asking a prospective client to pay travel expenses

A reader writes:

We are a small company that offers a unique and valuable product. We have a very tight travel budget and have relied on teleconferencing for many cross country and overseas initial conversations. Though we believe in face-to-face connections, we have to be mindful of the cost vs. benefit of the travel. Sometimes we are able to charge travel travel and expenses to some of our bigger clients, which is all in a contract.

Recently, we were requested to travel to another city to meet with a member of a foreign royal family. The emailed letter indicated they wanted to partner with us. Without offering too much detail, we can say that the assistant of the inviting party was very helpful but not so forthcoming with detailed information. After some due diligence and fact checking with the State Department, we realized the invitation was indeed authentic.

As you know, one of the biggest assets we own is our time. We have no idea what the inviting party would particularly like to discuss yet were offered an opportunity to respond with a formal letter to offer dates and times we would be available and to ask any questions prior to the meeting.

Was it rude or outside of business etiquette for us to ask them to pay for our domestic flights?

Please see the letter we sent; I have removed all names for privacy purposes:

Thank you for the business invitation to visit you at your home office in ___. My short answer: We accept the invitation. In addition, we have some initial questions and request more information.

As you can imagine, our modest yet lively business has never received a request such as this. My apologies for the speculation and due diligence at the start. Founding and running a relatively new and innovative company, the biggest asset we own is ‘our time’, which I’m sure you can appreciate. We have chased a few unicorns in the past and our experience becomes a wise lesson learned. Now that we understand this is an authentic invitation, we would like to proceed with transparency, candor and diligence.

Timing
We have discussed dates in the near future that we have open in our schedules. Please indicate if any of these work for you. If not, please offer alternatives.
(3 dates)

Resource
The ___ team will provide 2-3 executives (including myself) that have authority to make on-the-spot decisions for Asia, Europe and North America if necessary. We will come prepared to offer an initial introduction of the business and product. If you feel a Mutual Confidentiality Agreement is necessary for the first meeting, please provide one that is suitable to the needs of your business. We try to keep the first meeting packed with information and visual examples. Detailed information we consider confidential can be discussed in a follow-up meeting if required. We typically charge for initial consultations and out-of-state or out-of-country meetings. In this case, we have decided to cover our own human allocation costs.

Travel
When our clients and partners call us, we make all reasonable attempts to support their needs. In this case, since we have not established a formal business relationship, we ask that you please arrange flight accommodations for us from our local airports to your local airport. By agreeing to this, we will see that you value our time and that you are serious about the nature of a potential relationship. If overnight accommodation is necessary, we will cover those costs. You will see that every minute and every penny counts.

Questions
Please see the attached list of 3 questions that we have chosen to understand your interest in ___. We do not intend for them to be personally or professionally invasive. We ask that you consider them and provide candid answers.

Thank you for taking the time to read this response, we are honored by your interest in our business and will repay your consideration with honesty and integrity.

I don’t think it was rude to ask to have your flights covered. Some consultants consider travel expenses to meet with prospective clients to be part of their own business costs and shoulder that expense themselves (ultimately rolling those costs into their overall fees). Others ask clients to cover those expenses. It tends to depend on the business, but I don’t think the mere act of requesting it was wrong.

But I don’t love the way it’s framed in this letter. Giving so much explanation for the request ends up feeling almost defensive. If you could re-write this, I’d tell you to take out the stuff about how covering your costs will show that the client values your time and is serious about working together, and that “every minute and every penny counts.” You don’t need to say any of that. It’s perfectly sufficient to just say, “Because we’ll be coming from City X, we’d ask you to cover our flight expenses, which we estimate will be $Y.” Adding in all the rest of that explanation will make you look a little less seasoned and like you worry that your reasons for asking aren’t self-evident.

For what it’s worth — and I’m interested to know others feel about this — to me the letter as a whole feels a bit … well, obsequious. It’s okay to just be direct and straightforward; there’s no need to pad it with deference or over-explanation.

Of course, some of this just goes to personal style, and if this style has worked well for your company, keep it! But that’s my take, as an outsider reading this.

{ 127 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager Post author

    Hey, y’all — putting this up here so people will hopefully see it before commenting. The letter-writer has already sent this letter out and doesn’t have a chance to change it now, and I’m feeling pretty bad about how many people are criticizing it in the comments — so please be kind and constructive, and don’t pile on. Thank you.

  2. Former Diet Coke Addict

    The second paragraph is what comes off a bit strange, I think, and pushes into obsequious territory. A professional meeting setup is going to have the usual arrangements for dates and times and such without requiring the need for background on prior bad experiences and especially insinuating that the invitation may not have been legit–this letter reads as sounding apologetic for…being a straightforward business, I think.

    1. some1

      I had the exact same reaction. Unless you got a lot of pushback or forceful pushback while you were vetting this (or it had been a long time before the response), I don’t really get why all this info was necessary.

      And honestly, I wouldn’t proactively bring up that this was the first request of this kind. I think it could make the company appear to be inexperienced.

      1. My 2 Cents

        This was going to be my response, this whole thing just made you sound completely inexperienced or even amateur. A royal family doesn’t want to deal with amateurs and if I got this letter in response that’s exactly what I’d be convinced I was dealing with and I’d be want to cancel the arrangement.

        There are ways to ask for expenses to be covered that are natural and this is not the way to do it. Honestly, it’s no different than any other client, it doesn’t change just because it’s a royal family.

    2. fposte

      I agree–that’s the paragraph that I’d cut. Maybe I’m looking with an editor’s eye here, but I think there are other places that are going a little far to me as well–the last paragraph with the firm being honored and being willing to repay that with honesty and integrity, for instance, and the note that “We do not intend for [these questions] to be personally or professionally invasive”–that’s pretty much assumed, and if they are invasive, the intention doesn’t matter anyway.

      If that’s boilerplate that’s in all the OP’s responses, then that’s just house style, but if it’s just for this client, it’s betraying an overawe of the royal title :-).

    3. Koko

      Yeah, all of that is stuff that I think would be fine to say casually/off-handedly in person if the conversation flows in that direction, but is a bit odd to include in written correspondence.

  3. SJP

    From someone is a ‘padder’ (i.e pads out emails with less important information as to not be so direct’ I do get that this was a whole lot more info than there needed to be.
    I’ve learnt that I don’t need to put lots of not so necessary information in just to soften the request.

  4. Amtelope

    “Now that we understand this is an authentic invitation” and “By agreeing to this, we will see that you value our time and that you are serious about the nature of a potential relationship” are ringing weirdly to me.

