We’re just one week away from Memorial Day–the semi-official start of the summer season. For most employees, that means it’s time to use up some of those vacation days they’ve accumulated. But if you’re a small business owner or entrepreneur, no one gives you vacation pay. So you may think of summer as the time when everyone else is at the beach, and you’re stuck in the shop taking care of business and covering for others.
But if you want to grow your business, you’ve got to get out from behind your desk, hop on a plane, board a train, or jump in your car, and get out there and travel. Small business owners don’t travel enough.
Whether for business or pleasure, travel is one of the most effective tools you have for growing or sustaining your small business and keeping your own energy and ideas flowing. Travel gives you perspective on your business–enabling you to see challenges and problems more clearly and devise creative solutions.
The good news is you can often combine a business trip with a pleasure trip, making sure you see customers located near vacation locations or adding on time at a destination you need to go to for business. I have a conference in Anaheim this June, for instance. Disneyland is literally next door. That keeps costs down (some of the cost may be tax deductible) and make you more willing to take the time away from the office.
Business travel deepens your relationships with existing customers and helps you find new ones. Travel enables you to work with strategic partners and it enhances your knowledge and contacts.
Why take a business trip?
- In-person visits close sales
- Prospects are more likely to convert to paying customers
- Existing accounts want to see you
- Socializing with customers deepens relationships
- Industry events help you stay current in your field
- You can find new strategic partners or distributors
- Personal relationships lead to future referrals
- You can investigate new markets and expand your sales territory
- Your competitors are out there, possibly calling on your customers
But what about just taking a vacation–leisure travel?
Remember, you are the most important asset your company has. If you don’t take care of yourself, including taking some time off, the value of your most important asset is being depleted.
On the road, you gain fresh perspectives and recharge your own personal batteries by getting out of your daily routine. Travel helps you think about what you want to do—not just what you have to do. I’m always more excited about my business when I get back from a trip than I was when I left.
Now that I’ve convinced you to travel in order to grow or sustain your small business, you need to figure out where to go. Narrow down your destination by asking yourself:
- Which of your top customers have you never met or not seen in years?
- Which key vendor has never met you?
- At which customer company do you have only one or two contacts?
- Which of your second-tier customers could become top-tier?
- At which industry event could you potentially meet new customers, new vendors, or new investors or gain valuable knowledge that would help you stay more competitive?
Heck, you can also ask yourself: is there a useful industry conference at a location where I or my family would really like to go?
Travel is a great way to really learn about new destinations, especially if you serve that market or are thinking of expanding. Sure, you can read about demographic data or median income on a web page, but nothing beats actually being in a place, seeing what a town looks like, meeting local people.
Yes, modern technology has made it easier to communicate across the country and across the globe. But we, as humans, have an innate need to connect with people in person.
And, let’s face it, taking a vacation with family or friends is just plain good for you as a human being. It helps keep your relationships strong and reminds you why you’re working so hard.
It’s time to hit the road.
Copyright, Rhonda Abrams, 2017
This article originally ran in USA Today on May 17, 2017