Much of the work we all do in today’s world revolves around email and voicemail, text messaging and instant messaging. These are all great tools and can certainly help us stay connected and improve productivity … if we don’t let them become too pervasive.
Having said that, the value of in-person contact really can’t be underestimated. It is extremely hard to build a relationship via email and voicemail, not that it can’t be done, but the richness of the communication is lost when the senses are reduced to seeing an email or hearing a voicemail.
I do understand the power of the written word, with my daughter as a great example having, over the years, established pretty solid relationships with people all over the world. At 22 years of age, she has actually met quite a few of them now … and my fervent hope is that none of them turn out to be 60 year old perverts posing as twenty-somethings!
This past Friday and Saturday, Eagle had its semi-annual staff gathering in Toronto. We fly our people in from the various offices across the country for a couple of days of training, networking and fun. As a company this is a big expense, with flights and hotel rooms, meeting facilities and dinners, entertainment and trainers … and booze! Of course there are also the intangible costs associated with people being out of the office to travel and attend such an event, plus the inevitable post-event traumas … sickness and hangovers!
Is it worth it? I guess the answer would depend where you are sitting. In pure dollars and cents it is a hard sell, the costs come directly off the bottom line so we need to sell a bunch of business to make up for that. On the other hand we all get to talk, party and negotiate with our colleagues across the country, many of whom may have only talked on the phone before.
If you want to have a corporate culture that is consistent across the country then this is one way to achieve that. The teams get to hear the messages and ask the questions together. We have an informal “ask the executive” session, accompanied by beers, and everyone is free to ask the tough questions. It is a great way for the teams to understand why we do the things we do!
As a company we try to communicate a lot. We have regular conference calls, we have regular email communication but as a CEO there is nothing quite like being able to sit and drink a few beers while chatting with everyone in the company!