    If you’re super-skeptical about this invitation, do you really want to go? If you’re not feeling that these guys are scammers, but still (understandably) can’t travel internationally for an exploratory meeting unless the client picks up the tab, I think you could say that in a way that sound less like you are freaked out by the situation. I agree with Alison that this calls for more of a matter-of-fact “For this initial meeting, we won’t charge our usual initial consultation fee, but we will need you to cover our travel expenses and accommodations, which we estimate will cost $X.”

    1. Amtelope

      Also, I’d just ask them to pay for the flight costs, rather than asking them to arrange the flight — making flight arrangements for someone else is a hassle, and it’s probably easier for them to just write a check. If you’re thinking they may have a private plane they can use to provide transportation, they can always make that offer in response to your request for them to pay for your flights.

      1. AnonAnalyst

        This is the part that came off oddest to me. Asking for them to cover expenses? Okay, not out of the ordinary. Asking them to make your travel arrangements for you? Kind of weird, and frankly a big headache for both parties.

        All that said, this may be cultural. I used to work for a global organization, and I occasionally used to get questions/requests about arranging travel for people from other countries to our events. I can’t remember any specific countries or regions where those requests would come from, but maybe it’s more common in some places than it is in the US.

        1. AVP

          Yeah, that could be a cultural thing. Some government entities have their own travel departments and it’s easier to get them to make arrangements for you than it is to get reimbursed later. Some prefer to reimburse and are good about doing it quickly. Here though it looks like it’s coming from a place of not trusting the client which to me is what’s reading oddly.

      2. 18.75 steps / octave

        Like others have mentioned, I felt that paragraph 2 was a bit unnecessary.

        Also, asking them to make the travel arrangements doesn’t seem like a good idea. I mean, if you’re meeting with the Emperor of Canada and you think he’s going to fly you in via his own personal luxury hovercraft, then sure, ask ’em to arrange it. But I think that I would start by assuming that my team would make the travel plans and send the Royals the bill plus receipts as necessary. If they come back at you and suggest picking you up via hovercraft or black helicopter or something, then cool. Also, I’d ask them to cover reasonable lodging and food.

        To me, the letter came off a bit rough, but not a deal-killer.

        My biggest concern is that, yeah, I know LW checked with the State Department and stuff, but I would be super-cautious about verifying that these people are who they say they are. I mean, like, track down official photos of these people, do some serious research on their background, etc.

        1. Chinook

          “I mean, if you’re meeting with the Emperor of Canada and you think he’s going to fly you in via his own personal luxury hovercraft, then sure, ask ‘em to arrange it”

          I think she prefers “Queenie”

    2. UKAnon

      I wonder if there’s some cultural differences in this? It reads oddly to me too, but then responses like yours or Alison’s would sound unnecessarily brusque. I would usually expect something in-between the two. If you’re more accustomed to a slightly more lengthy style *and* you’re inclined to padding I could see where you would end up with this much detail.

      (I also wonder how much they’re trying to explain things it turns out the client knows something about?)

      1. Amtelope

        That’s interesting! I wouldn’t make that my entire email, but I’d expect the rest of the email to be “We’re looking forward to meeting with you,” a brief recap of our pitch for why we’re a good match for their interests, what we hoped to accomplish in the introductory meeting, our possible dates, and then a pretty straightforward and unapologetic “here’s what we’ll need from you.” I agree that the LW may be used to a more formal/lengthy style than is typical in my (American) field — I can’t imagine ever saying “we are honored by your interest in our business,” even if I was privately delirious with excitement about the chance of snagging this client.

    3. AvonLady Barksdale

      I agree, that part about “you value our time and that you are serious, etc.” is odd. In fact, I think that’s borderline insulting. I feel like it should be a given that the company that reached out is serious, and if they’re not, then they simply wouldn’t agree to paying the travel costs. This whole letter is just a little too much. There’s nothing wrong with laying out your terms, but it’s up to the other party to decide if they value your services enough to meet those terms.

      1. Gandalf the Nude

        Yeah, that focus on authenticity reads as almost xenophobic to me. I mean, do your due diligence with the state department, obviously, but once you have confirmation that they’re legit, you should treat them with the same level of trust that you would any domestic client. At the very least, the whole letter comes across as someone not used to international business. It’s the kind of thing that would make me reconsider a more expensive but more obviously experienced company.

        1. Cimorene

          I don’t know if it’s xenophobic. If I got an email from the queen of England asking to meet with me (I’m Anglo-american), I would probably be like, “no way.” Even though the queen of England is technically an outsider/foreign to me, in a cultural sense she’s more like fancier and older America. If that makes sense? Less xenophobia (or its BFF, racism), and more like, “is this real life?”

          1. Gandalf the Nude

            The difference I see between your example and the letter is disbelief (“no way!”) vs. distrust (“By agreeing to this, we will see that you value our time and that you are serious about the nature of a potential relationship.”). The tone of the letter seems like they’re still expecting a “Gotcha!”, which I doubt they would if the client were local, or even just non-royalty, if OP is from a country that doesn’t have a royal family. It’s definitely borderline and not super toxic, but it’s something the OP might want to be more mindful about in the future.

      2. Koko

        I think this is one of those areas where business is a bit like dating. When you’re seeing someone new, you pay attention to little clues of whether they’re high quality partner material: do they arrive on time, do they return calls promptly, do they treat servers well, etc. But you don’t explicitly tell someone you’ve just started dating, “I expect you to return my calls promptly, arrive for our dates on time, and demonstrate kind manners in order to prove your suitability as a mate.” That would come off weirdly aggressive and doubting, like you’re expecting them not to do any of those things and you’re giving them a heads-up so that they can treat you better than they would have without the warning. They’re either going to do the right things or not. You just pay attention and make your decisions accordingly.

  5. Bekx

    I think the continued emphasis on “our time” sounds a bit odd. It almost reads like the 419 scamming the scammer emails.

    That being said, it sounds like there’s some cultural difference here that I wouldn’t be an expert in. From my knowledge of Game of Thrones and the Tudors, I could see where a royal family could be perturbed…but then again I’m sure they understand that there’s scams and everything out there so they could be very understanding…or rather their staff would be.

    1. Lillie Lane

      Exactly, the emphasis on time was weird. Plus it seems that a lot of valuable time was expended on writing this letter.

