There was a time in my life, not that long ago, when I played the proverbial "traveling salesman". Each year I would log some 150K miles a year, traipsing from one area of the globe to another visiting customers and suppliers.
While I truly enjoyed getting out of the office and meeting people from all walks of life... life on the road is anything but glamorous or adventuresome.
I often relate business travel to exercising... in that I absolutely hate exercising (present tense)... but I like to have exercised (past tense).
This past week, due to circumstances beyond my control, I was forced to once again board a plane and hit the almighty road.
The week of business travel, however, did provide me with some valuable insights, random musings and perhaps pearls of wisdom that I’d like to share with you this week...
My travels this week took me to America’s "Rust Belt"... places like Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, Ohio and Michigan... places that once thrived with industrial manufacturing activity but for the last few decades have seen a large decline in these principal activities.
Many people in these areas have been hit with extreme economic hardship... but from their attitude... you’d never know it.
One of the first things a stranger notices is just how damn nice everyone seems to be... (I know that I’ve mentioned it before... but it’s worth repeating).
People who go out of their way to open doors... who are quick to give you directions... who allow you to safely merge into their traffic lane without honking their horns... the restaurant servers who deliver food with a giant smile and such enthusiasm that you thought that they might actually be paid on commission...
I have met some incredibly nice individuals all over the world... but as a whole... I can’t remember when an entire area of the country was so polite, courteous, friendly, and helpful... (or maybe I just spend too much time in Las Vegas, New York, and LA).
Perhaps someone forgot to inform these people that their economy was in the tank and that their lives were supposed to be miserable...
Bad News Sells
Typically, traveling consists of a lot of hurrying... followed by a lot of waiting...
This "stop and start" scheduling causes me to periodically pick up a discarded news paper while biding my time waiting at the airport.
As it so happens, I picked the front page of a metropolitan newspaper and began reading it while waiting for my flight. One of the first things I noticed was that "news" is reporting only when bad things happen.
Rarely (if ever) do you read about 5,000 flights arriving and departing safely and on-time each day at Chicago O’Hare airport... but when a winter storm causes the airlines to delay and/or cancel several flights... it’s front page news.
I took a moment and noted all of the "negative words" I read in only one section of the local Chicago newspaper...
Here is a brief list: crisis, fiscal cliff, disaster, murder, calamity, emergency, bankruptcy, killings, economic collapse, peril, disgrace, fighting, suicide-bombing, stranded, despot, financial ruin, perjury, dictator, cheating, scandal, imminent danger, scams, security-risk, and illegal activity.
I have no idea how someone can continue to read a newspaper and not become thoroughly depressed and/or jaded about our society.
For the most part, I’ve eliminated reading the front page news and limit myself to the sports scores and daily crossword puzzles... I feel better not knowing what the next artificial crisis is or how I should feel about it...
Back to the Drawing Board
I have an incredible job (for a lot of reasons really).
As a part of my travels this week, I had the opportunity to visit with several current and potential customers.
One of the most interesting aspects of what I do; is that I get to help engineers and designers work on the phenomenal new products of tomorrow... today.
There are some unbelievably smart individuals who are creating new concepts and designs. Products that could one day change the world...
I’m not at liberty to divulge any of the secret information I learned this week... but I will go on record to say that if my experiences this week are typical of what is happening around America and the world, then we are all in for a very bright and exciting future ahead of us...
The Good News
I’m near positive that some business sectors are still experiencing hardships. Industries like new home construction and certain manufacturing segments are a mere fraction of what they were in their glory days of old.
However with that said, I was pleasantly pleased to learn so many small, medium and large companies are experiencing a surge of strong sales of late. Especially in some of the places hardest hit by the Great Recession of 2008...
The hotels I stayed at were filled close to capacity and the flights were full of business people who are busily visiting clients and making deals.
All of the 15 or so companies that I visited this week in the so-called Rust Belt were abuzz with activity. Many of them reported that sales were very strong and continually improving (I believe this to be true due to the fact that they are continuing to purchase more products from OptiFuse than last year... ).
Many firms have begun hiring more people to help them with their workload. This in turn should help the battered economies of these communities recover some of what they lost.
You’ll never hear about these wins... (once again... good news doesn’t sell... either in Washington, on CNN or FOX, or on the newsstand).
I’m thoroughly excited about my week out visiting with customers and I can’t wait to see the impact of some of the new products in the marketplace...
The people, businesses, and communities of the Midwest are the heart of soul of America. It’s great to watch them succeed...
It couldn’t happen to a nicer group of people...
Thank you for your support of OptiFuse, where we believe that nice guys don’t necessarily finish last...
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