5 skills you practice whilst travelling that will help you when working with clients
I’ve recently returned from a surprise trip to Marrakech in Morocco, with my sister. It was just the two of us, on a brief hiatus from the British Winter and it was extremely welcome.
Whilst walking around the riads and souks of Marrakech’s, my mind wondered. What skills are required to travel successfully through foreign cities and countries? Especially those that seem so distant from home.
This was my first visit to Africa. It was a continent that before seemed like another world. I felt like this was a rung up on the travelling ladder.
Upon arrival Marrakech seemed intimidating. Our taxi dropped us to the entrance of the cities’ souks. Here our light skin and pale faces were like sweat treats to wasps. We were immediately ambushed by stall owners who attempted to usher us into their shops. With no intention to offend anyone, ignoring a sales pitch every 10 yards whilst exploring Marrakech is something you have to get used to when visiting.
But this wasn’t the only difference to contend with. Foremost was the obvious language barrier. My French is conversational at best, but my Arabic, well, the less said about that the better. As expected, religion is a dominant characteristic of Moroccan life. One frequent annoyance was the misdirection from locals. Their aim isn’t to irritate but to earn some coinage by “helping” you to get to your destination. Fresh produce is lushious and plentyful, animals are second rate citizens and the children are polite, respectful and sweet. The climate is beautiful (in January) too - luckily for me.
Surrounded by the sights, smells and culture, Marrakesh got me thinking and as usual my mind turned to work. I found myself considering the similarities between travelling and working with clients, particularly when I was running PANDR (a web design and devlopment agency). It occurred to me that whilst working with external clients, you experience a lot of the same things you do when travelling:
- Cultural differences
- Language barriers: agency speak vs client speak
- Visiting someone else’s house/town/city/country, or in this case office
- Feeling out of your comfort zone
- No understanding of how their day to day life works
With these points in mind I started to consider what the qualities were that required me to travel successfully. It turns out that a lot of these are similar to those skills I consider important for client work.
First, but also perhaps most importantly; patience. A life skill that is extremely versatile and equally as valuable.
When travelling, patience allows us to comprehend the queues at the airport. Patience enables us to forgive the hard working staff who got our food order slightly wrong.
On the flip slide, patience allows us to repeat the same piece of information three times before a client understands. It gives us the power to get excited on the phone about a project at 10pm when all you want to do is go to bed. And it enables us to be sympathetic when all our client wants is the best for their business.
Communication as a skill has become a cliché. Don’t get me wrong it’s extremely important but it’s broad and covers a range of sub-skills. Articulation is one of those. The ability to communicate what you want to say, to be understood and to witness the desired outcome is both fundemental and satisfying.
When travelling, the ability to articulate is essential. It’s the difference between your host understanding you have a nut allergy and putting you in hospital, for example.
When it comes to working with a client, an inability to articulate your advice along with what is workable can immediately misalign expectations. The result: disappointment upon project delivery.
An Open Mind
You can witness all sorts whilst travelling. But to expose yourself to the best experience possible you must open your mind.
Exploring new places by foot and allowing yourself to go off map only touches the surface of what you can do. But small changes like these will propel your experience whilst travelling. The same goes for client work.
Improving your availability to work on projects you’d have said no to in the past, unbinds you from your own self-imposed restraints. The results are often unexpected and serendipitous. Landing your dream client or that chance meeting with an investor who loves your side project are a few possibilities. Free yourself from limitations and open your mind to the possibilities.
A Sense Of Adventure
Adventures lead us to unexpected places. Sometimes those places aren’t quite what you expected. But regularly, those places far exceed what you could have ever imagined. By stepping outside of your comfort zone you can experience amazing things. Luckily, travelling is inherently adventurous.
Getting on a plane to visit another continent opens up a world of amazing possibilities. Possibilities that include meeting inspiring new people, trying different foods and adopting a different routine altogether. From my experience, applying the same adventurous spirit to client work can affect the outcome in different ways too.
Seeking out clients from different walks of life, who have products you’ve never experienced is eye opening. Through understanding a clients ambitions, their struggles and their requirements we become well rounded people.
In parallel, being adventurous with your creativity can be just as positive. Make the decision to accept new sources of inspiration into your life and the results are compounded. By listening to a new genre of music, attending a different meetup or even something as simple as picking up a different newspaper, we open ourselves up to alternative perspectives that can bring a fresh approach to our work.
Respect is always important but when you’re travelling it’s paramount. It’s likely things are done differently to how you’re used to. This doesn’t make them wrong, they’re just different. It’s important to remember that you’re in another town/city/country/continent now - you’re the tourist, not the guide. Respect how things are done, how people live and what their routines are and you’ll find that your new environment starts to fit better. You’ll understand why people do what they do and why they do it in the way that they do. This applies to client work too.
Be respectful of what your client does, the skills they’ve acquired doing what they do and what their aims are. Paint a picture of what they see, witness and experience and you’ll understand what it is they need from you as a service provider.
The skills i’ve described are general, i’ll be the first to admit. Their connection through travelling and client work is loose because of their versatile nature. But this doesn’t detract from their importance. Being self-aware and reflective of your ability to execute upon these skills is a talent in itself. So long as we’re self-aware we can improve ourselves.
When was the last time you successfully delivered on any of the aforementioned skills?