A moveable feast

A number of years ago a great friend of mine was in need of a change of pace for the same reasons Hemmingway made his famous crossing to Cuba. We opted for Barcelona but channelled some Hemmingway spirit in amongst the lazy lunches, siestas, architecture and leisurely pace.

Hemingway’s influence was in the form of Mojitos which we concluded were the ideal early evening cocktail for the trip, and in the interest of adding some purpose to our daily meandering we decided to seek the best Mojitto Barcelona had to offer.

We established a short criteria for ranking the drink which included discussion on the ideal strengths of alcohol, mint, lime and sugar but also ventured slightly off the beaten track to include viscosity and welcoming nature of the bar staff.

The data was gathered over the course of a week and final scores analysed over a late lunch on our final day with the intention of rewarding the successful establishment with a few hours of profitable custom on the final evening (after the obligatory siesta).

The long term benefits of technology come from its ability to perform the task effectively. Shine fades and when it does, problems occur unless there is quality behind it.

That evening we realised we’d made a mistake at the first sip. It was good fortune that my friend had chosen to chronicle, draw and photograph nearly every experience we had that week and with this being before smartphones we were able to delve straight into our handwritten ‘research’. Re-analysing the data over an average drink in a lovely bar we realised we’d made two mistakes, we’d over-weighted the welcoming nature of the bar staff and assessments on viscosity were totally irrelevant. A quick recalibration and recalculation followed and soon found ourselves enjoying a much better drink in a totally different establishment, thus concluding a great week and providing me with a life long lesson on due diligence.

When I started in the industry due diligence questionnaires were few and far between but in the decades that followed the frequency and scale of due diligence has grown beyond measure. Whilst the old days of due diligence occurring over a few drinks were fun, the modern day approach is infinitely better but most processes are not without their flaws much like my exploration above.

Time is a critical factor, there was no way for us to assess the best drink in the entire city with two people and a week, so while time can be an important factor, sufficient time to complete a thorough process is better than speed. But it's our mistakes about choice of establishment and viscosity that taught me the most.

The distraction of a friendly welcome is an easy trap to fall into, as is the distraction of shiny vapourware. Clearly in some instances something shiny is the goal but the majority of the time the long term benefits of technology come from its ability to perform the task effectively, shine fades and when it does, problems occur unless there is quality behind it.

Many due diligence questionnaires obfuscate the true purpose of the process. They need to be untangled, pondered and pieced together to understand what exactly is important to a potential client.

Viscosity was not just a distraction but a totally irrelevant measure that made it onto the list nevertheless. I can remember a number of due diligence exercises where enormous amounts of time were dedicated to finding a solution for something very few people needed today and even fewer would have needed in the long term and yet it remained, skewing the assessment and disrupting the conclusion.

Many due diligence questionnaires obfuscate the true purpose of the process. They need to be untangled, pondered and pieced together to understand what exactly is important to a potential client. In the client’s mind, some subjects that the questions focus on are a “nice to have”, whereas some are an essential. Some are even completely irrelevant to the proper functioning of a solution but have been asked to appease stakeholders. It’s in situations like this that the due diligence becomes unproductive - what exactly is being assessed?

There is an excitement to receiving a due diligence request, the long hours in a ‘war room’ editing responses, preparing for pitches and workshops always seem to bring out the best in the colleagues I have worked with, but most times there is rarely enough time to work through the viscosity of the hundreds of questions. When the challenge is to find the best combination of flavours (or functionality) it can sometimes cause you to question the ranking system, especially when the accolade of best drink goes to the quality of the establishment rather than the skills of the mixologist.

The restrictions of the last two years - and the resulting difficulties in face-to-face conversations with potential clients - have exaggerated the complexity of some due diligence process. Despite all our successes in working remotely, there is no substitute for being in the same room when relationships are being formed. When freedom of movement returns let’s reduce the viscosity and dedicate some time to enjoy sampling and lively discussion, salud!