Trade mission to Turkey (2): matchmaking

  What is matchmaking?, people ask me. To be honest, I didn’t know myself just a couple of weeks ago but I have learned a lot by joining the trade mission to Turkey. A trade mission offers a complete program with visits to Turkish entrepreneurs, institutions, policy makers and the like. Moreover, it is possible to ask for matchmaking: if you do, a supportive staff will try to find individual entrepreneurs and officials who are willing to talk to you in a personal conversation to exchange information and business opportunities. This is called matchmaking.
I was very curious to see how this would work so I asked for matchmaking. Just a few days before we would leave for the trade mission, I got a concrete reaction to my request: 12 companies had shown interest to talk to me! This was very nice and after some emails forth and back I ended up with a schedule of 8 or 9 appointments in two days (so I missed a part of the official program, you can’t have it all). It was possible to have an interpreter but I thought it would be better to speak Turkish in case my counterpart wouldn’t talk English: having an extra person at the table just for the translation might create distance, I thought, even though my Turkish is limited.
The matchmaking would take place in our hotel in Istanbul where a complete saloon was reserved for all the business talks, see the photograph in top.
As I expected already a bit (I know Turkey) my schedule soon became a chaos. Just 2 appointments followed the planning, the rest was cancelled, put in again, changed once or twice, or the location changed > I had to rush through the terrible Istanbul traffic to go far into the Asian part, in a taxi with an angry driver who couldn’t find the place and blamed me for that (this is also very Turkish, fortunately I knew that already and didn’t take it personally – anybody who has been in a taxi in Amsterdam knows that the Dutch situation is not much better).
I used to think I was a flexible person but the matchmaking’s unique and last minute schedule changes showed me that there is more to learn in flexibility for me. I had to admit at several moments that I did feel some stress 🙂 Still, I loved the dynamics of it! And I had quite a few matches showing good opportunities that will certainly have a follow up. If you join a trade mission and they ask you if you want matchmaking: go for it! Be ready to learn and don’t forget to enjoy yourself because it can be quite an adventure…