    2. Whippers

      Yeah, it reads to me like the writer has English as their second language. I don’t know what’s giving me that impression exactly, maybe it’s the over formality and stiltedness. And it’s kind of overly deferential yet demanding in the same breath. It actually reminds me of when I when I applied to teach English abroad, and I would get emails from English schools that were like “Please be so very kind as to send us your documents. If you do not send these in the next two days, we will assume that you are not serious about this post”.

      1. LondonI

        I agree. I deal with a lot of correspondence from overseas law firms and the style of the letter sounds very similar to the emails I receive from South Asia or the Middle East.

        1. LondonI

          I should have said “some of the emails”. We literally deal with every country in the world and some firms in some countries are more ‘western’ in style than others. I don’t wish to stereotype all South Asian and Middle Eastern law firms.

  6. BTownGirl

    Is the client based in the UAE, by any chance? I have booked a lot of travel to the Emirates in my day and, in some countries, their business culture is so formal that you literally you have to start emails to hotel booking staff with “Dear Sir Or Madam”. Could account for the tone here, I’m thinking!

    1. LovingTheSouth

      This. I work with a lot of global financial investment firms and the tone of this letter reminded me of correspondence I’ve received from Middle Eastern ultra-high wealth families or institutions. I felt deference as opposed to defensiveness. While it wouldn’t be my style, I don’t think there was anything in the letter that would squash a potential deal — it’s just not as direct as Americans tend to be, and that might be a good thing if the OP is dealing with a country that puts a high value on respect and formality.

      1. LondonI

        Yes, absolutely. The style would probably be unnoticed by clients in the Middle East, and the writer may even be mirroring the communication style.

      2. BTownGirl

        Yup! I have gotten three-paragraph, highly formal emails…to ask me to forward an invoice. I was thinking deference as well :)

    2. the gold digger

      I was thinking UAE, as well, just because I was thinking, “This is probably not about Queen Elizabeth.”

      I would be more uncomfortable with the idea of doing business with a despot. :)

      (I have made my hotel reservations for Dubai online, but I have just stayed at the Hilton there.)

      1. BTownGirl

        I wish I could do it online, only because I’m from Boston and all that’s going on in my mind during the booking process is, “Can we get to the ******* point heee-aaaaahh?!” ;)

    3. AVP

      I was thinking it was Saudi, based just on the level of vetting and disbelief. I assume that when Queen Elizabeth emails you, you know it’s her.

      1. Marzipan

        I don’t know if she emails; she probably has people for that. My friend did once write to her and got a Reilly from the Deputy Comptroller at Buckingham Palace (or something along those lines). They framed it and hung it in their downstairs loo.

      2. BTownGirl

        I bet you know when it’s Prince George too haha! I wouldn’t mess with homeboy’s protocol, based on his expert level cut-eye.

      3. Amy

        Yes, I was thinking Saudi just because it’s such a huge royal family, they really play up their royalty and a lot of their members are involved in mainstream business things.

        I definitely don’t think it’s our (British) royal family. The ‘main’ royals wouldn’t deal with a tiny company, and ‘lesser’ royals wouldn’t trade on their ‘royalty’. My bank worked with several obscure members of the royal family, and they rarely ever mentioned their connections, nevermind expected royal etiquette. Whereas when we dealt with equivalent Saudi royals, they expected us to follow royal protocol and basically treat them like ruling monarchs.

  7. D

    I agree it sounds oddly defensive and pompous, but somehow deferential at the same time – and I think mentioning that you’ve done your due diligence to make sure they aren’t a scam is really weird! I mean that’s something to discuss internally, sure, but maybe I wouldn’t imply to the potential client that you initially thought it wasn’t a real offer. It’s like someone asking for charity donations and you saying “I totally thought this was a scam at first!”

    Also, if you’re going to ask them to cover costs, why not do it all the way? If you normally ask them to pay for consultations, then do that. And you’re prepared to pay for accommodation but not flights? I think it’s a bit mismatched, like you’re trying to be flexible and negotiate with them but play hardball at the same time. I’d just say – “This is our normal travel and consultation expense policy, we ask clients to cover x, y, z.” rather than picking and choosing.

    It sounds like the OP’s company is in a really unique position, and she isn’t quite comfortable acknowledging/claiming her value yet. E.g. “We’ve never had a request such as this.” – potential clients don’t need to know this! You’re undercutting yourself here. Sounds like you’ve got a great business so I’d recommend not sounding so nervous about it!

    1. LBK

      Agreed on all points. It sounds like you have a very niche service you provide; if it’s desirable enough to have been sought out by a high profile client like this, you don’t need to be so deferential to them. They’ve already made it clear they want you, you just need to lay out what you need on your end in order for that to happen. I’d be much more matter-of-fact with requests like this going forward: “Our standard fees for this type of visit include travel and hotel expenses, plus x, y and z. We will be sending a team of 2-3 executives. Please complete the attached questionnaire and return to us prior to the visit.”

    2. Dynamic Beige

      “This is our normal travel and consultation expense policy, we ask clients to cover x, y, z.” rather than picking and choosing.

      The bit that really got me was the whole chasing unicorns. I understand that pitching for business is expensive and that sometimes (in my industry at least) the company requesting the pitch may include that they are willing to provide $X to cover the costs of that pitch. IMO, if you use the line above, LW, that will do a lot more towards finding out if these people are just wasting your time. By asking them to pay for your travel expenses, you are essentially saying “prove you’re serious about this.” If they aren’t, they won’t. If they still want to meet with you but won’t pay the expenses, you can arrange a teleconference or videoconference. There will probably be somewhere in your city that offers videoconferencing services if you don’t have the resources in your office.

      I can see how you might be wanting to apologise for the length of time it’s taken you to respond to their request if it took you a fair bit of time to do some due diligenc. However, I don’t think mentioning it in this letter is a good idea. If it ever does come that you speak to them on the phone or meet in person and someone brings it up, you might then mention that your team was unaware of any previously existing business arrangement and needed time to search in your archives for the documentation. Some businesses keep their records forever, some get rid of them after a certain number of years. Given the recent changes in banking, law and international commerce, and depending on the region of the world this request came from, checking with the State Department that this was a legitimate organisation was probably a wise move.

    3. Laurel Gray

      Great points. I found this letter bizarre overall and am surprised the OP’s only issue/question was about travel reimbursement.

  8. BRR

    I agree. I think your goal was to ask politely but it comes off timidly.

    I’m also not crazy about how you keep mentioning your time and its value.

