. . . is the topic of my latest Trade Tripper column in this Friday-Saturday issue of BusinessWorld. Excerpts:
"I’m sure every occupation would have its own horror stories of "pretenders" conning an unwary public. But whether it be law, medicine, media, or economics, each self-respecting profession would see the need to protect the public by maintaining standards and excluding false practitioners. Thus, with international trade and customs, for example, the would-be seminar attendee or client is encouraged to look at the background of the seminar or service provider, ask the firm about their actual experience on trade cases, their academic credentials, and their reputation among those acknowledged to be knowledgeable in the field. The size of the team supposedly assigned for that service and the rank of the team members within the firm is also important. Frankly, except for one or two local law firms that had lawyers who actually previously worked on WTO matters, people are well advised to deal only with academic institutions or specialist NGOs, the PCCI, or the government (i.e., DTI or DA).
A fancy office or seminar venue, glossy brochures, or a buzzword-addicted firm representative talking about "strategic leadership" or of creepily having "fire in the belly," needless to say, adds nothing to the accuracy of the service. A local firm having multinational affiliation means little considering that, in the end, it will be the local staff that will do the work anyway. Having a foreign consultant isn’t very helpful either. It could actually be counterproductive, like when there’s a need to develop close (but professional) relationships with a government office. Cultural factors should always be considered. Ultimately, what every client does not want to do is to end up paying just to develop some novice’s education or experience. And, by the way, novices can be senior people too."