Thursday, September 23, 2010


As the recent global economic crisis
tightened its grip across the globe, the business travel segment found itself grounded. Business trips cancelled, conferences cancelled, incentive trips cancelled, exhibitions downsized, meetings re-e-engineered, hopes for making targets cancelled.

There was simply no budget, no justification, no nerve, no hope. Too many black ink cartridges were being replaced with red. It was a clear situation of black and white - until the crisis was over travel was suspended.
There was no grey area.

Understanding the logic, e-alternatives were found. 'Skype' became both a noun and verb. Expectations were adjusted around movements of the bottom line and the business cycle. No one was going anywhere.

But making sense of it all did not make it any easier.
We are not a generation comfortable with prolonged restrictions to comfort of lifestyle. The crisis of 2008/9, and its hangover of caution throughout 2010, has been the first time such financial strain of this degree has ever been felt by billions across the globe.

But the crisis has not just been financial, it has been emotional. The fear generated by the world's fastest spreading, widest reaching and deepest penetrating economic shutdown has rattled the spirits of people across the world. A bankruptcy of faith and confidence occurred, causing a crash in the energy required to perform.

And, importantly, a crash in the value of business culture.

The arrival of Q2/2010 has, however, brought with it a return in business confidence levels. And with that a return of people on the move. The seats in the pointy end of the plane are warming up again. As are meeting rooms, conference halls and spirits. Justification of un-suspending spend is now all around. Clearly being grounded hurt business. Now is the time to get back to 35,000ft to get back into the black.

Supporting this hypothesis, a study undertaken by Oxford Economics in 2009 revealed, painfully, that over all the average US business would be forced to lose 17% of profits (28% of revenues) during the first year of suspension of business travel. This loss would require a three year period to recover. Bottom line.

But intuitively businesses across the globe have also known that the losses were not just at a commercial level, they were also at a cultural level. The freezing of budgets which froze internal activity, company conferences in particular, froze spirits.

Which is why visionary leaders, truly holistic leaders who put into practice the adage of 'our people are our greatest asset', are remaking commitments and rebooking venues to reconnect their people. Instruction from the C-suite is seeing hundreds of people being removed from their offices, relocated (often at enormous cost and logistical complexity) to places which allow the start of a strong tomorrow to start today.

Importantly, effective conference programme design is not only about sharing business plans and prophecies. Of equal importance, if not greater, is sharing of the process of rebuilding faith, rebuilding a future vision, and rebuilding the fundamental bonds of the organisation.

It is about cultural reconnection. And creating that reconnection may require letting people let go. Safely. It has been a long time of holding one's breath. Now is the time to exhale deeply. Together.

This process, whether it unlocks laughter, tears or fears, will ultimately unlock the spirits of those present. And in so doing, create an energy of renewal, recovery, rediscovery and release - a release which will raise the level of confidence, conviction and commitment of the company culture.

There can be no greater fuel for future impact, no greater feeling of achievement for a true leader.

This article is dedicated to the courageous leaders across the globe who, with their visionary eyes and open hearts, recognise investment into their people at this fragile, faith-rebuilding, future-redefining time as invaluable.

To you a glass is raised
with thanks, with immense respect, and in confident anticipation. Not only do you know the above to be true, you feel it... and you live it.

Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2010

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