in Vietnam and not entirely welcome in Hanoi up north.
I joined her for the last part of the consulting. The client wasn’t sure why he needed a consultant and the consulting firm didn’t seem to want any interference.
On her own, Gabriele had assignments in El Salvador and then Moscow, where she tried to help them set up their fashion association. She had an interpreter/ bodyguard and a good 10 days.
These assignments were all very interesting for us. Their success, however, was probably marginal at best.
They were all too long. We work at a much faster pace than any of these people. In Bulgaria, for example, my lady client asked if I could outline an educational program. She thought it would keep us there an extra week. I finished it in two days.
In the beginning, these projects were coordinated by paid staff. Then it changed. There was no more paid staff. There were now local offices of large international consultants with an attitude making arrangements for these projects who more often than not tried to direct the outcomes which made you wonder why you were there.
In most of these assignments, we were the third or fourth consultants brought in. It appears very little or anything the previous consultants had recommended had been implemented and there was no follow up on what we offered, either.
We were contacted to go to the capital of Zambia. They were interested in developing an export business and talked briefly with the consultants (one of the biggies). They wanted to build a trade center. I told them I was not a building developer and that was a huge step to start. There were many programs to start such an effort without raising millions of dollars to start a huge beginning.
Very impractical and overly ambitious. This was typical of many requests we had.