Traveling to or from a trade show or conference with colleagues offers the opportunity to do some brainstorming, compare notes or, if you are on a train, make some calls without the usual interruptions. But beware! You never know who may be listening.
If you happen to be in the right place on a plane, train or in a restaurant, you can gather truly astonishing intelligence.
As I write this I am aboard an Acela Express train traveling from Boston to New York. I use the term "Express" advisably, in that the train is running an hour late on a scheduled 3 hour and 20 minute run. If what follows appears to be a venting of my spleen, perhaps it is.
Back to the issue at hand, business intelligence (or lack thereof on the part of the players involved). Diagonally across the aisle from me sits a rather self important youngish man. For some 30 minutes he has been engaged in a telephone conversation with a colleague. The subject: the hiring of a new staff member. In a voice that resonates for rows, he is discussing several job candidates by name, including their present company affiliations and salary requirements. One such nugget, "She will require a base salary of $475,000 plus a bonus of at least $150,000". Another candidate, mentioned by name, was dismissed as "too junior".
While this conversation was annoying and potentially embarrassing to the job aspirants under discussion, the conversation of someone directly behind me on the trip from New York to Boston was incredible. Another self important traveler conducted a conference call, the purpose of which was to discuss his company's strategy in dealing with a major prospect. Details of the strategy were discussed, as were the names of the prospect's managers, their opinions, the likely response of competitors and so on.
Imprudent, but not likely fatal, you say? Let me tell you about a similar scenario that occurred many years ago. I was a passenger on a flight from New York to Chicago where I had an appointment to meet with the merchant division of a large credit card issuer. Two passengers took the adjoining coach seats. For most of the next two hours they discussed how they would deal with the prospect they would be visiting. They also discussed their strategy vis a vis a competitor they were determined to quash. Their prospect was...my prospect. The smaller competitor they were going to bash? You guessed it...me.
In that instance their indiscretion was fatal. Bartizan won a very large contract.
If you are going to discuss business in a public place, be very circumspect. The walls may not have ears, but those around you do.