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The Bed Hopping Chronicles: Balancing Business Travel and Purposeful Choices in a Busy World

At Sea Air Space, during a reception, I heard the following comments from attendees while chatting about robust trade show travel schedules and the strong attendance at shows leading up to Sea Air Space this year. There is a noticeable uptick in activity.

“In the past month, I’ve spent three nights in my own bed,” mused (or lamented) one senior business leader.

“When I booked these events, they looked exciting on the calendar, but four weeks into it, I’m tired,” said another, a new business developer.

Yet one more relayed a tale of cross-country travel in support of service to customers as well as various boards. “Haven’t been home for a week straight since January, but it’s about to die down.” Let’s hope die isn’t the operative word.

I could relate to these travails, but for different reasons. During the preceding 8 weeks, I had also spent a lot of time on the road, albeit not continuous and not at trade shows. For parts of 7 of those weeks, I was in DC supporting clients and their FY24 issues. A typical DC trip for me is 2.5 days.

I made a commitment to offer my “Meet the Ringmasters” event in the middle of that 8-week sprint, as well as accepted a speaking engagement in Orlando during the one (what would have been) “off week.”

During Sea Air Space, I also had several people come up to me during the show suggesting they knew a company I should meet with. The stories were similar; their colleagues feel stuck in the process despite fully participating in agency engagement yet not moving forward toward a contracted outcome. “I think they could use your help.”

The connective tissue of the stories of frustration are easy for me to identify. People moving with the process, but not leading and directing the process. I hesitate to use the reference to a herd, but they aren’t thinking their way through to drive a federal outcome. They are in motion, but not moving forward. “Too many RPMs, not enough torque,” as a former ship captain of mine used to say of confusing activity with progress.

My travel situation was the product of choices within my power to control, to a point. The congressional calendar moves despite the President’s unexplained late budget documents to Congress. Committees and subcommittees have to establish due dates in order to move their work forward as well. For those reasons, I know every year there is a hectic phase for me where I must be in DC in February and March for a couple of days a week.

Choices Are Yours To Make

I choose not to live in the metro-DC area. It allows me a high quality of life with an ability to retain perspective on DC from outside the Beltway bubble. The choice requires that I must travel and sleep in a hotel bed I don’t necessarily like. That’s a choice, but also a perk of my form of entrepreneurship. I work where I can or choose to work and am where I need to be when I need to be there— a choice I’m privileged to make.

Others above, although tied to a constraint of their own corporate climate, are also making choices. They are choosing how they participate. Unfortunately, they may be making poor choices that aren’t supporting their objectives. Perhaps they haven’t really considered their objectives.

My winner for this year’s most creative use of a booth space was Peraton’s incorporation of a sand artist. It struck me as an interesting choice of trade show real estate. I have no idea what Peraton does. I stopped to admire the artist at work and nobody from Peraton approached me after several minutes. I put the question to LinkedIn, did Peraton achieve their objective with this approach?

In 2014, Admiral William McRaven gave one of the finest commencement speeches of all time. He suggested that something as simple as making your bed every day could make all the difference as we each impact untold numbers of individuals in our world, far beyond our first degree of influence. You can see the speech here on YouTube. If you have not watched it in full, invest 20 minutes in yourself and watch.

Where did you sleep last night? Where will you sleep next week? Are you setting those conditions with intent? Or are you simply moving with the current?

As a means of evaluating value, sometimes evaluators measure things. Real estate is valued by acreage or square footage. Office space and headcount are sometimes measured against revenue. Call volumes in call centers can be measured against any number of business issues such as customer satisfaction, merchandise returns, and up-sales.

How many beds will you sleep in this year? What’s your revenue to bed count ratio going to be this year? It might not be an impressive stat. Go ahead and calculate it for last year and this year. Then see if you can project next year’s. What’s the trend? Look at the ratios below and quickly assess which yields the highest revenue to bed count value.

$14,000,000           $14,000,000         $29,000,000          $10,000,000          $35,000,000   

125                              30                                62                    205                              20

The number itself is meaningless. It’s no better than the price per square foot of your home, other than it allows one to consider comparative value. Are you comfortable with your number and trend?

Take Admiral McRaven’s wise counsel and start by making your own bed. It can lead to many more good things far beyond your immediate view.

***The cheat sheet. Dividing the hypothetical revenue above for which you are responsible or received credit by the number of hotel night stays, yields the following values:

$112,000                   $466,667                    $467,742           $48,780                    $1,750,000        

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