Recently our Inkbench CEO, George Abraham and I embarked on a cross-country business trip to the Mile High City—Denver, CO. Inkbench was sponsoring the IFPG Denver Regional Mixer and we spent the day (and evening) with IFPG members. Not knowing what to expect, we quickly realized it was an extraordinary opportunity to learn from, and network with franchisors, other supplier/partners, consultants and the IFPG team. We also had the good fortune to be invited to a lively rooftop reception at the Franchise Tailgate the evening before, reconnecting with some familiar faces, while making new “FranFriends.”
Overall, Denver was a very successful business trip on many levels and here are just three of the valuable lessons I learned (or relearned):
1. Meeting in-person yields important business and personal benefits.
Whether you’re connecting (or reconnecting) with a colleague, client, business partner, friend or family member, a face-to-face meeting is much more compelling and meaningful than a virtual interaction via email, text, phone call, or video conferencing.
As humans, we actually long for personal interaction. This became especially apparent during our recent lockdowns. “People who are forced to be isolated, crave social interactions similarly to the way a hungry person craves food,” shared Rebecca Saxe, MIT Professor of Brain and Cognitive Sciences. “Positive social interactions are a basic human need, and acute loneliness…motivates people to repair what is lacking, similar to hunger.”
Social interaction is also critical for happiness. “Social connection, which is created by being (together), is the greatest predictor of long-term happiness and the greatest long-term predictor of success, emphasized Shawn Achor, a NY Times best-selling author who has lectured in 50+ countries and whose TED Talk, The Happy Secret to Better Work (one of my favorites) has more than 23 million views. “In fact, success doesn’t make us happier, but happiness makes us more successful...it is also as predictive of how long you will live as obesity, high blood pressure, or smoking.”
Additionally, “small talk” that transpires during personal meetings helps us build relationships and trust among the people we interact with. And, of course, eye contact and body language are critical for reading each other’s cues so we can communicate more naturally.
So, while technology has provided us with a convenient, efficient means of communicating, it can’t and shouldn’t replace the value and satisfaction of in-person interaction.
“Social connection, which is created by being (together), is the greatest predictor of long-term happiness and the greatest long-term predictor of success." - Shawn Achor, NY Times Best-Selling Author
2. Networking builds our circle of colleagues and friends.
Our business goals, as a franchisor, supplier/partner or consultant, often include acquiring new clients and rewarding loyal customers/franchisees, building strategic partnerships with agencies/suppliers, and hiring new staff. Networking is a valuable tool to expand our sphere of influence, boost top-of-mind awareness and help us achieve our business and personal objectives.
Networking can also help us build, and earn, people’s trust. As we know, people trust people; they don’t trust businesses. “(Networking) is not necessarily about the idea or the deal. It's about people believing in people. Building a strong and far-reaching network leads to the most exciting opportunities,” said Sheree Rubinstein from One Roof in an HuffPost Australia interview.
Successful networking requires our focused engagement. According to Rubinstein: “The art of 'good networking' is about creating a good first impression: Remembering a person's name in the first encounter, giving that person your undivided attention, asking that person questions, listening to their answers and showing genuine interest are the best ways to create a good first impression. Successful networking requires constant nurturing and building a relationship over time.”
While networking requires us to “plant seeds” and patiently nurture the growth, that new relationship can bear much “fruit” from added client and partnership leads and new career opportunities to filling job vacancies within your company.
3. Travel expands our minds.
A business trip may take you to a rural town with stunning natural beauty or to a bustling city surrounded by skyscrapers. No matter the destination, travel engages us in new experiences that stretch our imaginations and ultimately expand our minds.
Business travel can also boost our self-confidence. When we travel, we step outside our daily routines and often our comfort zones, which can be intimidating. Knowing we must rely on ourselves, though, to catch that flight on time, locate that hard-to-find restaurant, and/or check into a unfamiliar hotel builds reassurance and self-reliance, especially for that next trip or even the upcoming adventures in our daily lives.
When we travel, it’s the perfect time to take notice of the culture and surroundings, and engage with the people along the way, whether it’s the passenger alongside us on the airplane, the hotel concierge, or a waiter at a nearby café. Everyone has a story to share and it may be a learning experience or a teaching opportunity.
You may also consider extending your trip to experience more of your destination. Perhaps tour the area, rent a bicycle and go for a ride or attend a concert. If you have a friend or family member in town, you now have a good excuse to reconnect. It’s also a good time to ponder if you’d like to return to that spot for vacation or if it could be a future place to live or even retire. In the wise words of Hans Christian Anderson, "To travel is to live." So, why not take advantage of the opportunity when it presents itself and imagine all the wonderful possibilities.
As I reflected on our Denver trip, I realized the benefits of business travel are far more substantial than we appreciate. George and I engaged with a wonderful group of Zors and supplier/partners at the Franchise Tailgate. We then spent time with IFPG members on a Discovery bus tour and visited Teriyaki Madness, Stretch Labs, Yoga6 and Waxxpot franchises, followed by a wonderful networking dinner and fun outing at Top Golf. We also were in awe of the breathtaking views of Mile High City. And, George even extended his trip to indulge in one of his favorite past-times—mountain biking!
All in all, it was a successful mission on many levels and, best of all, we were able to add more members to our own FranFam! Not bad for a two-day business trip!