Because it’s the right thing to do

The best part of my gig is going to visit people who have a need for the solution we produce – I like hearing about their work, and determining whether we can help.

Today, I visited a long-running family business outside of Cleveland, Ohio. The president of the company had contacted us, and stopped by the trade show we were at earlier this week. He came with one of the salespeople for his business, and they had a great rapport. The sales guy joked to me, ‘hey look, he’s trying to sell ME on this and he owns the business!’ It made my day.

When I arrived at their business today, my first impression was that it was a beautiful and well cared-for facility. I arrived early, and as I was catching up on a few e-mails in the parking lot, I noticed the president arrived back from lunch. He gets out of his car, and immediately goes over to some maintenance guys, chats with them for awhile, and then they all warmly wave and leave each other.

When I go in, and he greets me and brings me to the lab, where he leaves me briefly to set up and chat with one of the engineers. The engineer tells me he joined the business in 1975 as a machine operator, and that the business helped him go to school at night to get his engineering degree. Pretty awesome.

What I loved most about observing all of this is being reminded about what people can do with power. This president – he inherited power. He inherited a business from his family, and with it, he still chooses to treat people like people – to talk to everyone with kindness and respect, even when speaking with authority. I got the sense he does this not because someone told him to, but because he knows it’s the right thing to do. What a great example.

The highs and lows

Business travel.  Sounds sexy, right?  Seeing the world on the ‘company dime’.

In real life, perhaps a little less sexy than it sounds.  Long, long days, early mornings, being away from routines, the need to catch up on your e-mail after the long, long day.  Along with rental cars, hotels where you can’t open the windows, and so many industrial parks.

My early morning flight into Philly scheduled for Monday was cancelled.  For unknown reasons – something going on at Toronto Pearson.  Oh, well.  Good news? Not needing to get up at 4AM.  Bad news?  It throws off my entire day of travel plans and meetings.

At 9PM, I finally arrive to Washington Dulles – the last leg before arriving at my final destination of Charlotte, NC.  The flight is delayed until 12:45AM.  At this point, I’m so exhausted I want to cry a little bit.  I ponder whether I can reschedule my morning appointment, but after crunching all of the driving times, I realize I cannot.  Looks it will be 3ish hours of sleep tonight.

I settle in on the benches, on a bank next to a young man I recently met on the flight there.  He tells me has to be at work for 7AM.  We laugh.  And pull out our layers.  It’s pretty cold in the terminal, and by 11PM, the only people left are those of us waiting for this flight, and the people required to get us on it.

So, the lows of business travel are pretty obvious.

The highs?  Most definitely are the people.

On the flight into Dulles, I sat next to a young man who was just starting out his career.  He had recently moved from New York to beautiful Asheville, NC for work, chilling and playing music.  What I liked most about talking to him was being reminded of the battle of youth: on one hand, the desire to travel and learn from life, with the other conflicting desire of building a nest somewhere, starting his own business, ‘becoming someone’.  This guy had such a positive and gentle vibe. I hope he follows his heart and his hopes.

After waking up from a light snooze, I look at the guy across from me.  Who, remarkably, is still typing away at 11:30PM in the freezing airport.  ‘My, you came prepared!’, he exclaims in reference to the number of layers I am now wearing.  ‘Yes, I live in Canada – we definitely know how to come prepared’, I laugh back. We commiserate – he arrived at the Charlotte airport at 5:30 that morning, off to give a talk on investments in a neighboring state.  He jokes that he’s now shooting for the full 24-hour experience.  Yep, I’ve had those before too.

Later, when the flight finally arrives, I find myself sitting with the well-dressed investment banker, the kind young soul, and an ageless-looking woman from San Diego.  We laugh and talk.  This is what it’s all about for me – connections.  The chance that I’ll see any of these people again is somewhere lower than 0.01%, and that’s kind of beautiful.  Beautiful because we can choose to make connections with people all of the time, whether or not they’ll remain in our lives.  It really is a choice.

I think I’ll take the lows for the highs.  Feeling pretty grateful.