Wednesday, July 30, 2008
Travel: The Disease of Corporations
Do Silicon Valley Warriors need to travel? Travel has been the byproduct of new GEO model that many company's tout as the most efficient way to the nirvana of profitability. Except it doesn't work that way. Companies fail today just as they failed years ago when the present model wasn't popular. Having their production in Asia hasn't stopped the bleeding. New technology like videoconferencing has not stopped the travel disease for IMHO that is what it is. Some people have to travel all year and some folks need to travel once a year and the rest don't need to travel at all. But for some reason travel is a sign of status. One company I worked at canceled all unnecessary travel. I thought employees would be relieved but instead many of them showed up in my office whining because they couldn't go to some sales conference or customer visit.
These days with the rising cost of fuel and "the new model" companies say that they save money by taking parts of their business offshore but the spend money getting there and back regularly to see what is happening. I believe certain key people need to do this but the problem is that they often take a retinue of retainers along because they think they need to see whatever it is too. Travel costs and the constant desire to run up air miles so that people can upgrade is a part of the game. Some employees travel to escape responsibility of any kind.
At Sun Microsystems I had the chance to observe two techies in one of my groups who traveled at the drop of a hat but never to where the action was. No one ever called them on it. Of course I only saw two but I knew there were thousands who did this at just this one company. The CEO McNealy insisted that employees fly coach which was smart. But when he found out that one of his former employees had his own corporate jet, he changed his toon, got his own jet and took the warps off of coach only flying.
I can't say I blame him. It's just funny that it was a pissing game that got him to change, not good common sense.
There was one VP who took his whole staff with him quarterly on trips Europe and Asia. That was often 6-10 people in the air off to somewhere (and back of course). When he was fired the BIG trips stopped rather suddenly.
What was the saying? We'll go far to find the right employee. We'll even go to Asia.
Travel is a sickness. It burns fuel and money and profits. There are people who need to travel. OK, I said that. People told me that I would get nowhere in my career if I wasn't willing to travel. I had groups in Asia and Europe. I never traveled there on business.
I got to Vice President and made several million dollars which is chump change in Silicon Valley. Sort of like climbing Denali instead of Everest. But I got up and back without dying. Fell a few times, got scrapped up but made it back to base camp.
One of HR Managers on the East Coast ragged me constantly about getting out there. I finally told her to stuff it. That's why I have you out there, I said. I went once, finally but by that time she was gone caught up in downsizing. Nice trip. 100 degrees and humid coming out of Logan Airport. Spent 3 days there and came back home.
What did I accomplish? I sat in a few meetings that would have gone off fine without me spending time with people who flew to the West Coast quarterly anyway. So one trip to the East Coast in 6 years at Sun. That was enough.
Would I travel if the need arose.
As often as I would want surgery. That often.