Saturday, March 28, 2009

Business Travel A Special Experience

No matter how exciting it is to be in a new city, or return to one that is familiar, travel is tiring. For me, it isn’t the big issues that sap my energy (the presentation, the meetings) rather its learning to turn on the light in yet another hotel room, discovering there are no drawers in your room, the light isn’t bright enough to read large pint much less the small print on your blackberry. Keeping your sense of perspective and humor are the real challenges of business travel. Where’s the subway, will it rain, how do I find an International Herald Tribune or an open network so I can download the New York Times ( my Kindle? These are the practical questions that are part of our travel experience – It is finding the answers to these simple questions that seem challenge , consuming unexpected amounts of energy. What keeps us (me) going? I think it’s that on days that work well we remember to take a breath, look around, be happy that we can make the trip. Then we go home enriched by the experience, the people we’ve met but also thankful for the return to the ease of familiar daily routines.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Paris today

Paris. The city of lights, cheese (so many choices its hard to imagine), wine, food, fashion, art. ( In just two days I’ve sampled almost a dozen types of cheese and plan to continue my research, looking for a favorite.

But it isn’t just a city of food, wine and museums, good friends. It’s a place where people work and the people that I’ve talked with sound familiar when they speak about their work. Some are managing a variety of jobs simultaneously. Mix several part time spots and full time becomes 24/7. Others are seeing orders for a part of their product line slip away and having to reduce the hours of their staff to keep them employed.

Our global business community shares the problems of today. There's some good news (still in business) and more challenges (how to grow, stay in place, continue). It appears that wherever we are, we are connected in good times and less good times.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Gifts tell a story

In the last two weeks there’s been much written about gifts – specifically the gifts exchanged when Prime Minister Brown visited President Obama. According to many the gifts given to the British Prime Minister didn’t recognize the importance of the relationship between the countries, didn't acknowledge the personal interests of the Prime Minister. While it isn't clear what the Prime Minister thought it does remind all of us of the importance of details beyond just gifts can be in our relationships.

Don't think that its only at the level of Presidents and Prime Ministers that small gestures can be a way of saying “you are important.” I think of the pink bowties worn by the serving staff at a luncheon where the keynote speaker was the founder of the Susan G. Komen for the Cure ( As pink is the color associated with Komen for the Cure pink flowers were expected, pink bow ties – a surprise acknowledged by the speaker. Something special. Thoughtful.

According to Sam Farmer writing in the Los Angeles Times when the Seattle Seahawks football team was trying to recruit T.J. Houshmandzadeh ( they too thought of the unexpected ways to indicate his importance. They didn’t just offer a salary with many zeros but also had his favorite brand of shoes and gloves with his new (hopefully) team’s logo there to welcome him. An unexpected way to say "we took the time to think about what matters to you".

And that should be the point of our gifts, our small gestures, our greetings - to convey to the people we meet, work with, hope to get to know, future partners, to consult with – that they are important to us. Focus on the individual. Be kind. Today in our rushing around its easy to feel anonymous, just a number. We can change that experience, build stronger connections by thinking carefully about the details. Make them special. People will remember.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Time to Recharge?

Headed to a new destination? Outside the country? You know how to prepare. You call your credit card companies and the bank with your ATM card so you can buy things, get cash without a problem. You copy your passport, scan it into your computer, leave your itinerary with your office, your family.
You figure out which adapters you’ll need to recharge your phone, computer, and whatever other devices you’ll bring. You’re ready to go. But surprises happen.

If you’re accustomed to flying direct from one place to another its easy to forget to check the adapters required when you connect through a third country. Then you may find yourself as I did in the airport lounge at 4:30 AM with every intention of recharging my phone, plugging in my computer except my adapters didn’t work. I was going from LA to Hong Kong, then to Dongguan with adapters for Hong Kong and for China. But none for the airport lounge in Manila. Surprise. Lesson learned. Check, double check and ask yourself, am I prepared for everywhere I’ll be spending time? And remember even when the schedule predicts a two hour stop with just enough time to eat and find the gate can easily turn into 4 plus hours on the ground - Lots of time to recharge - or not.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

The Chinese Economy Revealed

I read Keith Bradsher’s article in the New York Times Article “China’s Unemployment Swells as Exports Falter” just after returning from a visit to Dongguan – a city mentioned in the article as a place where many factories delayed reopening after the Chinese New Year holiday, a place of rising unemployment. Driving around, sitting in meetings listening to people focus on expanding their domestic market rather than exporting, there was no sense of the crisis described in the article. However, there was a clue – one that seems familiar to those of us in Los Angeles or New York. A restaurant where we had dinner one night, a restaurant that usually requires weeks advance notice for a reservation was only a third full. My host remarked that he was extremely surprised that he could get a reservation on the day of the dinner. If you wonder about employment, general economic conditions, you may not need to to check the railroad station to see if there are the throngs of people described in Keith Bradsher’s article, rather check the restaurants that attract a business people. Full or empty? Reservations hard to obtain or can you walk in? Let us hope that reservations become scarce soon.