Reasons You (and Your Team) Should Travel More for Business
How’s this for a long commute: Nearly every week, I fly to Chicago from my home in Dallas to spend Tuesday through Thursday in the office with my team.
Why do I travel this frequently when technology can connect me with my team members and our clients without my ever leaving my chair? It’s not for the reward miles. I make the trip because I know how valuable face-to-face meetings are with teams, clients, prospects, and partners.
I’m not alone in this preference. A recent study from the London School of Economics found that face-to-face contact was the most important mechanism for effective communication and higher productivity.
The Limits of Technology
Remote work arrangements are fine many days, but technology definitely has its limitations. When you work from home, for example, you mute the phone so that no one hears your barking dog — only to realize no one has heard anything you said because you’re still on mute. Then, too, you miss out on the spontaneous conversations that lead to discoveries and new ideas.
My team used a videoconferencing service to plan for a panel with two of our key partners, but all the dropped calls, video freezes, and background noise were disrupting the flow of ideas and conversation. And when video isn’t available or doesn’t have enough bandwidth to operate, it’s difficult to pick up on the reactions and emotional cues essential to human communication. The message was clear: We should have just met in person.
And then there are those experiences that, frankly, are possible only in person. Last month, we flew 20 team members from Chicago, London, Paris, and Minneapolis to San Francisco for a marketing meeting. We toured the city and met people from other travel startups. Yes, we could have met remotely. Yes, it was an expense. But because everyone was there in person, we had the opportunity to not only bond as a team and plan for the upcoming year, but also to expose the team to innovative ideas that will drive future partnerships. Employees were empowered to think beyond the scope of their daily tasks. That’s something they’d never get from staring at a screen.
How Travel Builds a Business
KPMG research shows that the B2B companies that win in crucial moments are those that obsess about customers. Trust is won or lost at key moments, and successful firms embrace those trust-building moments when they come. As a chief experience officer, I know we won’t be successful developing or marketing products without client input. Every in-person client visit and industry event is a powerful way to capture that feedback. That is why members of our team attend quarterly business reviews with our clients and host regional client events to share upcoming product enhancements and solicit feedback.
Face time isn’t just for clients, either. Getting up close and personal also helps co-workers nurture positive relationships. And in a startup office environment like ours, in-person interactions can improve collaboration and creativity. For instance, our tech team faces off in monthly games of Dungeons & Dragons. Playing together is a key element in building trust and making sure everyone feels comfortable working together to tackle bigger issues. Plus, it helps the team members get to know one another as individuals.
Beyond our clients, we have to foster relationships with our vendors and with up-and-coming companies. We attend supplier conferences and industry trade shows to ensure we have ample face time with all our partners. After all, these are the folks who help us spur innovation and deliver the products and services our clients want.
What Presence Will Teach You
Above all, managers need to be present. Sure, remotely handling a workforce is doable given today’s technology. But if you’re a boss, you need to be with your team in person more often than not. As the leader, I carry the pleasure (and the burden) of traveling. But I don’t mind, because I know that face-to-face conversations help me get to know people at a deeper level and uncover their strengths.
Finally, B2B sales still require relationships. Products, features, and functionality are of course requirements, but when customers have multiple providers to choose from, the companies they can build relationships with will always come out on top.
I’ll soon be cramming myself back into an airplane seat. I may spend a lot of time stuffed into uncomfortable spaces, but on the upside, I’ve built a stronger immune system from touching all those hotel remote controls. The bottom line? I won’t be giving up my triple-platinum status anytime soon. Every smile and warm handshake I share with a client or a team member proves to me that literally going the extra mile is worth it.
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