    1. E.R

      Yeah, I don’t like it either. I value my time as well (I work in business development, so I have lots of potential client meetings), but I just go about valuing my time, I don’t tell people explicitly that they may not be worth it. Also, it’s just a fact of business that you’re going to go to some meetings that don’t lead to anything – there’s not much you can do about that. I don’t like putting pressure on the client to feel like they have to commit to something, or show how serious they are, before we even meet. I just make a reasonable judgement about whether there could be a meaningful fit with my business and the potential client.

      Mentioning how they’ve been burned in the past by the unicorns is also off-putting. Again, it’s part of business to try some roads that don’t lead anywhere. It’s like dating people who do you wrong – it sucks, but you dont go telling your new dates about it, because it’s not their problem and makes you look a bit like you don’t understand that.

  9. caraytid

    i think if i were in this situation, i would simply ask who handles their business travel and could help us with our travel plans (= pay for my travel)? i just make the assumption they are paying expenses, which isn’t far fetched as they’re asking for my time.

    i’ve successfully done this in the past when consulting, although admittedly never for a royal client.

  10. Allison

    Too many words! You’re not in high school anymore, not everything you write has to be an essay wherein every aspect of your reasoning is explained in excruciating detail. Summarize in detail what you’re providing, but keep the requests short and to the point. If they say “no” or ask why they should cover your expenses, then you can go into your reasoning, which again should be brief and matter-of-fact.

  11. Spiky Plant

    I agree that the tone sounds weird in places, but I’ve never corresponded with royalty before, and especially if I were representing a company (rather than just a personal email between myself and the Royal Family), mine would probably have ended up really weird too. :)

    1. jag

      I’ve corresponded with staff of royalty a number of times, have drafted correspondence to royalty a number of times, PLUS once had a member of royalty (a princess, daughter of the king of a nation) as an intern working for me.

      In typical correspondence, I start with whatever formal terms of address are needed. Other than that, I’m just as brief as normal. In fact, with a royal person him/herself, I suggest being even briefer, leaving nuts-and-bolts detail to communication with their staff.

      It’s also worth noting that the OP’s correspondence is not with the royal person – it’s with someone else. Even more reason to write normally.

  12. Editrix

    I agree with Alison that it comes across as obseqious. In my old job, I once had to organize a royal visit. The people you actually correspond with about these things don’t expect forelock-tugging. They just want to get stuff done. They have tens of appointments daily to contend with.

  13. INTP

    Agree with Alison and comments above about the “padding.” But also, while I’m not very experienced in this area (and please correct me if I’m wrong about this), requesting that they make the flight arrangements seems weird to me. I would think that taking the time to choose and book flights is your responsibility even if paying for the flights was their responsibility. It would have been better to state that you require a certain sum for travel expenses or that you require payment for airfare expenses which you estimate to be $X (with a slight over-estimate, because it’s better to surprise a client with a smaller rather than larger bill).

  14. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

    We occasionally receive potential customer requests that require an outlay of time and/or money that far exceeds the norm, unaccompanied by details that would assure us that the outlay is worth the risk.

    I look for two things when qualifying these:

    1) willingness to have a conversation with actual details (so we can judge it a hard formed project and not just whim)
    2) skin in the game

    You don’t need to justify yourself for asking for these! They are asking ***you*** for something. Don’t give away your power before you start. I’d get rid of all of those words.

    paraphrase, first draft, essence:

    “Thanks so much for the opportunity! We’d love to meet with HRH Charming blah blah. In order to make our meeting most effective I need to know blah blah. Also, regarding travel costs, are you able to arrange blah blah? The client paying travel costs is the norm in this arrangement. Let me know if any issues and how you’d like to proceed. We’re looking forward to being of assistance.”

    1. puddin

      Agree with the re-write here!

      Shows enthusiasm, asks for what is needed to move forward, and offers help for any grey areas or concerns that might pop up.

    2. jag

      Yes.

      I’d avoid exclamation points early on in a relationship. Later, to show enthusiasm, they’re useful, but early on they can seem to insouciant or even too youthful. Other than that, this is right.

      Check Debrett’s or a manual of style for how to refer to the royal person.

      1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

        Heh. I sell teapots and I’m very excited about them!!

        Yes, the formality of tone should reflect audience and your brand message.

        :-)

  15. B

    The whole letter strikes me as odd and lacking polish, almost like this was the first draft and you did not have a good editor to cut out a lot. If you are possibly working with a royal family it’s best to show professionalism instead of saying you thought they were fake and spam. I would have done a “thank you it would be our pleasure to meet with you.”

    For me the last paragraph of asking questions without being invasive makes me wonder – what type of questions are you asking. Strike that line out and just leave in we thank you for your candid response so as best to understand your needs.

  16. Parcae

    Our director of operations writes like this– very deferential, with lots of explanations and apologies for things that don’t need explanation or forgiveness. If it wasn’t for the mention of the State Department, I’d suspect that she wrote this letter! The style makes me a little crazy, but it seems to mostly work for her. (I have my theories on why, but mostly I think it’s that her writing is a fair representation of her personality. WYSIWYG. The clients who respond well to her in person tend to like her over email as well.)

    The fun part is when the director of ops asks me to edit her work. My style is completely different; I try to write simply and without apology, but with more informal language because I think it sounds warmer. When editing, the point isn’t to make the director sound like me, but to temper the more extreme examples of her style. ;) Here, I’d try to convince her to strike the entire second paragraph. I also might point out that the emphasis on candor, integrity, and “every penny count[ing]” was a little overly formal and defensive, but it’s not the hill I want to die on.

    1. Parcae

      Also, and more to the point of the OP’s question: it isn’t rude or presumptuous to ask for business things in a business relationship. Remember that the other party is allowed to say no… which isn’t rude either!

      My organization does a lot of work with nonprofits and governmental agencies. Some of them have lots of money; many of them have almost none. We are always upfront about our standard rates and expenses (which include travel!), but note that if our prospective client’s budget doesn’t allow for X, we are very happy to work with them to find another solution. You never know what’s possible for a client until you talk to them, so the point is to open up the conversation.

  17. Ask a Manager Post author

    Now I’m feeling terrible about having all these people tell the OP the letter needs worked, presumably after it’s already been sent and it’s too late to change it! OP, for what it’s worth, I’m sure you are far from the only person/company who may have gone a little overboard with deference in dealing with royal families, and I doubt they’ll think anything of it. So please don’t worry about this (if you are)!

    1. Mike B.

      Yeah, this is not the kind of thing that ruins relationships before they’ve even begun. If you show effectiveness and professionalism in your actual interactions with the royal visitor, that’s what they’ll take away. Just be a little more concise and matter-of-fact in future correspondence.

