As a touring musician, I’ve performed in many cities throughout the US and Europe. I toured heavily throughout the nineties and into the early 2000s. In fact, in 2007, I performed in a new city every month of the year. After years of gigging, I settled down a bit to concentrate on my health, my wife, and my software startup. It wasn’t until recently that I began to realize I wasn’t enjoying travel as much as I used to. I was visiting places that were compelling, but something wasn’t the same.
Six months after founding Voltage Control, I decided that it was time to think about markets outside of Austin. My network felt strong and growing, yet I didn’t have many connections outside of the city. I started to prepare a plan that would build my network in other places and eventually lead to a healthy pipeline of clients.
I decided to take the same approach that has worked for me here in Austin, starting with referrals and introductions to interesting people and seeing where those conversations lead. My ask to my network was simple, “Who is someone you think I should know?” Sometimes the response would be: “I can’t think of any potential clients for you.” To which I’d reply: “I’m not looking for clients. I’m looking for interesting people doing interesting things.”
Once I had my approach identified, I needed to start implementing it. To actually follow through on my plan, I had to pick a city. I started by making a list of potential destinations. After weeks of refining and reordering the list and mostly just being indecisive, an opportunity to visit San Francisco presented itself.
Capital One was hosting a Change Catalyst Diversity and Inclusion workshop at the Capital One office in San Francisco. It was immediately clear that this was the signal I’d been waiting for: San Fransisco would be my first destination. I signed up and booked my flights. I booked the trip for the entire week even though the workshop was only Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning. The extra days would give me time to work on building my network.
I setup up coffees, lunches, and dinners with old friends and new contacts. In short order, I had filled up the entire week with meetings. It looked like my plan just might work. Upon arriving in San Francisco on Monday morning, I headed out to Downtown Oakland to meet with Robbie Bhathal, CEO of Suiteness, to whom my friend John Turpin had introduced to me. After a lovely chat with Robbie, I caught a quick bite with Guy Taylor, an old friend who is now running a synthesizer shop. Then I headed back to the city to meet Jake Knapp, author of Sprint, for a pleasant stroll through Golden Gate Park.
For the rest of the week, I followed a similar circuitous path through the Noe Valley, Soma, South Park, College Hill, The Castro, and The Financial District. I met with lots of fascinating people in new and unique places. I even hiked the Berkley hills with a brilliant gentleman who had recently obtained his Ph.D. in Organizational Theory. We had a grand time exercising while he swapped his theoretical knowledge for my stories from the trenches.
After what on all accounts should have been an exhausting week, I returned delighted and electrified. In the following days, as I reflected on the trip and what it meant to me, I began to realize it was one of my favorite trips in a long time. After thinking a bit more, I realized that this trip resembled my early days of touring.
After thinking a bit more, I realized that this trip resembled my early days of touring.
When touring as a band or solo musician, I worked with promoters, sponsors, fans, booking agents, club owners, and other professionals associated with the event. The first thing you typically did when arriving in a new city is connect with your local contact, which is usually a music professional, close friend or fan. This person showed you around their favorite places and introduced you friends. It was a fantastic way to see a city—through a local’s eyes.
My San Francisco trip followed a similar format. Each day I had a mission and one or more people that were hosting me. My approach was to meet wherever it was convenient for the other. Going to their preferred location created a scenario where I was always discovering places I might not have otherwise.
Since my trip to San Francisco, I’ve also visited San Diego and New York where I followed the same protocol. The San Diego trip centered around the 0111 CTO conference and the New York trip was for the Nasdaq CTO Summit. They were both booked on short notice and due to scheduling issues I wasn’t able to schedule as much time. They felt a bit rushed, so I hope to do entire weeks like my San Francisco trip in the future.
Connecting with like-minded humans in new places.
It is clear to me that this is the beginning of a new way of travel for me. Or perhaps it is more appropriate to consider this a return to the way I fell in love with travel. Connecting with like-minded humans in new places.
Thanks for reading! Share with my your latest travel adventures or how you explore new cities when you travel.
Voltage Control specializes in Design Sprints, and we facilitate Sprints in Austin, Dallas, New York, San Francisco, and wherever you are! Please email Douglas at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in having him facilitate your Sprint, coach your team on how to run an efficient Sprint, or are curious to learn more about how a Sprint might help your company or product.
If you are in or near Austin, visit us at the Austin Design Sprint Meetup. Each month we have a guest speaker share their experience participating in a Design Sprint. If you would like to be a future speaker, please email me.