I am sure that many aerospace professionals will be able to relate. With a long career as a Business Development Executive for a multitude of organizations, I have had the benefit of traveling often and far. A lifetime of professional travel over a 23+ year career has allowed me to see some amazing locales, meet impressive peers, and experience organizational-defining opportunities along the way.
Pre-C19 was a panacea for the sales executive: living and working out of a suitcase, transiting through countless airports, going from tradeshow to conference to seminar. The psychological need to see and connect with a person (in person), being at an event (physically, not virtually), to chase an opportunity, to push and pull a conversation into an MOU, RFI, and RFQ, to close a deal that nets a PO. There’s no feeling in the world like it. It is so intoxicating that it makes the lousy travel arrangements, the connecting flights, the lost luggage, the lost wallets and tablets, and cell phones, and house keys worth every painful moment. Not all experiences are the same, but you get the point.
And now, in the thick of C19, I could not have anticipated being forced to cut the cord, to quit business travel cold turkey. I’ve had five months to reflect on my symptoms of withdrawal. Over the years, I traveled on average over 85 days a year – that’s 23% percent of my life spent traveling – countless kilometers on my poor vehicles, or airmiles on innumerable aircraft all to build relationships and pursue the close. C19 has hit me and my colleagues like a ton of bricks, a massive needle to my professional way of life.
If you are like me, you perhaps dismissed C19 as a momentary glitch, some static on the TV, a temporary bump in the road. Fast forward five months and there’s no denying we are in a full-blown global pandemic – the most significant economic hit to our world since the great market crash of 1929; a flurry of newscasts and articles upon articles informing us that never since 1918 and the global pandemic known as the Spanish Flu has the world encountered a threat like this. All the noise, the movement, the hustle and bustle, the sound of life and in turn business just stopped, abruptly and without warning. The world I knew so well ceased to spin on its axis; for the first time in my life, I was GROUNDED!
Initially I felt lost. Everything I had come to love about being a sales executive was taken away from me. I came to realize that being grounded had two meanings. I was grounded from travel, but I became grounded in the reflection of what my life had become. I took the time to consider the possibility that there could be other ways of doing business. It was 2020 – yes, the year but also vision (as in 20/20 eyesight) – and I declared, as if to convince myself, that there might still be some runway and a solution to pursue my lofty goals. There is! I dusted myself off, stopped feeling infringed upon, and decided to reinvent the way I do things. As I rediscovered how to function in a nontactile, no-contact way, I regained 20% of my life back. Instead of spending countless hours on the road, my time was redirected to pursuing fruitful and meaningful discussions and opportunities while allowing me to reconnect with my family, friends, peers, and associates.
When I think of C19 and all of the things that I perceived had been taken away from me, I realized that it provided me with a recalibration of sorts; to consider the value of time and the prospects of what that time means and what it equates to moving forward. Don’t get me wrong; I still pine for the day that I can strap into any one of the many airliners I’ve taken over the years, flying off to a destination where sales opportunities, relationship building, and the challenge of pursuits await. The next time the close is within reach, I’ll be thoughtful. I will choose the opportunity; I won’t let it choose me. I look forward to business travel again; however, with a better appreciation of why I do it in the first place.