Travel is an opportunity to nurture your network

2015 is shaping up to be one of those years where I am spending more time than I’d like as a patron of Delta Airlines and Starwood Hotels.  In fact, as I write this I am in the Delta Sky Club at LaGuardia in the middle of trips to New York City and San Francisco.  As I was catching up on my Instapaper reading, I came across John Battelle’s post of “Your Network Transcends Time – Care For It.”  John perfectly captured two conversations that I have had in the recent weeks, one with a colleague at Rockfish and the other a friend who asked how I spend my time at the upcoming SXSW event.

First with my colleague, we had one of those trips where we were going to be traveling across the country to two different cities for business pitches.  The first stop was the West Coast, which meant we had to fly in on Sunday in order to make the pitch on Monday.  So I took advantage of the extra time and organized two different meetings with former colleagues / friends on Sunday and then another breakfast meeting on Monday before the pitch.  We then flew to Missouri for a pitch on Tuesday, where I once again scheduled two separate coffee meetings with friends who lived in the town where we were pitching.  My colleague remarked that I seem to make it my mission to have every single hour booked with something when I’m on the road.  That very topic came up again with SXSW where I talked about the meetings I already had lined up for the entire time I’d be in Austin for SXSW from Thursday night to Sunday morning.

What I have found is that people have different philosophies when they travel for business.  Some focus on the single task at hand that is the reason for the trip.  So they spend their time locked in the hotel room getting ready for that big meeting or presentation.  Others use it as a time to connect with their co-workers, sticking together and going to dinner with the people they are traveling with.  I take a different approach and view every business trip as an opportunity to “care for my network.”  In particular, I am a big believer of the statement that Battelle made in his post when he wrote:

You’re only as good as your relationships – and those relationships often exist outside traditional boundaries of time and space.

Over my career, I have always been in roles that were external by nature.  So in just about every city that I have to travel for business, there is someone from my past that I might be able to reconnect with – whether it is a former P&G colleague that moved to a new company or a startup founder that I had met in the past.  I believe that catching over email can only go so far and thus I love to grab a cup of coffee or a drink with people when I travel to a town.  Those discussions always take a different direction that if you were just catching up via phone or email.  But I also think it is important to expand your network as well.  So for instance on this most recent trip to New York, I not only caught up with some old friends but I also planned meetings with folks I had never met in person.  One was an entrepreneur that was launching a new Brandy and wanted advice on fundraising, while the other was our new contact at a partner company of The Brandery.   Both were fascinating conversations that were well worth the investment of time.

This approach is not for everyone but its one I find works best for me.  And its why my next item on the to-do list is pinging some friends about the next city I’m off to, as well as finalizing that schedule for Austin and SXSW.

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