Nothing is more important than your relationships. It’s true in business as much as in life.
Yet, we often get stuck in patterns, seeing the same people week after week, talking about the same things, holding the same meetings, staying safely within our lanes. While finding “our people” is great, it can cut us off from making new discoveries. Particularly in business, the benefit of exposing yourself to new perspectives (or simply a diversity of perspectives) is key. So how can you step outside of your comfort zone to forge new relationships?
Our team recently traveled to the Bay Area to attend NewCo, our favorite catch-all conference where participants explore the insides of company headquarters (instead of the inside of a hotel lobby). We knew we wanted to explore relationships in San Francisco, found the right excuse to get out there, and ended up learning so much about the benefits of an out of town trip. Check out our advice on getting the most from an out of town business trip:
1. Tap into new communities
Before heading to San Francisco, I reached out to various friends and colleagues in the area that I hadn’t connected with in a while. I arranged the normal coffees, but also asked if there were any interesting events they were attending that I could join. As a result, they connected me with communities they belonged to that were very relevant to my work. I got to see how conversations I was familiar with were playing out in the tech-dominated city, and learned what kind of practitioners and decision-makers were major players there.
Remember to give yourself the time to tap into rich communities while visiting a new city. They could offer client leads, great resources, or simply new insights.
2. Be on the lookout for new talent pool
Recruiters and company leaders of quickly scaling companies are very familiar with the pains of finding skilled, culture-appropriate talent. You might feel you’ve exhausted your networks after many candidate searches. A new city offers you the opportunity to connect with a whole new network of talent. Whether introducing yourself to new contacts, or reconnecting with older ones, remember to let them know you’re hiring. Everyone loves finding the right person a great job, and these new networks might just contain the gems you’ve been looking for.
On the other hand, even if you aren’t currently hiring, you should keep future hiring needs in mind. When you meet someone you click with, keep the connection alive. You might just find the perfect way to work with them in the future.
3. Seek out peers and like-minded practitioners
Exploring San Francisco through the NewCo lens allowed our team to find many more like-minded (and culture-focused) colleagues than we could have on a normal week back home. I definitely advise finding a conference, event or experience to attend that will draw people like you. Large, diverse conferences like NewCo can be especially effective. Their “choose your own adventure” component means you’ll end up at sessions with people interested in similar topics as you.
4. Open your mind to new ways to do things
A new city doesn’t just mean a different cityscape or climate. It also means a different approach to business. In a different region, businesses could be approaching the problem you’re trying to solve in a completely different way. It’s worth paying attention to these differences. Because of San Francisco’s deep tech focus, our trip exposed us to ways technology can help to building great culture and careers.
5. Jumpstart your creativity
The great thing about exposing yourself to topics and people you normally wouldn’t encounter is that it pushes you into a more creative mindset. Let yourself talk to people and attend events that don’t have any obvious connection to your current work. Our whole team attended a few ‘just for fun’ sessions at NewCo, and we got just as much out of those sessions. Creativity often comes from combining things that haven’t intersected before. What better way to get inspired than by learning about ideas that are completely out of your wheelhouse?
6. Reconsider your business practices and values
Regardless of whether you are facing similar hyperspecific business issues, there are some things you can learn from any business leader. Be on the lookout for tips and best practices on being a successful leader, building great culture, scaling, or fostering managerial talent. I personally keep a separate notebook purely to collect all of these insights. Remember to share any useful insights with the rest of your team when you get back to the office.
Another great exercise to practice is to ask yourself what these new companies and leaders’ values are. Is it clear? Are there some that resonate with you strongly, or others that don’t feel authentic to you? It’s important to constantly reassess your personal and company values, and learning about other companies offers you a great entry point into restarting this thought process.
7. Let yourself recharge
Finally, remember that a new setting offers a perfect opportunity to recharge and let go of stress you may bee holding onto. Allow yourself to indulge in cultural exploration – whether it’s a museum, delicious restaurant, or walk around a famed neighborhood. For us, Lyfting/Ubering in between offices exposed us to many neighborhoods in San Francisco we weren’t familiar with. Getting to know our drivers’ experiences of the city added another colorful dimension to the city.
Remember to give yourself this “me” time so you can be at your best when you are building those new connections and gleaning insights.
Learn more about upcoming NewCo conferences in cities around the world here.