For some, vacation can be a prime opportunity to network, make deals
Melanie Nayer, Globe correspondent, 8/21/05
When Karen Dempsy vacationed in Paris this spring, she had no idea her retreat would turn into a profitable business trip for her relocation service company in Boston.
Demspy, owner of Alliance Relocation in Boston, traveled to France with her sisters after the death of their mother, who owned some pieces of art from a Parisian gallery.
After meeting the gallery owner, Dempsy learned that his son was attending the Massachusetts Institute of Technology this fall.
"I said, 'If your son needs any help at all, have him contact me.' Sure enough, one week later I received an e-mail asking me to help him look for an apartment in Cambridge," said Dempsy. "I travel a lot and I've found that everyone loves to talk real estate and everyone loves Boston. It makes it very easy for me to make contacts."
According to networking professionals, relaxing on the beach, mingling at the bar, or traveling with a tour group opens the door for strangers to find common interests and oftentimes, the conversation leads to work, and making business deals and creating opportunities with new business partners while on vacation is increasingly becoming common practice.
"People jump very quickly in conversation from 'where do you live?' to 'what do you do?'?" said Diane Danielson, the president of the Downtown Women's Club, a networking group for professional women.
"I think networking on vacation can be easier in some sense as people are more relaxed and willing to talk about what they do," she said. "And when you're in growth mode in your business, people are very generous with ideas and contacts." For some busy executives, the BlackBerry is always packed along with the beach towel.
Lynn Tokarczyk, the president of Business Development Strategies Inc. in Medway, vacations on Cape Cod, where she says she's never without a laptop or a BlackBerry, a personal e-mail device.
"A lot of people say, 'you're going on vacation — turn the business off and put the out-of-office reply on' but that doesn't work for me," said Tokarczyk, whose business is to provide government incentives such as tax breaks and job creation techniques to eligible companies. "I'm in the position to be generating leads and creating proposals to win new business. I could be at a restaurant or shopping, and I'll strike up a conversation with another business owner and find they are looking to expand. Right
there, I've made a business lead to follow-up with when I get home."
Maggie Mistal, a career coach for Maggie Mistal Career Consulting in Manhattan, said vacations are a great place to make new business partnerships because there is an immediate common interest.
"Everyone's career should incorporate your passions and interests," Mistal said. "If I want to make a career change and go into the film industry, your next vacation would be the Sundance Film Festival. Working moms and dads would probably go on vacation during spring break or when their kids are off for the summer. It's common to vacation in a place where you meet the same group of people you would do business with."
As the communications director for Cape Air Airlines, Michelle Haynes is constantly traveling between Logan Airport and Provincetown for her job, and has homes in both places.
"No matter where I am, I'm constantly working," Haynes said. "For the people who live in Provincetown, I'm their connection to the rest of the state. I represent the only airline in town. So by talking to people, I find out what Cape Air is doing wrong or right for the customer."
But not everyone agrees vacation networking is valuable. According to International Trauma Associates psychologist and media commentator Robert R. Butterworth, the expanding workloads of many employees has made some view a vacation as just a quick break before the Monday through Friday routine again sets in. "Vacation should be really defined as a time when we can really turn off those tech work savers and just relax and have fun," said Butterworth, who counsels patients with stress-related disorders.
"People don't understand that one's health and psychological well-being is more important than money."
Obviously, the stereotype workaholic is never far from the office — either in body or mind — but career counselors advise employees to take time off, and pursue interests unrelated to work.
"Employees should take their vacation and enjoy it, because Americans are working more and more," Mistal said. "My concern is that it doesn't become a vacation. It can be beneficial for your career, but it won't qualify as a vacation. Just let the networking happen naturally."
For those who still insist on downtime dealmaking, specialists stress restraint. "The trick with networking on vacation is to follow up gracefully. Don't hit them with an e-mail the second they come home," said Danielson. "Wait a day or two then send a nice follow-up e-mail, giving them the option as to whether they too want to follow up."
For Haynes, working for the only airline that flies to Provincetown means she is never really off the job.
"Networking when I'm on vacation is challenging for me. As I sit and enjoy my morning coffee, I'll hear about a dozen causes that people think we should be part of. I keep tickets and donation vouchers with me wherever I go," said Haynes. "For those of us who also live in a vacation destinations, you're really never off."
"I always bring my business card with me on vacation. You never know where your next opportunity will come from," said Ann Murphy, vice president of O'Neill and Associates in downtown Boston. "You want to go on vacation to get away, but if an opportunity presents itself you can't turn it down."