There I was … trying to kick-start a major radar deal with a major aerospace firm. Recent advances in airborne early warning radars had suddenly rendered airborne early warning capability available to smaller aircraft. Of course, the issue would be hugely clouded by export controls and offset arrangements. But you had to start somewhere, and for me, that somewhere was a visit to their primary final assembly facility.
We had had a good series of discussions in the morning. It was now time for lunch. Totally unbeknownst to me, my colleagues had used my visit as an opportunity to book an executive dining room. We were ushered into a private room and handed menus – with my name on it as the guest of honor. There were easily four – maybe six – wines to choose from. I do not recall now what was on the menu, but it was cooked in the best and brightest local tradition. But the real fun started with the cheese selection at the end of the meal. What I learned was there is a very special selection criteria and service order for the cheese – I was totally ignorant so asked of help. I should have tossed out boxing gloves – what followed was a huge argument over which (of 24) cheeses the American should get and in what order! Tradition is six selections, eaten in a specific order. For me, they did a great job!
Sadly, I have heard that this company no longer offers this service. A pity, as it was spectacular and, as silly as it sounds, made me a recruit to work harder to do further business with them. I did go again later, and we ‘only’ went to the employee cafeteria … which was still outstanding! But I guess they are now all boxed lunch types.
Moral: An Offset assignment does have its perks – enjoy them when they pop up. They typically help bond you to your new-found local friends. And – since you work hard and spend weeks – maybe even months – on the road each year – occasional pampering is OK.