On The Road Again

After a year of zero travel for business, I’ve started to venture out into the world again. I just got back from my third business trip this summer – this time to Seattle for the past three days.

After 20+ years of traveling 67%+ of the time for work, I was sick of it. So I’m wandering back in with a little trepidation.

I’ve decided to take a very different approach. Historically on a three day trip to Seattle, I’d have 10 meetings a day, starting early in the morning and going until after dinner. I’d pop from place to place, taxi-ing (now Uber-ing) around town. I’d check my email in cars between meetings, and I’d be a sweaty, smelly mess by the end of the day. I’d meet with every company we are investors in (Moz, Cheezburger, BigDoor, Rover, Techstars, and Impinj), meet with a bunch of entrepreneurs for companies we might be interested in, hang out with a few of my long time Seattle friends, visit at least one or two Seattle VCs, and do a public event or two. And then I’d stay up until 1am trying to grind through my email.

This time I planted myself at Moz on Monday and Tuesday and then Cheezburger on Wednesday. While I had plenty of meetings at Moz, they were all about Moz. I spent Monday with each of the four product teams, going really deep on the existing products. I spent time with people on the leadership team, including significant time with Sarah Bird (CEO) and Rand Fishkin (Founder). I had a dinner with Sarah Monday night followed by a hangout at Rand’s house with Rand, Geraldine, Sarah, her husband Eric, and the tireless Jackson-child.  We had a board meeting on Tuesday along with a bunch of 1:1 meetings. Tuesday night I had an awesome meal on the roof of Terra Plata with the Moz leadership team. And just for fun on Tuesday morning I went for a run on the waterfront with my long time friend TA Mccann, who if you know our origin story includes a run at the first Defrag (where he kicked my ass, just like he did Tuesday morning.)

I slept in on Wednesday, did some email in my hotel room, made a few phone calls, and had a late breakfast with Andy Sack at Purple. I then had lunch with Ben Huh (how’s that – breakfast and then lunch, with nothing in between – what more could you want out of life) followed by a great board meeting at Cheezburger.

As I napped on the flight home last night, I felt very different returning home. I love Moz and Cheezburger – and the people I get to work with there. Each company has had different challenges over the past two years (like every company I’ve ever worked with), but both feel like they are in a great place to me right now. When I was walking to lunch with Ben, he asked me a question about how I was feeling in general and I said that at this point I believe that I’m only working with entrepreneurs who I love, adore, have respect for, and am friends with. That’s a big part of it for me. I know this doesn’t always, and won’t always happen, but as I’ve gotten older I realize it’s an important part of my value system and selection criteria for who I work with.

While I’m not going to turn the travel spigot back on in a radical way, being very deliberate about how and why I’m traveling is part of my new trip planning mantra. We’ll see how it works on the next ones, which are to Austin, LA, and New York.

  • Christina Roberts

    Good for you Brad!!

  • http://www.pointsandfigures.com/ pointsnfigures

    No trip to the fish monger?

    • http://www.feld.com bfeld

      Not this time.

  • http://ben.casnocha.com Ben Casnocha

    I used to do this on my NYC trips — wall the wall meetings, no workouts, way behind on email, total exhaustion at the end. Seemed wise because “I’m only in New York every so often so might as well make the most of it” but was not sustainable, as you say. Love your new approach…

    • http://www.feld.com bfeld

      Thx. See you next weekend.

  • http://www.startupmanagement.org/ William Mougayar

    The pendulum swings back.

    • http://www.feld.com bfeld

      I hope not too far.

      • http://www.startupmanagement.org/ William Mougayar

        ok. smaller swings :)

  • Rick

    “I just got back from my third business trip this summer – this time to Seattle for the past three days.”
    .
    It won’t be long before I have you talking on the phone! :-)

    • http://www.feld.com bfeld

      Yeah – well – I will continue to try to avoid that as much as I can.

      • Rick

        [weird scary music on] You will receive a message while you meditate convincing you to change your approach. [music off]
        .
        lol

  • Rick

    Brad no more email so I have to ask here:
    I woke up the other night thinking that companies on the fast tract to $1B have had more founders that the average. Anyone know how I can find information that will confirm or deny that?

