What I Learned Driving Across Country (East)
Earlier this summer I wrote a blog post about my adventures traveling from New York to Los Angeles by car, where I lived for a month, working from our LA office. My family flew, and joined me before embarking on an unforgettable 2-week journey back East.
After 8,000 miles, 23 states, 5 national parks and 2 countries (almost three), you could say I spent a lot of time reflecting on the road. But seeing the country through the eyes of my daughters, who I like to think my wife and I have taught them about the world beyond their front door, was an experience I completely underestimated.
Eyes wide open and bright, they saw unimaginable beauty that this country has to offer, and together we met people from all over the country – and all over the world. This kind of priceless education will be a family milestone for sure, but it also got me thinking about how this adventure had practical business applications.
So, as part 2 of my blog post – here’s what I learned on the 4,000 mile journey back East, with family in tow:
1) Where’s the “Wow”?
The first week of the journey was pretty easy – it’s impossible not to be impressed by the magnitude and magnificence of Yellowstone National Park. Every 5 minutes was a “wow” in that park, including closer-than-bargained-for encounters with Bison. But heading east afterwards, it’s hard to find the “wow” in places such as Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Chicago’s O’Hare airport and Detroit, Michigan – three of our many overnight stops en route. But along the journey, my wife and I required the kids to find beauty or something special – and journal about it – every day of the drive. They came up with things such as unique cloud formations, funny-looking billboards (hello, Wall Drug) and the cool fountains inside the hotel lobbies as their “wow” for the day.
In business, I consider myself and my teams to be a creative bunch. It’s hard to do something that really stands out, but we must continually push ourselves to think outside the box and find beauty / excitement no matter what the challenge is before us. As we think through planning for the year ahead and push ourselves to counsel clients, I’ll be asking my teams a lot more to “show me the wow” that inspires them, so we can put forward programs and services that will help us continually evolve.
2) The Whole is Greater than the Sum of its Parts
This part may sound more like a customer gripe (OK, I admit it), so let me explain. Bryce Canyon National Park quickly became my favorite “Canyon”, but the accommodations in southern Utah are limited. We chose to stay at the Best Western, where we had two choices as they were located literally across the street from one another. We checked in and the kids headed to the pool, only to learn it had been closed for the day. After the 300 mile drive, the kids were bummed but my youngest came up with a great idea – why not see if we can use the pool across the street at the “other” Best Western?
Great idea. And how could they refuse two kids in bathing suits? Well, they did – you see, each Best Western is independently owned and operated. We turned it into a valuable teaching opportunity that you can’t always get what you want in life, and those are the breaks.
What bothers me is that these two sister companies failed an easy opportunity for teamwork. Acting independently in this instance damaged the perception I have of the master brand, and left us disappointed overall. In business, you can clearly see the parallels of how independent working can be counter-productive. It’s why I love and embrace the W2O model of “one P&L” that not only allows us, but encourages us, to work across all practice areas and regions – and help your fellow colleague when they need assistance. Even if you don’t get the credit, we all rise together. Independent thinking doesn’t help anyone.
3) What’s Old is New Again
I’m extremely lucky that I have two kids who travel well and are the best of friends. They rarely complained, even when their technology gadgets ran out of battery, or an Internet connection wasn’t available.
So, what did we do? We did what I did as a kid on long road trips. We made up games and improvised. Hangman, license plate game, “I Spy” and singing songs were simple solutions. We quizzed each other on experiences we had to test our memory and recall the fun parts of the trip so far. At night, we unplugged and gazed at the stars, rode bikes and read.
Honestly, these are the parts of the trip I’ll likely remember the most; the time when technology wasn’t necessary to fill the hours, and we bonded with one another. I know as the girls get older, this will only get more challenging to replicate, but it goes to show that nothing replaces the ‘old school’ ways of connecting.
In my years as a marketing practitioner, technology has fundamentally changed how business is conducted, and mostly for the better. But one thing I’ve always known to be true – nothing replaces the old-school telephone and in-person connectivity with staff, clients and prospects. This is how most of the magic happens, and we could all use a little forced ‘unplugging’ from email and the Internet to realize that the old way of doing things can be just as effective – if not more – in conducting business.
It’s unlikely my family will do a repeat performance next summer, but wherever our adventures take us, I can’t wait to see how it will positively change my perspective to further advance the company, our clients and our colleagues.