By Morten Brøgger of Huddle
The benefits of travel are almost universally recognized. Study after study has proven that taking vacations has a positive effect on health, happiness, and even the economy. And yet, according to a recent study, only forty percent of Americans are actually taking their allotted time off. The reason? Perhaps a fear of leaving work unfinished, or appearing to lack dedication?
(Photo courtesy of Morten Brøgger)
For those in leadership roles especially, taking a trip that impinges on work time or makes you unavailable to your direct reports can feel inconvenient at best, irresponsible at worst. Even travel for business purposes can seem unjustified — not worth the time or budget, when there seem to be more pressing matters in the here and now. Travel can feel stressful or inefficient, and is tempting to push off or avoid entirely.
Here’s the thing: travel isn’t a frivolous benefit. It plays a key role in shaping our strengths as professionals, developing new skills and understanding other markets. In the age of the Internet, every company is a global company. You need to be able to access other markets instantly. You need to be able to work seamlessly with partners from around the world. And if you want to be truly successful, you’re going to have to find a way to interact with those other cultures productively.
Understanding other cultures and international markets is no longer a “nice-to -have.” It’s a business imperative. To be truly successful, business leaders need to expose themselves to other environments. Here are four reasons why:
1. Exposure to new skills, processes and strategies
When you have spent your entire professional career doing things a certain way, it can feel almost impossible to imagine an alternative approach. However, seeing it firsthand in another context could convince you otherwise. One of the best things about experiencing other professional cultures is that they present alternatives to familiar norms. And if you see something working well in another context, why not take that aspect home and apply it to your own? Some of the world’s most influential business leaders — like Steve Jobs, whose trip to India exposed him to Eastern thinking that dramatically informed his business philosophy — were dramatically impacted by their interaction with other cultures. That kind of growth and insight is invaluable for any leaders charged with paving a path forward for their companies.
2. Insight into other markets
The key to reaching new customers is understanding how to attract and engage with them. International audiences are not the same as American ones. They have different pain points, different motivators and different expectations when it comes to finding new products. If you don’t have firsthand experience, you won’t really be able to perfect a strategy when it comes to breaching new markets.
And there’s more to international expansion than simply tailoring your marketing efforts. You also need to be intimately aware of the nuances of international regulation. New rulings like last year’s Safe Harbor decision, which severely impeded companies doing business with Europe by regulating data residency, can take all the wind out of the sails of any effort to expand. People who know the markets that they are moving into, and understand not only the legal but also cultural atmosphere, are far less likely to end up getting burned down the line.
3. Source of new talent
Traveling to new places opens the opportunity to find great new people to hire in those locations. Going to networking events in other cities might be the key to finding those rock star employees you’re looking for. In general, the more diversity you can have in your workforce, the better, so international perspectives could prove incredibly useful. Different viewpoints mean more ideas, more resources and more networks to tap into. Having satellite offices is a huge asset for any growing business. In addition, the talent market in the United States is incredibly competitive, and sometimes it can be hard to find the right people with the right skills. Broadening that pool to other markets skyrockets your chances of finding a good fit. Today’s cloud technology means that cross-border collaboration isn’t the barrier it once was. A team in France can work on a project with a team in Argentina, and they’ll be just as efficient as groups on the same continent.
4. Better balance and productivity
Sometimes, you really do just need a vacation. New research shows that you’re a better employee if you do. Seventy-two percent of HR managers agree that employees who take time off are more productive than those who do not. They are also harder workers and more satisfied with their jobs. From a management perspective, vacation is a way to remain motivated and to set a good example to employees for establishing a healthy, balanced work ethic. A healthy, well-balanced life is just as critical a part of employee wellness as exercise or nutrition plans.
Deciding whether or not to travel is never as simple as looking at the repercussions of a single trip. It’s about establishing a cadence of regular interactions with other cultures to lay the basis for more dynamic strategies and more thoughtful leadership. It’s an opportunity to establish a culture where time off and self-education are seen as exclusively an asset, and employees feel empowered to use their PTO. Travel is no longer a “luxury” for business leaders — it’s a necessity for success and a key part of a well-balanced, sustainable business.
Morten Brøgger is the CEO of Huddle. Based in San Francisco, Morten brings more than 20 years of experience in the technology industry and extensive go-to market and SaaS experience, spanning the US and European markets, to Huddle.
The views, opinions and positions expressed within this guest post are those of the authors alone and do not represent those of CBS Small Business Pulse or the CBS Corporation. The accuracy, completeness and validity of any statements made within this article are verified solely by the authors.