With the growth of remote working and (almost) reliable video conferencing, travel for work is becoming less and less frequent. That said, for a company like Options, with over 200 customers across 4 continents and 5 time zones, travel is always going to play a huge role.
At Options, rather than treating travel as a necessary evil, we’ve baked it into our company DNA. It’s an integral part of our hiring and on-boarding process, our account management & support model, and it’s a crucial element in how we approach project management and engineering. See the table below for the exact figures, but since we started tracking our travel in JIRA, 12 months ago, Options employees have racked up more than 500,000 miles on the road.
It probably goes without saying but we don’t spend this much time in planes, trains and automobiles for nothing. This amount of travel is crucial in enabling Options to bring its very personal, high touch, customer engagement model to the offices (and, on occasion, homes) of our clients. In particular, we’ve found it to be transformational in three ways:
Meet Clients On Their Terms:
On a recent trip to Hong Kong, I realised just how much making the effort to see a key contact, face-to-face, changes the conversation. Rather than hosting yet another late night conference call, we were able to have a stress-free conversation about business over a few beers. Options even ended up securing some up-sell, which, incidentally, was worth a lot more than my flights and hotel combined.
As we’ve discussed on this blog previously, the personal relationships you make with clients can make or break a firm. Making the effort to meet them where they’re most comfortable, taking the conversation from a yet another meeting room or conference call bridge to something more personal, in a relaxed setting, can have a profound impact on a firm’s bottom-line.
Getting New Hires on the Road:
Travel can also be the silver bullet for a lot of internal issues. For instance, our new graduate hires spend a month in London, a month in New York, and a few weeks in Hong Kong within the first 6 to 12 months of their start date. This can seem like a lot of travel, but we find it to be the quickest way to get them up to speed. Options encourages as much face time with our superstar engineers and project managers as possible, and more often than not, this means the new hire has to go to them.
Similarly, speaking from experience, there is also a huge benefit to a fresh-faced new start having to learn a new city, make friends in a new office and experience a new culture outside of their own back yard. It also gets our hires up the learning curve faster than any handbook or on boarding process ever could. These points, of course, are equally applicable to more senior hires, which brings me to my next point.
It’s Not Just For New Hires:
Getting your new hires out on the road is important, but getting your management team mobile is perhaps even more so. Managing a global organisation is never easy, and smaller, satellite offices can sometimes feel isolated. Having a senior manager visiting a satellite office can have a huge impact on the morale, productivity and skill levels in that office.
Whether it’s a new face meeting the local customer base, getting to know your internal team better, or just showing you mean business in a certain region, a visit from the odd senior engineer or getting a C-level exec on a long haul flight is always worth the time and effort.
So how many air miles have you earned this year and how has it impacted your firm? Done properly, travel can be a hugely powerful resource.
Hugh McNulty – Account Manager, Options