Volume 36, Issue 8, August 2001
"It's a Small World After All"
by Rene Bergero
We can all agree that we live in a small world, at least with respect to that which matters most: our personal and business relationships. Just as past centuries were known for discovery or enlightenment, the 21st century may be very well described as the “Age of Interconnectivity.” Perhaps we all have one or two examples that illustrate this point. Let me share one of mine with you.
Several years ago while still a student at a Midwestern university I was in dire need of a vacuum cleaner. The price of a new machine was beyond my meager resources, so I decided to peruse the school paper’s classified section. (You see the school paper was free.) Fortunately there was a garage sale ad that listed, among other things, a vacuum cleaner. A brief phone call ascertained the machine’s pedigree and asking price, so a face-to-face meeting was arranged to settle the purchase details. The woman whom I met was the wife of a university professor (physics, I believe) on a one-year sabbatical. Since their time was almost up, she explained they were selling their electrical household possessions, since none of them would work back home. When I inquired where back home was, she said Argentina, the same country where I lived for eight years. Surprising, but not unusual. There are, after all, more than 35 million inhabitants in that country, so a physics professor’s family on sabbatical in the United States is not that rare. When I inquired about what city they were from, it did surprise me to learn we were from the same one. Now here is where the story gets interesting. I asked the woman what she did back home, to which she replied she was a high school mathematics teacher. As you may guess, she taught at the same high school that I attended, and only by sheer coincidence we never shared a classroom. We both remarked “what a small world we live in” in light of the newspaper ad that brought me to her home. (By the way, I still have the vacuum cleaner.)
A Lesson Learned
What can be gained from this experience is an appreciation of how even the most trivial act can have completely unforeseen consequences. Most often, the consequences make for an interesting story, as was perhaps the case here. Other times, the outcome may not be so benign. It may be worthwhile to keep this in mind when you interact with your export customers or prospects. Never take for granted that someone either knows or does not know a particular detail that may seem trivial or inconsequential if this same detail can eventually derail your business relationship. Take advantage of our interconnected "small world" to ensure that all details are addressed and discussed properly. You may avoid a problem or, perhaps, cross paths with your high school math teacher.
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