Letters of Introduction
to the Chief Executive Officer
There's nothing more frustrating than showing up at a company
and being told they never received my advance material. This
excuse has plagued my 18 years of travel and so I think it's
worth a look at why this happens.
About a month before my anticipated arrival at a company I mail
the CEO a letter of introduction. Actually, it's a bright yellow
postcard-size card with a brief explanation of what I do, my
anticipated arrival dates and thanking him beforehand for any
courtesies extended to me. Also enclosed in the envelope are
several news clippings concerning my trek. For many years I was
on the road year-round and of course it wasn't and still isn't
feasible to carry these letters on my bike. So, thanks to friends
and former girlfriends I devised a way to send the letters out.
Let's say I'm in Finland. I get out a map, calendar, plot the
locations of companies on the map and then try to anticipate
where I'll be in a month. I then contact a friend back in the
US who I've entrusted with all the envelopes and tell them which
anticipated arrival dates to write on the postcards. They are
then dropped off at a post office.
Having visited over 3,700 companies I've become somewhat of an
expert as to how the mail works at corporations. The majority
of the time an assistant or secretary opens the mail, logs it
in and passes it on. Actually, quite a few CEO's open up their
mail. Many times someone in the mail room opens and screens the
Now, when I show up at a company and get told they hadn't received
my advance material it's usually the result of one of the five
1). The letter is
in fact there but it's somewhere they haven't looked. Because
what I do is so unusual many companies don't know where or to
whom to refer the letter. For example: my letter has ended up
at various times with Building Services, Public Relations, Corporate
Communications, Head of Security, General Counsel, Corporate
Affairs, Human Resources, External Affairs and, many times it's
still on the CEO's desk because he wants to meet with me himself.
2). The post office had indeed messed up and failed to deliver
the mail correctly.
3). The letter is there but got misplaced by the company's sloppy
4). The letter was received, opened, then knowingly tossed in
5). They are lying.
I know the last scenario sounds harsh and why would they bother
lying to someone so insignificant as me but, I've learned it's
a ploy some companies use. By saying they hadn't received my
advance material it gives them an excuse to say they had no advance
warning of my visit and therefore have no one available to meet
with me. Yet, over the years I've caught several companies trying
this scenario only to slip up in the course of the conversation
and mention something that was only known by having read the
Many times after visiting a company who said they hadn't received
the letter I'd contact them at a later date. Invariably I'd be
told that, indeed the letter had been received but had been mis-routed,
mishandled or forgotten on the CEO's desk.
While traveling in Europe, especially in Italy and Spain, I would
hear the same line about how they never received my letter. In
Spain and Italy it could well be true because their postal systems
are known for being sloppy and unreliable. Companies in other
countries could well have been correct also because it's a long
way for a letter to travel (from the USA to Europe).
How did I lessen the chance of companies saying this? Well, this
year a girlfriend in Switzerland mailed out the letters. It's
well known that Swiss Post is one of the world's most efficient
movers of mail and the Belgium postal service isn't too shabby
either. My letters to Belgian companies were mailed from Lausanne,
located 30 miles from Geneva, and separated from Belgium by only
one country (France). The letters were sent out ONE MONTH before
my anticipated arrival. Still, quite a few companies said they
did not receive the letter. How is it possible to show up at
the headquarters of global concerns like IBM and Nestle with
several hundred thousand employees and have the security personnel
and receptionists know who I am when I walk in the door, yet
these other much, much smaller companies can't seem to handle
their mail? You'll see in my stories that I'm very skeptical
when companies use this excuse.
So, as you read my Belgium stories you can arch up your eyebrows
like mine do when a company says they hadn't received my letter.