You can have in-the-box locations, where staff follow the rules strictly and management has to spend time and effort in setting and explaining the rules. The out-of-the-box locations are where the mad geniuses live – they have ripped up the rule book and are taking your company on a crazy trip. The management challenge is about control and making the most of this creativity.
If you want in-the-box, then go to India. If you want out-of-the-box, try Scotland, Estonia or Hungary. Many European locations seem to be out-the-box. So, are the regions of Europe shouting about this? The answer is no: the message seems to be stuck in the box!
Seemingly every region of Europe has ‘a highly skilled, flexible workforce’. So their advertisements and brochures say anyway. Could the investment promotion agencies (IPAs) of Europe please step away from this bland statement that no-one believes and instead tell us more about their people? People are the biggest cost item for most location projects – ranging between 55% and 85% of costs. People make the money for the company. People are the company.
Most IPAs talk about their locational hardware – their business parks, airports and telecoms links – but everyone has them and they all look the same. People, on the other hand, are different and in Europe there is a huge mix of characters. Can we hear more about them, please?
The US agencies have been best at selling on the talent of their people, usually by telling their personal stories. That is more interesting than hearing about how digital their area is or how big their clusters are. A few enlightened IPAs in Europe have picked up on this and their people are giving an individual flavour to their location. At the end of the day, businesses are made up of people and they like to hear about other people – like attracts like. So agencies around Europe, please get on your box and tell us whether you are in or out.
Douglas Clark is a director of Tenon techlocate, the London-based location consultancy of the Tenon Group, a UK national firm of accountants and business advisers.