A Call to My Mentor: His 3 tips for locating a European HQ (Part #4 by Jimmy Jackson)
25 October 2023
In my last couple of blog posts, I allowed a side of Jimmy Jackson to be seen that I don’t normally show people: the side that is paralyzed with fear when I have to make a big decision.
I know this must come as a surprise, especially if you actually know me and have seen me in person at the helm of my company, where my employees all see me as a man of action and focused determination, a leader of towering intellect, strength, will power, and humility. “Jimmy,” my colleagues often say to me in a state of hushed awe, “It’s true what they say: you are a human dynamo!”
Yes, that I am. But even so, when I’m facing an enormous decision with my reputation and retirement fund on the line, my nerves do sometimes get the better of me. For example, when I asked the lovely Norma Gustafson to marry me 31 years ago, I was a nervous wreck, but luckily this has turned out to be one of my better decisions. Likewise, when I decided to walk away from a promising career in the burgeoning aquarium gravel industry and establish a company on my own, even borrowing seven thousand dollars to do so – well, let’s just say I had a sleepless night or two.
And now, though I hate to admit it, I find myself in one of these situations again. I know that expanding my company is the right thing to do. That is not the decision that has me worried. What is preoccupying my every waking moment isn’t “if” or even “when” to set up our European operations, but where. If I make this decision correctly, it could make a huge difference – to the company’s future, of course, but also to my future (and Norma’s), not to mention to the future of Beauregard, my CFO, and all my other employees who will work there, relying on me as they always do to be their intrepid leader.
So last night I did what I have done many times before when facing a potentially life-changing decision: I got on the horn and called my old mentor Abercrombie Jefferson. I’ve known him for years, and he has helped me with many a hard choice.
Abercrombie, who is a very private, very discreet person, is the owner of AJX Invisibility, a company that sells some kind of high-tech cloak. It does business all over the world. He went through a similar search for a European business location a few years ago, which led him to Switzerland, which I’m learning is the best darn country on Planet Earth.
“Buzz,” I said when he answered the phone (he’s always been called “Buzz,” but no one knows why), “It’s your old pal, Jimmy Jackson. Have you got a minute? I could use some of your excellent advice.”
“Lay it on me,” he said: his trademark reply.
I described my situation. He listened carefully and then gave me three bits of advice:
First, he recommended I make a list of all the criteria that are important to me. Not only things like how easy it is to set up a company in the first place, but especially ongoing factors, like how high the company taxes will be (and my own, if I go live there for a while), how reliable the country’s transport networks are, how well-connected its airports are, what’s the cost of living, how easy it will be to hire talented people, do people there go on strike every ten minutes, whether I will have to learn a new language or will my fluent Latin be enough, and so on e.g. et cetera.
He even advised me to put things on my list Iike the weather, the food, the culture – anything that might matter to me personally. (I didn’t tell him about my hope to locate someplace with decent vino – Abercrombie has a drinking problem, no point in upsetting him.)
Second, he said I shouldn’t depend on friends who push for a particular place, like “Go to San Marino, Jimmy! My brother-in-law opened a foot spa there and he loves it!” I am probably going to get lots of recommendations like this, according to Buzz. “Listen politely, but do your own homework.” That means comparing possibilities thoroughly and realistically, not just believing every anecdotal story I hear, glorious though it may be.
Third, he told me that all of the countries over there have investment promotion agencies whose job is to help people like me. (Yes! I’ve discovered a few interesting ones already, e.g. Invest in Switzerland, IDA Ireland, Business Sweden, Germany Trade & Invest and Business France to name a few!) They will not only help get me set up when I actually decide where to go, but can help me put together the information that I need now to make that big decision.
Buzz, you’re a godsend! I told Norma all about this excellent call and she agreed that the next time he’s back in town we should invite him over for one of my stupendous (though booze-free) Hot-Dog-A-Ramas. Good times ahead!