Bag the Elephant

Ever wonder how to land that huge capital investment deal – the one that will over shadow any deals you’ve made before, dramatically accelerating the trajectory of your location’s economic growth and vitality? Steve Kaplan’s book entitled Bag The Elephant explains how to win and keep big customers. The principles discussed in the book can be reapplied to help you win the big capital investment deals that will make a difference in your community and state.

Steve explains that you need to think like an Elephant to bag an Elephant. The better you can relate to the needs of a prospective capital investor, and position your location as the ideal choice to meet those needs, the higher your probability of success.

Here are six keys to thinking like an elephant.

  1. One and Done. You are going to work very hard to get one shot at a potential capital investor. If you blow it you are done. This means everything matters, from the initial contact to the RFP submission to the site visit to the negotiations and delivery on promises matter. You may have the best community in the world, but the capital investor will never know if your location is not selected. Don’t give the selection team an opportunity to seriously consider any other location by failing to over deliver against their expectations in the review process.
  2. Priority One. Everybody likes to feel special. So do capital investors, and the bigger the deal the more special they want to feel. Make the site selection Team and company executives feel looked after and cherished. Return calls quickly, address problems with a sense of great urgency. Be kind to the Elephant and it will be kind to you.
  3. Whatever it Takes. Be flexible. Work on your site selection Team’s schedule, not on yours. It can mean being available to speak after office hours, setting up visits on a weekend, or delivering a top line of data before the analysis is complete so your potential investor’s site selection Team can meet internal review timing and senior management needs. Be solution focused and highly professional, and your location will be rewarded for it.
  4. Long-Term Vision. You must view the potential capital investor as a true partner and work to create a long-term relationship. You must believe that the Company’s success and your community’s success are inseparable. Don’t get greedy and try to close your community’s economic gaps with one big deal. An Elephant that feels gouged will run away in a hurry. Play for the long haul and mutual benefit. As the company succeeds so will your community.
  5. Breath of Fresh Air. Working with your economic development Team should be fun, not tedious. You want the capital investor’s site selection Team to feel that doing business in your community will be a morale boost for employees and Management. Have fun, care and show it. Everybody from the receptionist taking the call to the local political leaders required to put an acceptable deal together should establish a sense of working with people who care. If working with your location in this stage is a struggle then working with you in the long run will be unbearable.
  6. Partners. A partnership is about two-way benefit; it is not a one-way street. Your Elephant can do big things for your community in job creation, incremental tax revenue generation and impact on other companies that are doing business in your location. But, you are in a position to help your Elephant too. You can make yourself an indispensable partner. Find ways to constantly improve your business climate to help your Elephant improve their bottom line profitability. Look for ways to save it money. Look for the best deal that meets the capital investor needs and allows your community to prosper and grow. Never underestimate what you can bring to the table beyond cash incentives.

While it sounds simple, you know that following these six steps is hard work and requires collaboration across a wide range of people and leaders in your community. It requires a clear vision of the identity you are trying to establish for your location.

When you are ready to start, you need to:

  • Position your community for the big capital investment opportunities by making certain you have a compelling value proposition. If you don’t, then invest in creating one through public policy reform, creation of required infrastructure, and building of desired assets
  • Develop a hit list of big companies you believe would make great partners for your community.
  • Whittle down that list to the best of the best.
  • Take action with confidence.
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