    2. fposte

      And they doubtless deal with people from many different cultures, some of which write with more flourish in business anyway.

    3. AMG

      This is what I was wondering. Was it a minor phrasing thing or just so weird that the client may cancel the meeting. I know that in many instances, the consulting company will assist a bit for free, so I would have been reluctant to even ask for travel reimbursment anyway.

      It would be great if someone on this thread had some experience in dealing with royalty from that particular country, because I think that would clarify a lot about the nuances of the letter (if any are needed).

    4. Jamie

      I agree that they are probably used to dealing with exactly this kind of thing – this cannot possibly even place in their rankings of most deferential emails. And I’m sure they get that the vast majority of the world has zero experience in dealing with royalty of any kind.

      I do think it’s helpful though as I’ve seen letters this OTT in regular business. In sales but also from internal people. Usually new to dealing with management and they try to adopt a much more formal tone so for all of those people who read this (which will be considerably more than those looking here for tips in dealing with monarchies) to learn that using your own voice is more effective will be a huge benefit to them.

      In that sense it is a good public service.

      I feel bad for piling on when I should have refreshed the comments before posting, since I didn’t add anything new, but I hope the OP will understand it’s commentary on one letter and not take it too personally.

    5. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

      It’s how you learn. The basic situation will present itself multiple times over the years and one single deal won’t make or break the business.

      IMO, the issue wasn’t the way the letter was written per se, but the mentality behind it. I approach every potential customer interaction with the mentality of being on even footing with the client because, I am, so let’s work out a partnership that makes sense for both of us. I do this, you do this, sound good?

      I *will* spend time and money first when I believe the other party is acting in good faith, but we don’t do performances on command and there’s no reason to apologize or explain. I believe it sets bad habits in the relationship ongoing.

      1. AnonAnalyst

        I couldn’t put my finger on quite what sounded off in this letter to me, but this is it exactly. This is when expectations are formed, and tone does matter (believe me, in my current job, we’re still many years later dealing with issues from long-time customers where this type of overly deferential expectation was set in the original sales process, and once the relationship is established, it’s often very, very difficult to recalibrate).

        I also, frankly, as a customer would be turned off by the over explaining. It sounds to me like you’re being defensive. Usually I don’t care why something happened the way it did; all I want to know is that you’ll fix it and it won’t happen again. As a prospective customer, the excessive explanations would make me wonder what happens when something goes wrong: do I get the hour long background of how it happened and why it’s not your fault, or are you going to fix it and let all of us move on?

        However, neither of these things would make me cancel the meeting or call off the deal, so OP, don’t worry too much about this one communication (also, as someone else mentioned, the client probably won’t ever see it as a lot of their day-to-day communications and business are probably handled by a team of other people)! I just wanted to throw a couple of additional ideas out there to consider for the future.

    6. Sam P

      To be fair, the OP asked for feedback after the fact, and that’s part of the risk, knowing you’re going to get feedback that requires time travel to implement.
      The truth is that the letter wasn’t great, and while it’s too late to fix THIS letter, other people can learn from it, and the OP can learn how to improve future communications with this party.

    7. LJL

      My default is, when unsure, to be more formal than needed than less. It has served me well, and I hope it serves you here well too. To me, it sounds like a bit more formal than it needs to be, but that is the side to err on.

  18. Ive BeenThere

    So the irony is that this overwrought, long winded letter keeps lecturing about how valuable time is. To me it seems amateurish. I agree with previous comments, get to the point.

  19. Katherine

    If you can find the money to, I would run this letter by a cross-cultural communications consultant or at the very least someone who has done business in this culture – who you may want to retain to work with this client in general.

  20. Marzipan

    To me it sounds as though you’ve tried to be so polite and deferential that it reads a little over-described. “Modest yet lively” sounds more like a romantic heroine than a business, and putting anything in inverted commas makes it sound either mildly sarcastic or as though you want to distance yourself from it, so ‘our time’ comes across oddly. I think the request for expenses is perfectly reasonable, but my advice in dealing with them (or, hey any other royal families who happen along) in future would be to keep it businesslike – polite, but not volunteering loads of explanation that hasn’t been asked for.

  21. John R

    I’ve done a lot of consulting and contract work but never for a royal family so have no advice to offer but did want to say GOOD FOR YOU for doing due diligence up front, and if they tell you they need to move $10 million out of their country and will pay you if you put up a small fee up front RUN :).

  22. Ive BeenThere

    Also keep in mind, the actual Royals aren’t going to see your letter, only the people that work for them. So forget the letter and give them a great presentation!

    1. jag

      The vast majority of the time. But not always.

      In fact, in some places there might be a very large royal family (I know of one with at least 10,000 members), some of whom take care of their own business at times, with help from assistants. But they might look at some of their own correspondence.

  23. Jamie

    It’s an unusual combo of bossy and obsequious. Apologizing for normal business practices while bluntly putting them on notice that you are making sure they aren’t wasting your time. Of course the initial outreach should be such that both sides are making sure the meeting is mutually beneficial – but this reads more like the OP’s company has been burned before and is wary of going down any rabbit holes chasing unicorns.

    Paragraph 2 I’d cut entirely.

    Paragraph 4 I’d lose the phrase “allocation of human resources” but I have a bias against buzzwords and would prefer more human-speak.

    Paragraph 5 I’d rewrite entirely and just outline your expectations for travel expenses presenting reasonable, normal SOP and letting them know with whom to speak if they have questions. The reference about respect for their time is particularly off putting to me – don’t tell people how you will emotionally interpret their response to a basic request.

    Think about it – someone at work wants to schedule a meeting with you and asks you to bring XYZ data to go over. Fine. If they point out that they expect you to show up on time and bring the data because it will prove to them you have respect for their time…yikes. All true – but stating it directly doesn’t set the table for a cooperative environment. It would feel like a impotent attempt at trying to convince me they had the upper hand.

    Paragraph six – just mention that there is an attached list of questions per their offer to answer these beforehand. And asking someone to answer such a list candidly reads like this: “I assume your natural inclination would be to spin/shine me on/or otherwise me disingenuous when answering these so I am specifically requesting you be honest and forthright.”

    No one who had zero intention of being candid suddenly became so because of a direct request. That’s on you to try to vet the answers and arrange for follow ups if you don’t have what you need to proceed.

    1. Jamie

      Sorry – and the closing doesn’t need any more than a thank you and look forward to hearing from/working with you. Keep it simple.

