In business, success often depends on what you know and who you know. But it really helps if you know, really know, how to get the job done.


That thought came to mind last week during British Prime Minister Tony Blair's visit to Los Angeles. One member of the Blair entourage was Andrew Cahn, who is the new chief executive of the British government agency that fosters overseas business called Trade and Investment. When I met up with Cahn, he explained that he was on the trip to California because Blair wanted a strong economic component to it.


Cahn proceeded to run down some of the myriad business ties between the United Kingdom and Southern California. The United States is the biggest source of direct foreign investment in the United Kingdom, and the West Coast accounts for 40 percent of that. He said his country, unlike some others in Europe, welcomes foreign companies. It has less regulation and more transparent rules. And the language is the same, to boot.


All that's fine and fair, if totally expected. Then he said this: A strong business tie right now between L.A. and the U.K. is the Olympics.


I said something like, "Huh?"


Yes, he said, the Olympics. He explained that since the summer games will be held in England in 2012, work is commencing now to plan, build and manage the event. And a number of companies in Los Angeles know about the special requirements of the Olympics either because they were involved in the 1984 Olympics here or are now involved in the city's bid for the 2016 Olympics.


Companies all over the globe will bid to get some piece of work on the Olympics, but those who have done it before or have watched their neighbors do it are those who enjoy a built-in edge. Those with the experience peculiar to the Olympics understand the deadline pressure, the public-private process for obtaining approvals, the spotlight that's on their work and other specific little ins and outs.


"Companies here know what it takes," said Andrew Lewis, who is the trade consul for the British Consulate General in Los Angeles.


In fact, at least a couple of local companies are involved already, Lewis said.


Anschutz Entertainment Group last year took over an arena in England that used to be called the Millennium Dome, now O2. The dome is envisioned to host the gymnastics competition for the Olympics. In the meantime, AEG can do with the dome what it usually does: stage concerts, games and the like.


Likewise, Jacobs Engineering Group Inc. of Pasadena is in a group that's on a short list of bidders to essentially handle construction management of the Olympic infrastructure. Jacobs has worked on Olympics projects before.


Beyond that, all manner of local architectural and construction firms, as well as event-planning and even entertainment companies, may have a leg up on other bidders for the Olympic business, Lewis and Cahn said.


Successful business people know their business. They know the numbers. They know their customers. They know the capabilities of their people.


But an edge goes to those with deep experience, those who really know how to get the job done.


Charles Crumpley is editor of the Business Journal. He can be reached at ccrumpley@labusinessjournal.com .

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