Outdoor Meetings Was The Best Move We Ever Made
Nobody likes to think they’re conventional. So, as a qualifier for new business, ‘unconventional’ has never really cut it. That’d be like going, ‘We only work with people who floss their teeth’; sure, they might *say* they do because that’s what they want you to believe, but really… yeah.
Anyway, for us ‘unconventional’ means big ideas, a desire for change, and so on - so it really wasn’t something we wanted to drop. These were the people we needed to work with, regardless of how difficult they were to find.
Let’s flash back a sec; we’re kind of weird. We do all our best thinking outside, and okay, it makes us look a bit strange to deskfolk, but we don’t really care about that. We stand by our method. We stand by our weirdness. And we were like, ‘We bet there would be people out there who would stand alongside us.’ The unconventional ones. The weirdos.
That’s when one of us said the word Netwalking. And we never looked back. We shared some of our experience on the Corporate Rebels Slack group to find that unsurprisingly, we’re not the only ones in this community to utilize the great outdoors either. We’re now connected with a bunch of like-minded weirdos from New Zealand to the United States.
Good question. We know that when a potential client walks with us, they’re the kind of people that we’re going to get along with because they’re willing to experiment, steer away from convention and think differently.
When you’re surrounded by the ecosystem that is the natural world, you can’t help but feel a part of a bigger picture where everything is connected. It’s a powerful image. And, for us at least, it’s a pretty good metaphor for how we think businesses should behave. So, the outdoors also helps to kind of illustrate our process.
Research actually suggests that our brains aren't designed for the kind of information bombardment we put them through every day. Sometimes, we need to allow them to 'reset'. For example, in one study conducted at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, participants were shown to be less frustrated and more meditative when they walked through an urban green space. That's compared to people walking through a built-up environment.
This is supported by another study, which concludes, 'If you’ve been using your brain to multitask—as most of us do most of the day—and then you set that aside and go on a walk, without all of the gadgets, you’ve let the prefrontal cortex recover, and that’s when we see these bursts in creativity, problem-solving, and feelings of well-being.'
Hopefully, you're thinking that the outdoor thing sounds pretty good. You're probably also thinking, 'How can I actually practice this, and make it work in real life?' and, 'What has this got to do with success?'. Those thoughts ran through our heads too. And while we weren't 100% sure on the answer at the time (Psst! We've since figured it out!), we were determined to try and discover what it was.
How’d it start out?
Small. On our first walk, we had two (awesome) people…hardly the massive turnout you would expect from a networking event. In the end that didn’t matter - not to us or them - because we had a positive impact and great feedback. In turn, that gave us the confidence to keep going. It also proved that we weren’t alone.
As time went on, word of mouth did its thing. We went from 2 interested people to 80 in the space of 4 walks, not because we pushed hard on the marketing (we didn’t spend a penny) but when people came and walked with us, they invited other people along to experience it next time and mentioned people who they said would love this idea.
This was mostly the ‘unconventional’ type of person we talk about, but also the stressed out/overworked individual, or the person who wouldn’t go to a traditional networking event. We found our tribe of people who were able to share our mission and help spread the word.
One of the most valuable lessons we learned is: You don’t need to convince everyone; you don’t need to have the support of hundreds of people to prove that you have a better way of doing something. It certainly doesn’t matter if it’s against the norm, or seen as a bit weird. Two believers is all you need.
It doesn’t matter if it’s against the norm, or seen as a bit weird. Two believers is all you need.
What’s it led towards?
Meeting clients outdoors has increased our ability to connect on a human level. But fundamentally, walking - for all its perks and nuances - has allowed us to rebel, inspire, and be more persuasive. It’s allowed our team to communicate with more compassion and flourish creatively and in terms of productivity.
Everyone’s got their thing. Walking’s ours. It’s tried and tested, straight from the horse’s mouth. If you don’t have something, our suggestion is: take a walk.
The author of this guest blog is Matthew Kettell. Mati is co-founder of Bare Collective, a compact unit of multi-disciplinary creatives and entrepreneurs, united by one core purpose: telling stories that matter.
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In early 2018 I took on a new challenge. After two years in the popular management world I decided to take a leap into academic life. I started a part-time PhD program in Business at the VU University Amsterdam. Since then I have researched how large organizations (with thousands of employees) can scale and organize without the need for middle management. It’s time to share what we’ve learned.