  24. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)

    Yikes. The comments on this letter are harsh! Fine, lots of people agree with Alison that the tone of the letter is off – why the need to keep restating it?

    1. fposte

      Agreed, and they seem to be intensifying. Alison, is there a redirect or something for the conversation? I’m feeling bad for the OP.

    2. Steve G

      I just added a comment before seeing this. I agree, but mine was just a few edits. I always had things edited at past jobs and I was fine with it, so I hope the OP is ok with me offering up some

    3. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

      Writing effective sales letters is a thing, an important one . If someone submitted a resume for review and the input was that the resume needed to be entirely re-written, is that overly harsh? Not if it helps them get a job.

      1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)

        No, but 25 people saying the resume is off-base and needs to be entirely rewritten is overly harsh.

        If you have new content to add, go for it. If you’re just agreeing with someone else’s negative assessment, I don’t know that it’s helpful – at least in this case, where the OP hasn’t shown herself to be defensive/pushing back/etc.

        1. Anonacademic

          I was cringing so hard after the first paragraph that I couldn’t even read the rest. I think it’s valuable for the OP to know why the email engenders thaat response.

          1. AndersonDarling

            I didn’t get very far either. But I figured the LW took this approach because this was the language of the initial correspondence from the potential client.

            1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)

              That was my assumption, too – that whoever wrote the letter took their cues from the interactions they had already had.

  25. wgs

    Aside from the obsequious tone, I find some of the grammatical errors to be most offensive. I hope this was a reworded example you sent to AAM and not the final draft sent to the prospective client. Invest in proofreaders?

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      I’m a huge stickler about grammar and I didn’t have any major issues with the grammar. (There’s a comma splice toward the end but those are hardly unusual or outrageous.)

      1. 18.75 steps / octave

        Seconded – I didn’t see any particularly bad grammar, either.

        In general, while it’s cool that everyone is making comments and stuff, I think this letter is suffering from a bit of “over-examination”. If the client party is legit / ultra-wealthy, then I strongly suspect that they deal with an extremely wide range of different response styles, as well as various degrees of paranoia (it’s unfortunate that the ultra-rich have to suffer because scammers have made everyone very, very wary. I simply can’t begin to describe how sad this makes me).

        If this is a legit business opportunity, I’d forget about the letter and start worrying about the actual in-person presentation. That’s where preparation and attention to detail is gonna count.

  26. Just me

    This is essentially a sales or marketing piece. In these situations, always address the “what’s in in for me?” aspect. As a potential business partner, they don’t care what’s in it for you. You are willing to meet with them, here’s the value. After showing value you can mention the price.

    Your letter talks about the value of your time to you, not to the royal family. Succinctly saying you would love to meet with them, listing the benefits of the meeting, then indicating the need for reimbursement would likely had felt less awquard and more effective.

  27. Steve G

    I would just delete the second paragraph and the reference to “this is our first request like this” and make the “travel” section shorter.

    I also think that if you have a unique product, you should be offering up an NDA instead of relying on the customer to say whether they want one (why would they want one, it’s you’re information on the line for the most part).

    Lastly, and this one isn’t a must, just my perception, but I’d change: “We do not intend for them to be personally or professionally invasive.” to simply “this information will help us xyz ” so they know why you’re asking.

  28. TotesMaGoats

    Not going to touch the letter beyond saying I agree with all the comments about tone and structure.

    Is asking them to pay for travel wrong? I’m going to say in this situation, no. They sought you out. They want you to come and pitch your product, so it doesn’t seem far fetched for them to pay for your travel. If it was the other way around, I’d feel differently. But I’m not in the business world and don’t know what’s actually appropriate in these situations. That’s just my gut feeling.

  29. Courtney

    Due diligence is good. Your company should never feel bad about doing due diligence. I realize that wasn’t part of your question but good job on that.

    1. Chinook

      Another one echoning congrats on the due diligence. This could have easily been a set up for a long game con.

  30. LizNYC

    While this letter, in places, sounds a little too deferential, I don’t think it’s overly problematic. The company I work for would probably send a similar email, especially for such an outside-the-norm request. As for the chasing unicorns paragraph, we’d probably have that conversation over the phone rather than commit it to writing, as a “hey, we’re really interested, but we’ve been burned in the past. We need more info so this meeting is mutually beneficial to both!”

  31. Chinook

    Question – is part of the reason OP wants to pad out the letter because she is dealing with royalty and not just a run-of-the-mill business? The reality is that, unless they are your political/territorial leader (i.e. Queen Elizabeth doing business in Canada), they deserve no more reverence or explanation than any other potential client. The Windsors explain it best by talking about their life as “the family business” and I believe they wouldn’t expect to be treated any differently than any other high profile client.

    To my ear, OP, it soudns like you are trying to be more polite and ground-scraping than is required. AAM is right – cut down on the explanations and state the terms as you would for anyone else.

    1. Jamie

      For some people it could be a challenge to treat “royalty” with any reverence at all.

      I know you have to do what you have to do in business, but as someone who cannot for the life of me wrap my head around any kind of monarchy/royalty deal – so I’d just try to get some concrete advise on what they expect and if we wanted their business try to meet the protocol expectations.

      I think it would be hard for a lot of people to understand the concept of interacting differently with royalty (especially those from countries with no ties to a royal family) and could easily err on the side of too casual or too formal. It’s just such a foreign concept to me and I can’t be the only one.

      1. MK

        Here’s the thing, though, and I speak as someone from a country where titles are unconstitutional, your understanding or your approval are not required. All you need to internalise is that you are dealing with a foreign dignitary, someone who is in some way a member of another nation’s government. This might not matter at all day in the context of your business relationship, but would be a good idea to remain aware of their position (to avoid causing a diplomatic incident, if nothing else). If you have moral objections, don’t do business with them.

        1. Chinook

          “All you need to internalise is that you are dealing with a foreign dignitary, someone who is in some way a member of another nation’s government. ”

          That is a great way of putting it, MK. When I look at our Governor General and their provincial counterparts, I look at them as both representatives of the monarchy and of our country (sort of a symbol on legs). As a result, I would treat them as I would want my country treated. Royalty and elected heads of state often function the same way when they are in business mode.

          That being said, there are defintiely cultures where the scraping and over polite language would be approrpriate and a sucesseful businesswoman needs to recognize the value of not looking like a doofus in the eyes of a potential client..

          1. MK

            Of course it’s a good idea to try and treat your potential clients according to their ideas of civility, not your own. But I generally find that people who visit other countries in an official capacity are expecting cultural differences, usually they are even briefed about the relevant customs.