    • http://www.feld.com bfeld

      I don’t know where you’d find that data in any statistically significant form but my experience is most founding teams are between 2 and 4 people regardless of outcome. The rarity is the 1 person founding team and once you get 5 or more it’s pretty messy.

  • http://www.lisaabeyta.com/ Lisa Abeyta

    So here is my question: in hindsight, could you have done your meetings 20+ years ago the way you did this one or was it the sacrifice of your time then that gives you the freedom to take a more leisurely approach now?

    • http://www.feld.com bfeld

      Impossible to really know. But technology didn’t enable what it has now, so that’s a big vector change.

      • http://www.crashutah.com/about John

        This was similar to my question too. Looking back, did your success depend on doing the frenetic schedule that you did or do you think you could have been just as successful with this new approach?

        • http://www.feld.com bfeld

          I think I could have been as successful without the insane travel. I would have had to approach many things differently however.

  • http://blog.trak.io/ Liam Gooding

    It sounds great that you’ve got a perfect balance going – making your travel really work for you, in a stress free and far more personally rewarding way.

    My only question/thought after reading the above was how those portfolio companies who you *didn’t* meet will have thought about this…

    “Does Brad not think we could take him for a relaxing dinner? Does Brad consider us as stressful and high effort? Hey, did you hear Brad came to town but didn’t say hi?”

    Obviously I’m being hyperbolic! :) But I guess a possibility with anything like this is the potential to send negative signals.

    Anyone with multiple children (or in my case, nieces and nephews) knows the dangers of not dishing out love/gifts/cards/time/facetime evenly :-D

    • http://www.feld.com bfeld

      Yup – definitely a possibility. But I have an open and direct relationship with each of them so I can easily say “I’ll spend deep time with you on the next trip” which I think they all understand and appreciate.

  • http://www.justanentrepreneur.com PhilipSugar

    The back to back to back meetings is brutal. I have never been able to do that.

    • http://www.feld.com bfeld

      It’s my normal day in Boulder which I can handle because I’m home. But I just don’t think it works for me anymore when I’m on the road.

      • http://www.justanentrepreneur.com PhilipSugar

        I can’t do it when I am in Delaware.

  • Mason Jones

    You have grown very wise, I think. Congrats on a healthy view on this!

  • greggottesman

    I loved this post and your comment about working with people you like and respect. Great having you back in Seattle!

    • http://www.feld.com bfeld

      Thx – great seeing you even if only for a bit. You are at the top of my list for “deep time” next trip.

  • http://www.kineplay.com/ben Ben Milstead

    This is “old bull” territory — smart. Yay! for traveling serenity and keeping to the values.

  • http://www.semilshah.com/ Semil Shah

    This is still quite a bit of activity for a 3-day trip, but maybe more focused. This also read as if you were visiting friends and/or family, not a “work” trip.

    • http://www.feld.com bfeld

      I ended up being VERY tired on Friday so it was clearly still too much.

  • jamesandersonjma

    great

  • http://www.about.me./Mariah.Lichtenstern Mariah Lichtenstern

    Love this…I don’t travel very often, but I’ve experienced both methods when I do. Your reflections on it are helpful. We often boast (if only to ourselves) in our suffering. But our lives, our bodies, and mental health are in the balance. As with downtime in general, simplifying often enhances productivity and quality of life.

    After a number of distasteful experiences working with difficult people, I can also appreciate your value system. I’m right smack in the middle of trying to honor this in my own life, without perpetuating exclusive business practices, via the formulation and articulation of company culture.

    Would love to hear approaches you’ve seen or advised your portfolio companies to take on culture.

  • Kirstin Horton

    Nice to hear you are back travelling and doing it on your terms. Makes all the difference.

    • http://www.feld.com bfeld

      Thx. A week later, I realize that even the way I paced the three days was pretty overwhelming. I need to put more empty time in my schedule on trips. I’ll keep working at it.