9 Key Lessons From 9 Countries in 5 Weeks – Part 1
I’ve been blessed in my life to be surrounded by people who have travelled… REALLY travelled. Growing up in Geneva, Switzerland for much of my life meant that the friends of my parents, and parents of my friends, usually worked for global organisations, meaning they travelled extensively. I always asked about their experiences and lessons.
So, to do 9 countries in just 5 weeks, starting 31 August 2023, was easy… or so I thought! There were MANY lessons learned along the way. Enjoy the journey…
They say travel broadens the mind. I agree. It also strengthens resilience and problem-solving, unless you’re travelling at a 5-star level. There are some lessons you can ONLY learn from travel. I love it, for both work and for our family. Here are my key lessons recently:
- We started in Rome, Italy, a city that rivals Paris in so many ways.
- What blew me away about Rome was two-fold: 1) the buildings and road were built to last, and 2) the clean, fresh, water supply is still working, after 2000+ years!
- Lesson for businesses: have your team answer the question “how could we design a product or a system that was still working well AFTER we all leave or sell this business?” With so many businesses focusing on small improvements here and there, you can gain a HUGE competitive advantage by planning on the long term.
- One of the most awe-inspiring buildings on the planet is St. Peter’s Basilica, built over the site of St. Peter’s final resting place.
- What is striking is the SCALE (and the detail) of the work completed, plus the fact that the designers knew they would never live long enough to see the finished basilica!
- Lesson for businesses: are you built for SCALE as a business? Could your operations, finance and admin teams cope with 5, 10 or 20 times the levels of sales? Does your marketing team and sales team have the strategy and the skills to execute those strategies to achieve that growth quickly?
- There is no point in having a vision of scale, without the strategies or without the skills to execute… and you don’t need to do all those steps alone.
- Attending the Rugby World Cup opening game with my family was amazing, despite France beating the All Blacks.
- What always strikes me when I visit Paris is their, err, how do I say it politely… their “strong confidence in their ability to be right all the time”!
- Lesson for businesses: know what makes you great. Know what you’re the best at. Tell the whole world those points all the time. AND make sure EVERY member of your business knows those points also. Take pride in what you do. Be confident in that.
- The more aligned your team is in your competitive advantages, the stronger your perceived brand position.
- Working in the UK face-to-face was a real joy and something that the global pandemic robbed me of for many years.
- This trip reminded me of the passion of the Welsh people, for life and rugby in particular.
- Lesson for businesses: as Jim Collins stated in his ‘Hedgehog Theory’ in his amazing business book ‘Good to Great’, for a business to REALLY win in a free market economy you need 3 key things: 1) A clear competitive advantage (or more than one), 2) The ability to scale profitably (see Vatican City above), and 3) You must be PASSIONATE about what you do as a business.
- This is the key to me: passion has been one of our core values since we started our business in 2004. I do believe people get confused on this point. ‘Passion’ can mean different things to different people and businesses, which is 100% fine: for some it’s having passion for the clients you serve, for others it’s having passion for the role you perform, for others it’s having passion for the services/products you sell, and for others it’s having passion for your team members.
- All are fine, however, a lack of passion will very likely make your business suffer long-term.
2 Additional travel lessons that apply to sales (and to business):
- Things don’t always go to plan, in travel or in business, so adapt! For us, this was a landslide and a medical emergency that meant our 1-train 8-hour trip from Milan to Paris became a 5-train, 14-hour journey via Switzerland! It included 2 changes of trains in under 4 minutes each, meaning a sprint with luggage. Thankfully our kids are both fit and resilient... or thankfully we’ve done plenty of independent travel as a family.
- It’s the same in sales and business: you put all the right plans in place but one or two things go against you so you need to produce a new strategy, on the fly, and execute it quickly, under pressure. The more you do this, the better you get at adapting quickly (my first solo European train adapting was back in 1990, it was a very tough experience alone and at night as a teenager, but it developed my ‘problem-solving under pressure’ skills).
- Embrace and adapt to change. Those skills will likely be used later.
- Sometimes you need to roll up your sleeves and just work hard! Finishing our European trip in Rome, we were offered an expected chance to join a group of pilgrims for a service in a 1200-year-old church (and home to the flogging post of Jesus). We accepted the kind offer. This meant that we ran late to collect our suitcases and head to Rome Airport. It led to a 2-kilometre ‘sprint’ with 3 suitcases, in 35-degree heat, past the Presidential Residences. It was worth it.
- The same applies to sales: sometimes you just need to muscle up, step up, and smash out your prospecting call numbers, your follow-up calls or your proposals. Sometimes you need to get your mind away from “I wish there was an easier way” questions, and just focus on “get it done” actions. While you can’t do this all the time, it can be done.
- The more you do this in your life, the more you’ll train your mindset to be able to focus and work hard when needed.
I know you’re busy, so I’ll sign off now… in Part 2 I’ll be sharing some lessons from Switzerland, Greece, China, New Zealand and Australia.