Cambodia can be a hard sell, but Rithy Sear relishes the challenge. When he courts potential business partners from overseas, he listens to their worries about the small size of the market, the flourishing trade in smuggled goods, the corruption. And once they’re done, he begins working tirelessly to reshape their opinions.
Sear’s negotiating advantages are preparation and confidence. He usually doesn’t meet investors in his office. That’s a cluttered, temporary suite in the Phnom Penh headquarters of his Worldbridge International, his logistics, property and investment company. Instead, he chooses the exclusive business lounge on the 12th floor of the Sofitel Hotel, where the floor-to-ceiling windows lead your eyes to The Bridge, his gleaming 45-storey hotel, retail and condominium complex that will be completed by the end of the year. That’s where he’ll present his argument.
Global security company Brink’s got this treatment. It already was a customer of Sear’s logistics company, transporting Tiffany & Co jewellery to Cambodia. But Sear figured that Brink’s could increase its local revenue eightfold if it worked with WorldBridge on offering more services in the country. When it hesitated, the hard-charging entrepreneur says he began a full-court press, flying to any Southeast Asian country that a Brink’s executive happened to be visiting until it signed a joint venture agreement in July.