Prince Charles - Ten Seconds at St. James's Palace

Maxim Behar’s second story in the series " Priceless Lessons" for BusinessGlobal magazine tells a story from the end of 2002, at St. James's Palace in London, where Prince Charles welcomed him.

In the series, the PR expert talks about his meetings with global celebrities through the prism of his business, the lessons derived from such stories, and what he has learned in a purely PR aspect.

It is a story about princes and kings, ethical standards, gifts, and surprises…

In the modern world, events often begin with a newly received email. In this case, however, it happened entirely differently, and I did not expect a prime minister to send me an e-mail… The phone just rang, and my assistant said that the Prime Minister, or the King-Prime Minister, would like to talk to me. “Behar, alive and well — typically for him, began with a greeting — next week, I’m going to London, and there will be a business forum. Isn’t it good for you to join us…”.

I was elected Chairman of the Bulgarian Business Leaders Forum (BBLF) only months ago. Back then, it was part of an organization headed by Prince Charles, and it would be exciting for me. We quickly became co-organizers of the forum in London, I had to bring a gift to the Prince. Without thinking much about it, I called my friend Gilbert McCall, who was on the board of our Forum and Managing Partner of KPMG Bulgaria. One Sunday afternoon, we wrote together the first in Bulgaria, “Standard for Business Ethics”. It may sound quite archaic, but Bulgaria’s “business ethics” words were more like scientific terms than specific content.

This was precisely what I would give to Prince Charles in London during the forum he and the King were to open. What could be better than presenting him with our work on ethical business in Bulgaria? However, the long-awaited Prince Charles did not come to the forum in the beautiful hall of the Bulgarian embassy without knowing the reason. He was replaced by the European director of his forum, Susan Simpson, an elegant lady with a large hat and a crocodile-skin bag I had known from several meetings before. But I had two standards: one for the King, which I gave him on stage when I opened the forum, and one for Prince Charles. Instead, Susan appeared with the big hat and reached for the beautifully shaped frame.

I had to get out of the situation, and with a severe tone, I turned to her on the microphone: “Susan, what I’m giving to you is actually for your boss, Prince Charles, so please tell him that if he doesn’t come to Bulgaria soon, you should give it back to me… ”. I broke the tension in the hall with about 250 people inside, and of course, they laughed took it as a joke, and so we smoothed things over.

Less than a week later, however, an invitation came to my office from His Royal Highness for lunch at St. James’s Palace, where he lived at the time, on a specific date at 11:30. Well, I was supposed to be at the Royal Automobile Club at 7 a.m., two minutes from the Palace, to be instructed on how to get through lunch, but that didn’t matter to me, the final goal was far more critical.

We had lunch. Decently and calmly, we had a fascinating conversation about everything, mainly business, and how it should be ethical and transparent. I handed him another copy of the standard, and as we were finishing, the Prince turned to me most unexpectedly:
- Sir, I was glad you came; I have a small gift for you.
-” Oh,” I replied, “so kind of you, Your Royal Highness.”

I was sure I would get a teacup with the Buckingham logo or a photo album from the palace we were in when he continued:
- I have invited several friends from the big business to the next room. Let’s have tea with them, and you will have about ten minutes to present Bulgaria to them in the best way…
Oh my God! What could I tell British businessmen about Bulgaria that they don’t know? … A search engine like Google will tell them everything in three minutes…

I had no more than ten seconds to think; we were already getting up from the table, and the other hall was about a hundred meters away. We entered, and the gentlemen — five or six — rose from their seats respectfully; Prince Charles introduced me as “my new friend from Bulgaria, where my cousin King Simeon is prime minister,” and gave me the floor.

I had to; I had to wake them up; these people casually stretched out in their chairs with cigars and a cup of tea with cognac in hand.
- Gentlemen, I come from Bulgaria, a wonderful WWW country!

There was a long silence, which Prince Charles broke first.
- “Oh yeah! Really! I have heard you have a faster internet than many other European countries.”
- “It’s true, but I didn’t mean that. Remember — WWW for Bulgaria now means Weather, Women, Wines.”

They started laughing, and that was the sentence that broke the ice. We had a great conversation about investment opportunities in Bulgaria.

Of course, from the very beginning, I clarified that this comparison is attractive but figurative. Weather, these are our four seasons, the excellent tourism opportunities, Women — of course them, but mainly people, smiling, educated and ambitious, and Wines, but not only them — the mixture of different cuisines makes our food these excellent wines attractive and insanely delicious…

WWW was invented literally in seconds in the transition from one hall to another in St. James’s Palace; for a long time, it was used by many in Bulgaria and worldwide. Back then, I invited the prince to visit Bulgaria, and he arrived only after three months. I will never forget how I met him at the back entrance of the Sheraton Hotel, where he came after he met with the President to meet with Bulgarian business, and when he saw me at the door, he pointed at me and exclaimed: “Ah, WWW! I remember very well! Nice to see you again.”

Often exciting things in my business happen in ten seconds, but they keep their fame for more than ten years…


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