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Road Rules – Rule No. 17

Know the place, know the people.

Who: Bill Lindquist (lindqc@torrington.com), worldwide sourcing manager, Torrington Co.

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Home Base: Harwinton, Connecticut

Mileage: 50,000 miles a year

Favorite Destination: Paris, France

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“In my line of work, I’m often the only person at a work site who doesn’t live there. As worldwide sourcing manager, I go on business expeditions to the hinterlands. When I first visit a plant, a supplier, or another company, I’m usually the only new guy. And in some places, I’m also a foreigner. So I’m always looking for techniques to help me blend into the crowd.”

“One thing I do is to read a book about a region before I get there. And I’m not talking only about guidebooks. The people who write guidebooks aren’t always from the areas that they’re writing about anyway, so I also read other books. Before going to France, I might read Peter Mayle’s ‘A Year in Provence.’ If I’m planning a visit to the South, I might read Charles Frazier’s ‘Cold Mountain.’ “

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“I also try to ‘go local.’ Once, for example, when I was in Turkey, the other members of my team wanted to spend their day off at a place that catered to Americans. But instead of joining them, I walked along the Bosporus to the Black Sea, stopping occasionally along the way for a coffee or a beer. I met lots of Turkish people — merchants, fishermen, ferry drivers.”

“During negotiations the next day, it was easy for me to work with a translator, because I was already used to the local speaking style. And I got along great with the people on the other side of the table: I had much better stories to tell than my colleagues did. And I’d learned enough Turkish to say, ‘Hello. How are you?’ and ‘Thank you very much.’ “