The Year of Living Spectacularly
The best thing I ever did for my business was leave. I don’t mean sell the company ... I mean go far, far away for an extended period of time.
In 2012, I decided to do what entrepreneurs do best— I took a leap of faith and moved. My good friend and mentor, Verne Harnish, was living in Barcelona, Spain, at the time, and he raved about its budding entrepreneurial community, perfectly situated between the mountains and the Mediterranean. It sounded tempting, but I was nervous: Would my clients and employees think I was checking out? Could my business survive if I were thousands of miles away? Would my children’s education be on par with their current schooling? There was a lot to be worried about, but I knew that I would regret it if I didn’t make the move.
Turns out it was one of the best decisions of my life! I like to say that moving a family of five from New York, USA, to Barcelona was like spring-cleaning for the soul. We sold two cars and our apartment, stored most of what we owned, shipped what was left overseas and boarded an international flight to a new land and a new life. What happens when you arrive in a foreign country, can’t speak the language and don’t know how to navigate the culture? Let’s just say it was an experiment in patience, determination, cooperation, and above all, family bonding. There were plenty of professional challenges to overcome, as well. After I settled in, I found myself looking at my business in a new light.
Moving overseas forced me to set my business up in such a way that it would run smoothly while I was gone. I found the key to keeping things going was constant communication; I lined up team video conference calls every week and traveled back once a quarter to see employees and customers. In Barcelona, my mornings were devoted to strategic planning and marketing, and my afternoons were set aside for phone consultations. Along the way, operational decisions began to take on a new importance. Who could I count on to best represent the company in my absence? Who would rise to the leadership challenge, and who would not? Traveling turned out to be a great way to determine who was and wasn’t indispensable.
Despite all of the unexpected challenges, operating overseas had its advantages. Because of the six-hour time difference, I got a sizeable head start on my customers and employees in the U.S. every morning, and became 10 times more productive thanks to all of the time and mental space I allowed myself. The fact is I’m a more effective CEO sitting 3,700 miles (rather than 37 feet) away from my team. My absence has empowered my employees in ways that were not possible when I was always there to lean on them. What’s more, the distance has enabled me to take a longer view of my business and plot new innovations for our future. Since I moved, our gross margin has gone up, our expenses are down and I’ve developed a more strategic, less tactical view of the company and our industry.
On a personal note, my family has been enriched by this experience, as well. Together, we’ve stared down countless challenges and have grown much closer as a result. Living and working (and for our children, attending school) in a foreign country has taught us lessons in resilience, adaptability, openness to other cultures and a profound appreciation for friends and family.
Before we moved to Barcelona, I hoped only that it would be a transformative year for me and my family … and it wound up being a year of living spectacularly! My goal was to travel and create life-long memories, but I experienced so much more along the way. I re-engaged with my business, expanded my community and am now charting a new path that will incorporate the lessons I’ve learned this year about environment, productivity and perspective. Today, my business and family are thriving because I followed my dream. Best of all, we all learned that the world has so much to offer if you just open yourself up to it.
David Rich (pictured with his family) is the managing partner of Twig Lane Group, LLC., a firm that offers smart capital to entrepreneurs in the retail and consumer package goods community. Fun fact: David has run marathons all over the world, including in New York City (14 times), Paris, Prague, Mount Everest and on the Inca Trail.