The winter is now approaching and in Småland we can look back on magical August evenings when the sun went down at half past nine. Sitting by a reflective dark lake watching the sunset behind the treetops is really something magical. For those who believe in lake monsters, it goes without saying that August evenings, with their shadows and fantastic sunsets, are the height of lake monster season.
Many people chose to do as I did and holiday here in Sweden. There is even a word for it: staycation. I hope you found some new favourite spots and are viewing your local areas with a fresh pair of eyes.
For nearly eight months, people have only been able to meet their closest friends and family. Then I start thinking about the opposite of that – the fairs. This spectacle is a meeting place for people from different cultures who come together to expand their networks, hold interesting conversations and learn more.
Here at Garantell we don’t have a culture of frequent customer visits. We have chosen to have our office in the forests of Småland and my phenomenal colleagues come from all corners of Europe but live here. So why do I think that fairs are important to us? I think many people like me go to a fair to meet as many people as possible, keep relationships alive and make new contacts. It’s difficult to measure what you get from a fair, as it’s part of the sales process. Often you meet a prospective customer for the first time at a fair, you become friends on LinkedIn or Xing and after a period of telephone contact and e-mails, you gain a new customer. Sometimes the sales pitch process takes a few years. For those of us up here in the cold Nordic region who rarely receive visits from our customers, fairs are an opportunity to showcase our products and to explain the benefits of buying from us and how we can simplify our customers’ everyday lives.
There are some people you only meet at fairs. Others have changed workplaces but stayed in the same field, so the fair is a place to meet up. At the fair there’s a lot of laughter, as is often the case when you meet people you haven’t seen for a while. We all make the effort to have as much fun as possible and are happy when we meet again after maybe six months. Kindness and laughter are things that bring people together and something that I think characterises a fair, while also remembering all the new contacts in a positive way.
When I was in my twenties and visited my first fair (inexperienced and very curious), I immediately saw the cultural differences in the way people greet one another. In several cultures you hug much more and kiss on the cheeks, which I thought was wonderful. It created a real sense of togetherness and kindness. Now it’ll probably be some time before you can kiss a stranger on the cheek again, and the way we greet one another in Sweden has changed from shaking hands to moving your feet towards one another, bumping your elbows together or waving from a distance. I wonder what warm, social and kind central and southern Europeans are now doing to greet one another – there the change must be even more marked.
As a result of Covid-19, our everyday life has changed. At Garantell, turnover this year has increased more than 20 per cent without any fairs, which of course justifies the question: Are the fairs really that important to us? I think they are still an important meeting place. The contacts you make at a fair, by chatting with hundreds of people over a few days, are hard to make anywhere else. Personally, I hope that we have the chance to visit a few fairs next year, and that we can kiss cheeks again.