        2. Jamie

          I couldn’t agree with you more. That’s what I meant when I said if I wanted to do business with them I’d get some expert advice to teach me how to best communicate with them because what I think of them personally is irrelevant.

          Ditto if there was some big celebrity that I couldn’t care less about but they wanted to be treated in a certain way – if you want the client you do it whether you think they deserve the special treatment or not.

      2. jag

        I deal with royalty, nobility, presidents, government ministers and other “big shots” from time to time. Today I got an email from someone who works with the Pope, for example, who stated he had shared something we sent him, at his request, with the Pope.

        Be accurate in how they are addressed – is it His Highness or His Royal Highness? Her Excellency? etc. Not all princes are crown princes – if someone is a crown prince, in most cases that is use. Nobility is not the same as royalty. Etc. The terms have meaning – look it up if you don’t know the right way, or ask a contact in the other person’s office.

        Beyond that, treat them as you treat any other important person you are making first contact with – with clarity and seriousness plus an assumption that their time is valuable, as is yours.

        That’s it. Nothing special other than the how they are addressed. There might be other details of protocal in meetings, etc. Cross that bridge if you get to it.

        After first contact, things can change if you end up close to the person. My royal intern asked to simply be addressed by her first name, which we did.

        Also, what MK said. THOUGH it’s worth mentioning there are some people who claim to be royalty but do not represent any country that still exists. They or their ancestors included sovereigns, but they were thrown out or the country eliminated recognition of royalty. Generally, if I was looking for business, I’d still use a royal term of address, the same as I call someone Mr. or Ms. or Dr. depending on their position and preference.

  32. Christian Troy

    OP I think if you are starting to acquire a lot of global clients, it might not be the worst thing in the world to retain someone even on a consultant basis in the global communications field. I do think there are some parts of the letter that don’t translate well (like chasing unicorns) and it might help to have someone who is more familiar with the culture of origin who can guide your communication.

    So I don’t think it’s awful to ask for them to pay for your plane tickets, but I also think it might be time to reflect seriously on the direction of your company if it’s going in a global direction.

    1. V.V.

      Not to pile on (you were very brave to share your letter OP) but do play it safe and leave talk of ‘Unicorns’ out of business correspondence.

      Maybe it doesn’t say much for me, but if I as a Native English Speaker can completely miss your reference (Unicorns? WTH? Is this a drug thing?) or worse, decide it’s inappropriate (why is what other clients do MY problem?), someone who speaks English as a second language could really get lost.

      Imagine needing to take the time to look up the word “Unicorn” and still not seeing how it fits. With so much at stake, you don’t want someone getting hung up on this point.

      You may not have lots of cash at your disposal, but Christian Troy’s idea might “save you a headache”, especially if you don’t have the time to “sweat the details”. (Oops I did it countless times, myself!)

      That’s my bit. Good luck!

  33. Merry and Bright

    This is tricky. But, having worked in two government departments dealing with the staff of overseas royal families and also various embassies, and assisted in drafting emails, this will pretty much hit the right note – but it depends on the culture. You can get a flavour of it if you have already received corrrspondence from them.

    In some oriental cultures, for instance, wording is so polite and deferential that if I were to word correspondence like that to colleagues or friends, they would say WTF is she on about? But in that setting it is just correct and manages relationships well.

    So I would say it depends on the country you are contacting.

  34. Betty (the other Betty)

    I wonder if “We have chased a few unicorns in the past …” and “…human allocation costs” will make sense to someone who is not a native English speaker.

    Although I understand asking the client to cover travel costs, in my opinion it would have been fine to charge for the consultation as well. Undercharging can lead to clients that undervalue your work. I would have suggested stating a single price for the consultation that included enough for airline, hotel, and staffing costs. If the letter-writer lands the project, they will probably have to travel in the future as well, and it would be best to be straightforward about those costs upfront.

    But I’ve given potential clients less-than-perfect responses in the past, and sometimes it works out just fine. Good luck, Letter Writer! Hope this works out for you!

  35. jhhj

    Having worked with European companies, unnecessary wording and creepy levels of politeness (even compared to Canada) are de rigueur there. American style writing comes off as not just brusque but unbearably rude.

    I had a French to English business terminology dictionary and they had about twelve different long, flowery salutations of five to twenty words all four different purposes that were translated as “thank you”.

    1. EB

      As someone who has also worked with European counterparts, I agree, the level of politeness I had to use is way higher than in the US, and some of the phrasing and always using titles did weird me out. Also, there was much more correspondence exchanged between counterparts before we got to the point – sometimes it seemed to my American sensibility that the conversation happened in a long, drawn out manner, but I was basically mirroring the EU approach (though, this depends on the country).

      This has been true for some Asian counterparts I’ve corresponded with as well – I find I have to write much more formal letters that would have many critiques here also accusing me of obsequiousness, but because my position (which doesn’t get much respect in the US) gets more respect in these countries, the way I write my counterparts in the US would be viewed as extremely rude or extremely familiar (you only write that way to people you know very well).

      On the other hand, I get letters worded like the one in the post here from foreign counterparts as well, so while I would have dropped some of the Americanisms (chasing a Unicorn), I have to say this did not strike me as super weird if you take the assumption that it is going to a non-US person.

      You can always find something wrong with a written piece, but I don’t think people should be piling on the way they are.

  36. Colorado

    Take out the second paragraph. I couldn’t get past the unicorns, that could easily get lost in translation Keep it simple and yes, it’s okay to ask to for travel expenses. Good Luck!

  37. Sales

    For next time…

    I would have encouraged you to do more qualification of this opportunity. It’s great that you know it’s not a scam now, but rather than asking for money to travel, why not ask for a web meeting or teleconference to better understand their goals and why they came to you? Frame it as wanting to make sure that time isn’t wasted on either end and you are directly addressing their needs and goals.

    If they refuse, they likely aren’t serious–they want you to invest in flights, travel, etc but they don’t have an hour for you? If they agree, you have some time to better understand your potential buyer, their interest in buying, and their seriousness. Maybe that gets you to a point where you’re willing to pay the travel yourself because this opportunity really seems like it has legs.

    If this comes up for you again, I’d focus my ask there, rather than on paying for travel.

    1. Development professional

      I have to respectfully disagree here. If this is the UAE or Saudis, as a commenter above surmised and I agree, offering a web meeting or teleconference absolutely will not be acceptable as a substitution. From a cultural perspective in the region (and in many parts of the world outside North America and Europe) it is in no way the same thing. That being said, it is unlikely that they would object (or even really bat an eyelash) at being asked to pay for travel costs.

