I have a matrix. It has not ever been put down on paper or in any illustrated form; it exists solely in my head and is updated regularly. Its form is similar to the outputs of our fDi Benchmark location-assessment tool, which consist of a square chart with four quadrants on which investment destinations can be plotted. My matrix is of a more personal – and highly subjective – nature but also relates to FDI destinations, or more specifically, the government officials and investment promotion professionals from around the world with whom I interact in the course of my work.
In one corner of this game of fours are those countries whose representatives I would class as efficient yet charmless or unpleasant; then there are those who are inefficient yet charming or fun; my least favourite group, those who are inefficient yet also charmless or rude; and the golden (and sparsely populated) quadrant of those who manage to be efficient and charming.
On a personal level, in terms of places I like to visit and people I like to deal with, charm has a stronger weighting than efficiency (although my professional self rates efficiency, transparency and deadline-meeting higher, especially when the magazine is in the throes of press time). I will put up with a fair amount of messing around if you rate highly for what I consider the ‘entertainment factor’. In short, you can be disorganised if you must, but you had better also be a hoot. Conversely, if you are going to be dull or surly, you had better be on the ball, on time and on-task at all times.
It is worth thinking about what kind of impression front-line investment promotion staff make as they go about the world
The official fDi Benchmark is more data-driven, of course. It is based on combinations of cost and quality (high cost/high quality; low cost/high quality; low cost/low quality; high cost/low quality). This is how investors categorise cities, countries and regions when deciding where to locate business facilities. The ideal quadrant is the low-cost/high-quality one; the least appealing is the high-cost/low-quality one. Often, investors are willing to live with the other two quadrants: a location can be expensive if it also offers high quality; while not ideal, it could also be on the lower end of quality if it is exceptionally cost-effective. It is those that are weak on the cost and quality metrics that are in serious trouble and need to rethink their offering. Some locations are well aware which quadrant they inhabit, others are oblivious, or in denial.
There is, in fact, some crossover between the real matrix and my imaginary one. Many of the high-cost/high-quality locations fall into my ‘on-the-ball but no fun’ category, for example. But while I would not deign to think that governments worldwide should scramble to improve their position on my own personal scorecard, I would argue that – bearing in mind that potential investors are people, after all – it is worth thinking about what kind of impression front-line investment promotion staff make as they go about the world. You never know when a bad foot placed by one of them could land the location they represent in entirely the wrong square.
Courtney Fingar is editor of fDi Magazine. E-mail: Courtney.Fingar@FT.com