We met almost 15 years ago when I decided to set up a branch of our Swiss company in Malta. During the discussions we had with the authorities at Transport Malta, we received the list of tasks to be completed and the people to be hired in order to reach our goal.
I quickly understood that we were not going to be able to get there alone and that we needed help and skills. But then I asked myself: how are we, from abroad, going to achieve all this ‒ find office space, hire staff, conclude contracts and deal with the administrative burdens that go with the set-up of a new structure?
With a touch of naivety that often goes with a feeling of loneliness, I then asked Transport Malta representative: “Would you happen to know anyone we could contact?” It took him a few seconds to tell me: try Laurence Gatt, a retiree from Air Malta, a good guy, honest, smart and resourceful, who knows the job.
As I had nothing to lose, I contacted Laurence and we met soon thereafter. He arrived at the meeting smiling and relaxed, with his natural elegance, regardless of whether he was wearing a tie or a T-shirt.
I understood at a glance that Laurence was a fair and square man and that I could rely on him; straight away, I had a good feeling about him. And his visible nose made me think that this guy must have good flair for what’s good and what’s not. I liked this, and we quickly found common ground. He would be the director of our Maltese structure and he would organise everything for us, I thought. I was absolutely right.
I let Laurence guide me through the whole process as I was convinced he would take the right decisions. He showed me several offices but eventually recommended that I choose one for a series of reasons. I didn’t even make the effort to decide as I knew he was right. As a result, 10 years later, our offices are still there and we are very satisfied: indeed, Laurence was right.
He then submitted to me a series of candidates he had shortlisted for different positions and gave me specific reasons for hiring each of them. As for the office, I did not challenge his shortlist as I felt Laurence was once again right. Most of the employees he hired are still with us to our full and complete satisfaction.
When some disagreements surfaced between Swiss and Maltese colleagues on the best way to carry out certain tasks due to slightly different personal mindsets, Laurence and I used to have a chat together during which he would quickly manage to moderate my temper and offer his advice on how to solve the issue. In such situations, Laurence was capable of great self-control to achieve a goal and he always managed to get where he wanted to. He knew that courtesy is far more efficient than force.
Laurence’ professional skills, as well as his unfailing and sincere commitment, have been essential to us, but even more so his emotional intelligence, his deep understanding of human nature and his respectful, patient yet determined way of relating to people. Laurence has been crucial in creating a close-knit team despite the geographical distance, and all of us, indistinctly, mourn his final take-off for other skies.
Dear Laurence, sometimes I wonder why we got along so well, and maybe the answer is that we were born on the same day... but not in the same year, as you teasingly used to remind me on each anniversary date.
You know how grateful I am to you, and how sad I am, as are all your colleagues, that you left us so soon.
Thank you Laurence and rest in peace.