Global Direct Investment Solutions

Corporate Development for a Networked World

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The "Rumor Mill" Solution

Contact :   TEL   847-304-4655

Bruce Donnelly   bruce@gdi-solutions.com    (Biography)

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Introduction

Regardless of the source of any "leak" about a major project, word gets out at some point, and that needs to be considered as a factor in the project planning process from the very start.

GDI Solutions can be helpful in this regard, in at least three distinct ways, as explained below and at right :

  •  Prevention
  •  Control
  •  Response & Screening

The "leak" problem isn't solved by lawyers armed with non-disclosure agreements for other lawyers to review, because the problem may not even involve somebody who is a party to any such agreement.  Such agreements may also have no real meaning in some jurisdictions and, in any case, punitive legal action for breach of confidentiality doesn't put the genie back in the bottle or help the business to develop as intended.  In short, such agreements are often meaningless except to highlight explicitly that the company is very concerned about maintaining project confidentiality.  Investors rarely need such legal agreements.  They mainly need to be very clear about what is sensitive, and what can be shared as appropriate with relevant contacts.  They also need to be very disciplined about what their own employees share from the start.

Savvy professionals in this niche can often guess who is planning a project, even from anonymous information requests, because project parameters or site or facility requirements are familiar.  Sometimes, by appearing to know more than they really do, they can call and confirm such project plans and obtain important details.  Even an innocent "bingo" card response to a magazine ad or websites by a curious employee can tip off alert professionals to the existence of a potential project.

Rather than become obsessive about controlling or tracking down every possible "leak", an alternative approach is to recognize that sooner or later somebody is likely to find out about the project and start asking for more information.  Service providers will want to promote their capabilities to be of assistance.  Area representatives will want top executives to consider their location for the project.

Prevention : Very discreet information-gathering

By the nature of the business, GDI Solutions routinely needs to gather information about many business locations and service providers to support project plans from the earliest stages by many companies.

This means that, in many cases, the necessary information or contacts are already in hand, thus eliminating the need for company staff to start gathering information through activities which might alert others to the existence of a project.  Even if we need to request some additional information for a confidential project, that is such a routine need that a request arouses no suspicions, and gives no hint about the investor.

By contrast, when curious staff or executives start to request even the most general information, it can tip off alert area representatives to a potential project which is supposedly still confidential.  If they start contacting other people at the company to try to win the potential project, they may inadvertently contact people who are not yet supposed to know about it (as in the obvious case of a relocation project).

Furthermore, if there is already an ongoing working relationship as an active participant in the services of GDI Solutions, then there may be little reason for anyone inside or outside of the company to take notice of any information-gathering activity through GDI Solutions.  There is no reason for anyone else to know which company is being supported when strict confidentiality is critical to a project. 

Keep in mind, however, that participating area representatives and service providers know that confidentiality must be respected in order to be considered for future projects.  They can often be far more helpful when more specific information is shared, or if they can be introduced directly after a suitable briefing (including confidentiality constraints) so that they fully understand the complexities of all the business needs.

Control : "Thanks for your interest, but please talk to Global Direct Investment Solutions.  They assist our executives whenever we need to plan any projects, anywhere.  If any of our executives need to reach you for any reason, their relationship leader for our company should know how to contact you quickly, and the scope of what you can potentially do for us."

In other words, there is no need to either confirm or deny that any specific project plans are being developed at the moment.

Instead, there is a standard response process by which all employees who are approached about investment plans can deflect enquiries to a single source, such as to a corporate communications specialist or directly to the designated relationship leader at GDI Solutions.  This provides a single point of contact to coordinate all responses, and can also quickly alert the company when "the rumor mill" is generating an unusual flow of enquiries, whether as speculation or leaks, or perhaps simply in response to good news or analysis about growth prospects.

A well-established process for information-gathering to support executives whenever investment projects are planned can field any unsolicited enquiries about projects professionally, so that the potential risk of any "leaks" should be greatly reduced, and addressed quickly by the relationship leader, who needs to be alert to such activity. 

This doesn't mean that executives won't continue to develop their own support contacts as appropriate to their interests, or gather information as they wish according to their responsibilities, or confront the problem of "leaks" regardless of careful precautions and good intentions.

It should, however, greatly reduce the risk of inadvertent project disclosures, which can often occur even before a formal project team is created, or before there is agreement about who is going to take responsibility for leading the planning work and decisions.

Besides, a well-established support process can minimize the amount of valuable executive time which is otherwise spent on very basic exploratory research work, so that attention can be focused on tasks which actually require their expertise.  A lot of valuable executive time can be wasted on response to unsolicited contacts or through general information-gathering work which really adds little value at the time.

 

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Response & Screening : Provide a discreet way to be responsive to enquiries which may actually be of interest at some point in the future, even if not at the present time, while also communicating disinterest diplomatically to others.  Try to limit potentially harmful "fishing" for information and contacts.

Once "the word is out", service providers and area representatives as well as journalists often start to call and ask about the project to virtually any contact who they know or can identify and reach at the company, anywhere in the world.  Executives and staff at completely unrelated company operations, including people who perhaps should not be aware of a project which is still hypothetical rather than an actual plan, can suddenly start to get calls.

Despite good intentions, such as a very genuine desire to support the project, such calls can be very disruptive and harmful.  Even though a few outside individuals have already discovered the project, it may not yet be common knowledge, even around the company.  News of the project can also tip off competitors or harm negotiations, because if the company wasn't identified, people may be calling around firms in the industry which seem to fit the known description of the project.

There is a need to be responsive and avert speculation or needless "fishing" for contacts around the company, and to limit the spread of the information (or misinformation), while still preserving whatever confidentiality about the project details may still be necessary.

The main challenge at this stage is to screen out relevant enquiries from those which are of no plausible interest, and to get the callers to respect the need for confidentiality.  Frequently, since the project details are not known, those making the enquiries may not even know whether they are wasting their time or unintentionally causing harm by chasing after a project which has no need for their services or location.

GDI Solutions can offer a professional, independent process to help sort out which enquiries may be relevant or not for introductions to the responsible executives, without sharing confidential project details.

This process also provides professional service providers and area representatives with a quick way to find out, whenever they pick up a "rumor" about a project, whether GDI Solutions is already "on top of it" and thus ready to introduce them quickly as appropriate.  We may be able to "confirm or deny" authoritatively whether there is any potential opportunity for them in pursuit of that "lead", and be patient about letting the executives pursue the process in confidence as intended.  That can avert needless "fishing around" at the company or among competitors, which can be an unintentionally harmful waste of their time.

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Copyright 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009  Global Direct Investment Solutions, Inc.      Last modified: 01/27/09