40 Days on a Motorcycle: My Cross-Country Tour Visiting Customers

In August 2017, I embarked on a personal and professional journey across the country, visiting customers along the way. I was on a motorcycle, a 2002 BMW, fulfilling a long-held dream to see the country by bike and determined to re-connect with customers face-to-face. When we started Laserbeam, over 12 years ago, we were focused on offering the lowest cost solution for our products. That meant leveraging our considerable experience in managing projects with virtual teams over the web. That was a successful strategy and, over the years, we’ve cultivated an extraordinary relationship with clients we never actually met in person. But of course, there’s no substitute for giving customers face time and, on occasion, I’ve hopped on a plane to do just that. As the CEO, one of my roles is to be the throat you can choke if you’re unhappy about something. We’ve got a great team, in close touch with our Enterprise customers, so that doesn’t happen very often. But Naveen and I have felt that we can learn things about what our customers really need by sitting across the table. As I started planning a tour of our best, long-term customers, a quick look at the map exposed a complete round trip of the country. I proposed doing it by motorcycle, adding up the expenses and recognized that I could do the whole thing at a lower cost than by air. It was a totally kismet epiphany – I could kill two birds with one stone and embark on the journey of a lifetime.

And what a journey it was! Nearly 8,000 miles and 40 days of travel time took me from California to Minnesota, St. Louis, New York, Washington, D.C, Atlanta, New Orleans and back on the southern route to California. Along the way, I visited Mt. Rushmore, experienced the Solar Eclipse in “100% totality”, was moved by the Ground Zero dedication in New York, met and made new friends. Not surprisingly, I found myself changed by the experience. I was alone for most of the trip until I picked up my wife, Brenda, in Panama City, FL, where we shared this amazing experience on the way home.

So, what did I learn along the way? Plenty. Although I brought business attire for customer meetings, they were uniformly fascinated and, I think, impressed that I would take such a tough journey to visit them. That we cared enough to do that without any expectations other than to understand how we can improve our services and products. Nevertheless, new opportunities did open up as we engaged in lively discussions about their aspirations for HR and what part Laserbeam could play in helping them achieve their goals. We’ve always valued the positive feedback we get from our customers, but I was able to uncover more in those face-to-face meetings than ever before. And there was something about the arduous nature of my choice of transportation that personalized my visits more than showing up in a taxi ever did. Or at least, that’s the way it seemed. I was in a state of pure joy at every stop and I believe it was infectious and humanizing. Now when I talk to them, I’m asked about the trip, still, after all this time. When I planned this, I thought of it as a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Now? I want to do it again…

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