By Rob Driscoll
A lot of folks in the business world go to great lengths to avoid having their children along for a business trip, fearing it would be at best distracting and at worst chaos.
I was part of that crowd until nine years ago.
I had planned to take my eldest child Nicholas, then nine, camping in the Rockies for the weekend. However, on the Friday that we had planned to head for the hills, Garry Grein of Canmore-based Windtower Mountain Lodge called to say he was going ahead with an advertising feature in the next edition of Business Edge.
This was tremendous news as Business Edge was only about a year old and still struggling to gain a toehold in the market.
In those days, I wrote virtually all of the advertising copy, and we were going to press on Monday, so I needed to drive out to Canmore immediately to conduct the interview.
As I worked out the details of a Friday evening interview, it suddenly hit me that Nicholas would be devastated if I cancelled our trip to the mountains.
I told Garry that one angle for the ad feature was to have me bring my son to stay at the lodge and write a first-person piece on the experience. Garry thought it was a great idea and invited Nick and me to have dinner with him and his colleague Peter.
On the one-hour drive to Canmore, I counselled Nick on the importance of being polite and respectful while we ate dinner and while I did the interview.
He came through in spades as he was as polite as anyone could be while devouring two dozen hot chicken wings and participated in the conversation without interrupting. When Garry insisted on paying for the meal, Nick didn’t hold back in expressing his appreciation for the great food and sodas.
Garry was pleased with the Windtower feature that I emailed to him 48 hours later and even more happy about the response to the story.
Windtower became one of my best clients in the years to follow, and I think our initial meeting with Nick along for the ride was a big factor in creating a great client relationship.
A couple of months later, in similar circumstances, I brought seven-year-old Angela along as I conducted an interview with and wrote an advertising feature for Robyn Shipley of Marble Canyon Condos in Fairmont Hot Springs.
Angela behaved like an angel and clearly helped me win over a new client that would also go on to be a regular advertiser.
Then it was Theresa’s turn. At age six, she joined me for a trip to Edmonton for a meeting with a local business group. Theresa was polite and sweet, and the group immediately started a substantial advertising campaign.
Two years later, fourth-oldest Julianna got her first business trip under her belt as I met with an Edmonton restaurant owner. Despite somehow managing to slide through the back of her chair at one point, Julianna impressed the restaurateur, who ended up signing a large, long-term advertising deal.
The string of successful business meetings when I bring a child or two (I don’t press my luck by bringing seven to a meeting) has yet to stop, so I will continue to bring them along when I get the chance.
Of course, a sales person should always run the idea past the prospect first, but it seems to me that bringing a well-behaved child along on a business trip is actually better for business than not bringing one.
It’s also a great way, particularly in a large family, to give your child some much-needed alone time with a parent.