It’s not impossible – just very, very difficult


Back in the early 1990’ies I was seconded by my then-employer, Burson-Marsteller, to head the Hungarian branch of the global public relations firm.

Just a few years earlier the Berlin Wall had come down and the entire Iron Curtain along with it. The Hungarians welcomed the change and everything from the West was in high demand – to the extent that a cigarette maker could successfully launch a cigarette brand named ”West”.

By most people, the changes were perceived to be a great improvement, but change is always scary.

It’s hardly an insult to anyone to say that the communist regimes of Eastern Europe were not exactly results oriented in their approach to business, but at Burson-Marsteller we had Western clients – and they were demanding.

It always followed the same script. Shortly after we had taken on an assignment from a client the account director would step into my office.

”It’s impossible – cannot be done”, they would say.

I would routinely object that nothing is impossible and they would get back to work, but next time they’d still say ”it’s impossible”. I decided that it was forbidden to say those words in the office – and they changed it into:

”It’s not impossible, but it’s very, very difficult”.

This was a major step forward. Difficult things can be done and in a matter of months suggestions on how they could be done flourished.

Today, it seems like a very primitive reaction to change. Where I come from, we have at least learned to say that ”our company is different”.

Or perhaps even, ”I think it is a very interesting idea, but this is a completely different situation”.

Photo: Cristian Ordenes/CC

Steen Reeslev is the managing partner of This Is Touch – a company providing television airtime for corporations in the growth markets of Latin-America, Asia, and Africa. Previously he was senior vice president responsible for Group Relations at A.P. Moller-Maersk. This Is Touch is based on experience from A.P. Moller-Maersk. The company produced a large number of films on all aspects of the business. The high quality of the films gave access to airtime on television in more than 30 markets.