It comes down to a basic business principal that I follow: establish the goal, set the expectation, and unleash the team to do what they do best. Use a consistent and standardized review process to ensure you are on target and adjust your approach as needed. This can be accomplished regardless of where the team may be located at any given time. Of course, having a world-class assistant is one of the keys to many an executive’s success. Ellise Priber has been my executive assistant for the last eight years and she has been invaluable. Unfortunately, Ellise retired in September. She will be sorely missed by our entire team and many of our customers.
MP: What are some of the potential pitfalls of such a full travel schedule?
RD: Every one of us has dealt with, or deals with, the trials and tribulations of travel. Air travel, in particular, can be incredibly difficult and certainly has an effect on all of us. The idea is to “roll with the punches” and use your time wisely to take care of the most pressing matters. Leverage technology to keep the communications process open and flowing as much as possible and maximize the opportunities with your business.
On the other side, of course, is family and being able to spend time at home. Our families need us there as much as our work colleagues need to see us in the office. Bottom line: You have to want to make it work. Set expectations, and your schedule will follow. A strong family is the foundation on which we are able to build our careers. Even when schedules require back-to-back trips and often over a weekend or into holiday schedules, nothing can replace a “pit-stop” at home and spending time to connect and recharge.
I am also a big believer in health and fitness. A strong body equals a strong mind. Creating the time necessary to maintain a physical fitness regimen is critical. I have found that regardless of the market, you can always find a decent gym and catch a good workout. While my internal clock is often off, there is always an hour in the day to maintain the commitment. Health and fitness also means eating right and sticking to a healthy diet. We all know that business dinners can offer an opportunity to indulge. You just have to stay true to yourself and stick to your plan.
MP: Path forward, do you anticipate maintaining this degree of travel/in-person interaction? What determines how much time you will spend on the road as opposed to at HQ?
RD: When you are looking to build and operate a global enterprise, travel is part of the game. We will continue to build this organization market by market, office by office, individual by individual, and in doing so, I will continue a travel schedule dictated by the demands of the job. Four-and-a-half years ago when I accepted this position, I told my wife to prepare for a two-year sprint followed by a marathon. I learned that my calculations were slightly off, as it has been a four-and-a-half-year sprint and the marathon is somewhere on the horizon. In all seriousness, that’s not a bad thing, and while I anticipate that my travel will continue to be incredibly difficult, the entire leadership team travels extensively as well. We divide and conquer. We recognize the need and the demand and the desire for us to be in a number of different markets. We split it up so we can help to have the impact that our franchisees, our international masters and the market are looking for us to have.
Rick Davidson’s Travel Tips and Tales
Favorite country you’ve traveled to for CENTURY 21: Outside of the many wonderful cities and attractions the U.S. has to offer, I would say Japan. Japan is a country that is known for its wondrous nature and four seasons, but the history of a nation that has persevered through so many challenges is one that I can aspire and relate to as a proud countryman and businessman. Japan’s people, food and amazing landscapes coupled with their collective strength and unity are displayed proudly in their culture, like their way of life, customs, traditions, heritage and values, to name a few. The country is truly remarkable.
Best way to maximize down time while traveling: I try to allocate down time for brokers and sales associates when I’m out in a market, whether it be the continental U.S. or abroad. There is always an opportunity to tie business to a social activity, whether it is a ball game, a charity outing or community event. These are ideal ways to look for commonalities and learn about the market and its people. For example, after our Global Conference in Vegas this past March, my wife and I, and several CENTURY 21 affiliated brokers, managers and their spouses rode our Harleys down to Arizona to take in the beauty of Sedona and Flagstaff. There’s nothing better than carving out time for yourself, then sharing it and spending quality time with your customers’ friends and families.
Most memorable travel mishap: I have had many mishaps for sure, including emergency landings, in-flight medical emergencies of other passengers, fully-booked hotels with my room given away, middle-of-the-night fire alarms, and certainly challenges with language barriers.
Most memorable travel experience: When I spoke to 5,000-plus CENTURY 21 China sales affiliates at the Water Cube, which was built alongside Beijing National Stadium for the 2008 Olympic Games. The enormity of the stage, coupled with China’s belief that seeing the venue beforehand and practice are not required for great execution, and needing to speak alongside a translator, all added up to a time and place I will never forget. It was actually an awesome experience.
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