      I also strongly agree with the suggestion above about looking in to a consultant who specializes in global business communication, if they expect a growing international client base. There are massive variations in norms on everything from style to vocabulary to the order and sequencing of meetings that will be critical to successful business. And it often surprises me how a few of the commenters here seem not to think of that – remember the thread last week with people complaining about the phrase “please do the needful” ? It’s a colloquialism that’s very common in India, not just something that you personally find strange and therefore annoying.

      1. Sales

        The goal is not to have a web conference as a substitute. The goal is to ask for a web conference as a pre-meeting to gauge their level of interest and seriousness (as well as to best position both sides for an effective in-person meeting).

        Perhaps this specific case is a cultural exception. But that doesn’t change the general observation that OP is extremely uncomfortable pushing back on prospects in even a very basic way, and over the long term that’s going to lead to a lot of unicorn chasing and not a lot of actual deals.

        1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

          I concur muchly.

          I’m happy to work around how the customer would like to provide me with more information — I wouldn’t push for a web conference if they were disinclined — but I won’t spend a ton of time or money on a prospect who is resistant to giving me the basic information I need in order to decide how best to proceed (to our mutual benefit).

        2. MsMollyD

          Yeah, this was going to be my advice too. That the OP should try to set up a pre-travel web meeting with someone from the royal’s office to clarify some details of the request. That way they’d know if it was worth both of their time to make the travel arrangements for an in-person meeting.

      2. jag

        Yeah.

        Also worth mentioning that the Saudi royal family has 15,000 (fifteen thousand!!!!!!) members. Not all are as cash rich as they project themselves to be.

        1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

          I did several orders with Saudi royals, TRUE STORY.

          It was hysterical and if I told you the products (which I can’t) it would be so funny ya’ll would laugh with me.

          Did honestly think it was Nigerian prince emails when the inquiries came in. I deleted them, had second thoughts, and fished out of the trash.

          Very polite people and easy transactions. We didn’t believe it was really real until the payments cleared.

  38. The RO-Cat

    I believe many commenters here treat this letter as a run-of-the-mill business correspondence, which it is not. In that setting, the text would, obviously, seem obsequious. In a different situation… well, when in Rome do what Romans do, right? (And yeah, I know, blue blood or not this is just a client… but it does make sense sometimes to get out of your comfort zone to secure a specific account).

    OP, I do hope you did your research and tried to match the style of the prospective client. If so, no worries. As about your question on asking them to pay for the flight: I don’t do it usually, but it doesn’t seem to me that much of a problem for an outlier or a very specific situation / client. I requested the client to pay for my travel expenses for an initial meeting only once. They didn’t bat an eyelash – but they were a company, not royalty. Fingers crossed for you – if anything, a royal family makes for a good portfolio client… and probably some good stories to tell later.

    As about style: I’m an European and yes, I tend sometimes to perceive the American approach as brusque (I got used to it, it is just my initial reaction). Even e-mails might get longer and more polite at certain times. So… long meanders and big blocks of text might just get you in sometimes.

  39. Humbled_OP

    Damn. (First thought that came to mind.)
    Damn. (Second thought … so on and so on.)
    So, the power of this blog is HUGE… Alison explained this would be run @ 11am today. I went into a meeting @ 10:30am and BAM! just got a chance to read it. I found 90+ comments. Thank you all for taking the time.
    Let’s offer some more background now.
    I’m the co-owner of a start-up with a very niche product & service. I wear a few hats and have few to no resources. I’m very big on lessons learned and even bigger on relationships . So for many of you that think I should not have written the letter. You’re probably right. For those that appeared to be overly critical… you weren’t. A huge lesson I learned from the past 5 – 7 years is… don’t be afraid to fail. Put yourself out there. Listen more, talk less. You’ve heard them all…
    For me, if everyone were to tell me ‘how pretty my baby looked’ then I would never learn. I need harsh criticism as long as there are learning points. And yes, in this letter there were many.
    One thought that I had to consider,… the typical business correspondence that we learn in higher education teaches us to consider your audience. We learn the structure, the purpose and possibly leave an impression. If the writing appeared deferential, obsequious or inexperienced… and that is what the reader remembers… well at least he/she remembered. It seems like too many correspondence letters are boilerplate and borderline SPAMMY.
    My only intention was to seem humbled, thankful and honest. My takeaway from this… I should consider the cultural correspondent consultant or post to askamanager.org before I hit send. You all have been great, thank you.

    1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

      I am so glad I spent the few minutes to write. I’m on your side. I have been doing this, good god, nearly 30 years now. Qualifying potential clients and setting the right tone for an ongoing relationship is IT. I mean literally IT, the key to a profitable business, with clients you like, and a happy life.

      Welcome to the journey!

  40. Wilton Businessman

    Back when I was in the Consulting gig, we considered travel costs as the cost of doing business just like payroll, accounting, and janitorial service. Somebody eventually paid for it one way or the other. If we got the job, the client paid for it inflated rates. If we didn’t get the job, everybody’s quarterly bonus was a bit smaller.

    That being said, I agree with AAM that you don’t have to necessarily go into details about why you want them to cover the expenses. I don’t know that I would have used the word “obsequious” (OK, let’s face it, I had to google the definition) to describe that section, but I’m sure I could come up with some other vernacular words for it.

    Obviously I’m not in your business, but I think if a consultant asked me to cover his travel expenses for an initial meeting, I’d probably say “Thanks but no thanks”.

    1. MK

      “No thanks” is what I would say to a perspective client who wanted me to travel at my own cost to meet them without being specific about what they had in mind for our business transaction. If I understand correctly, the client is being vague about their requirements, so it could be that the OP cannot do what they need or will not accept the deal or their profit will be so small that the expense of the travel won’t be justified. So I think it makes sense to ask for expenses front on this one.

  41. NinaK

    Hi OP =)
    You built this business, have attracted attention from royalty and you are humble enough to wonder whether your letter could be improved. You also posted that great comment in appreciation for the feedback (which seemed like a pile on to me). YOU are the real deal.

    1. Have courage and be kind - Austin, TX

      +1

      OP, like Jamie and NinaK, I’m inspired by your approach to learning — your startup is lucky to have you!

  42. Alibor Pius

    it a right thing they did, one need to be aware of the expense in flight and accommodation. base on the first time, it never a wrong idea. the Royal families might take it as an insult, but it the right thing to be sure of.

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