Perhaps dating myself, when I first started selling about 30 years ago, my business life was basically centered around my office and my customer locations. I was fortunate enough to have two offices–a cube in the bull pen at my company, one at my largest customer’s location. Most of my “work” was centered on those locations (Well, OK, I did spend a lot of time at Harry’s of Hanover Square).
My day would usually start at my office at the customer. I’d meet with customers through the day. I’d wrap up the day in my office at my company–usually to research things, check on status of a number of things going on with my customer. When I needed help on a tough issue or deal, I usually relied on the other sales people or sales engineers in my office. Sometimes, I would call to the experts at “corporate,” but it was always easier to rely on my peers in the office.
In addition to face to face meetings, I spent a lot of time on the phone. Often with customers that were at remote locations, as well as calling within my company to other support locations for information, research, and help. Every once in a while, I’d take my customers to an executive briefing center to speak with the real experts on some of the solutions I sold. Those were the very early days of email. We had a system called PROFS, but in the early days, not everyone had email, so it wasn’t a great channel of communications internally–and certainly our customers weren’t accessible by email.
My days were pretty long. I would start early in the mornings, usually a tour of the key data centers, talking to the operations people to make sure the systems had been running well—so I could be prepared if there had been difficulties overnight. Then I’d go into meetings with customers through late afternoon, then up to the office for research and follow up work. I might end the evening around 6:30-7:00 shooting the bull with other sales guys. When I went home, I didn’t have to spend a lot of time working. It was rare–and usually an emergency when I received a call in the evening.
Today, things are different!!!! Not just because I run a business, but how, where, and when we work has changed profoundly. My office is wherever I happen to be. I travel about 85% of the time—all over the world. Much of my “data” is in the cloud, the rest on our servers in my office and accessible through the web. I “work” on airplanes, in conference rooms and offices at my clients’ locations, in the hotel room in the evening. I “meet” with customers on the phone, in webconferences, in physical meetings-wherever they happen to be, through email, social media sites, texting, and a variety of other channels. They may be in several languages–some that I speak, others that are translated.
My colleagues and the folks I call on for help are spread around the world. Like me, they are seldom “home,” but often traveling. I reach out to them, wherever they are. Perhaps it’s a quick email exchange with ideas. It may be a Skype call. It may be a text message with a quick update on something, it may be messages we pass back and forth on our CRM system. I communicate with whatever device is most appropriate—my laptop, my mobile phone, my iPad, my desktop system in my office, my phone system in my office–and every once in a while through snail mail. A lot of the communication is “asynchronous,” I may leave a request some where and pick up a response later.
I’ve gotten used to being able to reach out to colleagues and customers from wherever I happen to be on whatever device I choose. I get my data and applications wherever I happen to be and on whatever device I might choose. I insist on complete device independence!
Time has changed as well. Sales and management has never been an 8-5 job, but now it’s different. When I’m in my California office (however seldom) I start my day very early in the morning with calls to Europe, the Middle East and Africa–catching clients, prospects, and colleagues in their afternoon. I tend to arrange my meetings, calls, and days by time zones, often ending the day late in the evening with calls to China, Australia, India, Singapore and other locations in Asia. I also have an office in Paris. When I’m there, I shift my time accordingly. But often, I’m some place else, so I arrange my day to intercept the people I need to meet or talk with during “their day.”
“Work” and “Life” are co-mingled. I may run to the gym, go on a bike ride, or do errands in the day, working late at night. I schedule my time based on what I need to do, who I need to do it with, and where I happen to be at the moment. When I’m on the road, I may visit a museum during the day, “working” at other times.
There’s a lot of talk about mobility–yes, technology helps us tremendously. But mobility is more about how we work and live. It’s more about a frame of mind in how we connect, communicate, collaborate, and innovate. It’s the new business life style.
It may sound crazy, but I think I am a better professional and a better person. I have colleagues around the world. My perspectives are much richer than before. The solutions I bring to my clients are more comprehensive. I have the opportunity to contribute and make an impact in ways that I could never have imagined.
Things have changed!