Last night I met up with a friend for an after-work cocktail. Tom and I had worked together in three different companies. Both of us are in the autumn of our careers, so our conversation quickly evolved into life’s reflections and profound observations.
We laughed about all the crazy experiences we had working together, the places we traveled, the team members we worked with, and the customers we courted. Queue Glory Days by Bruce Springsteen playing softly in the background.
It dawned on me after our conversation that for all the big goals I had for my companies, the best part was the memories and experiences gained on the journey. We had planned and unplanned fun working with a top team, creating and selling products, building the company, and solving problems. The Journey WAS the Reward.
My companies were blessed from the start. We were in software, technology, and mobile computing. We had a family atmosphere, a culture of fun and camaraderie. Our team and our customers were young and energetic. In many cases, we were writing our own rules.
Upon deep reflection, I thought I would share some “rules” (or guidelines?) for a good journey. What made it such an incredible journey? What are the takeaways from this journey I can share?
You’ve heard this before. Nothing motivates a team more than success. As a leader, take the time and effort to recognize and celebrate that success. Not just with your team, but with your customers too!
Do innovative stuff with your customers.
I still get texts and emails today from customers I worked with fifteen years ago. “Remember the midnight Bocce tournament on the lawn at the MGM?” We ran a limo service for customers at a trade show because cab lines were too long. We sent Kansas City Steaks to our buyers after each meeting or on holidays. When Microsoft was hosting a huge party we couldn’t compete with, we would throw a Cigar and Cognac party at an adjacent location.
Entertain in good restaurants.
There is no better way to get quality time with your customer than at an elegant restaurant. Your customer will appreciate it. Your spouse will enjoy it, and, what the heck, you built the company, so you deserve a memorable meal now and then!
Never stay in your room in the evening when traveling.
Nothing fun or productive happened when I stayed in my hotel room watching TV on a business trip. Some ideas: Take a customer out, go out with your colleagues, or tour the city. Something interesting is bound to happen!
Take along your spouse.
My wife was my secret weapon in business. When spouses are involved, the conversation becomes more personal. And it opens the door for your customer to bring their spouse out to a nice dinner—you go from being the home-wrecking business associate to family friends. And why should your spouse stay home when you are on all these incredible trips?
Okay, maybe not the trip to Bismarck, North Dakota, in January, but you get the point.
Take along your kids.
Okay, not all the time. But the most memorable time for my kids (and me) was two summers when my family accompanied me to Europe on business. I worked while they toured Paris, Brussels, Munich, and other EU capitals at ages 10 and 15. It provided them with a unique perspective early in life.
Business has changed a lot in the last 15 years. Sadly, It’s less personal and more remote. But people are still people. They crave social interaction. They like to do business with friends and people they trust. Forget the rules, make an effort, go the extra mile, and think outside the box. Build those relationships, and your business will grow. AND, when you look back, it will be that journey you remember fondly!
December 29, 2022