Facing up to business

Eighty per cent of my time is spent on the move. I am more often than not travelling between meetings with our member firms or potential members within RSM International, meeting their clients and key government or business leaders, and doing business with great people all over the world.

I often reflect on the different approaches to building professional relationships from one country and one sector to another, and how attitudes, cultures and what is considered best business decorum can vary so widely.

Despite these cultural differences, a common chord that strikes me, however, is the continued appetite across so many sectors and geographies for face to face contact.

In a world with an ever increasing array of communications options, you’d be forgiven for thinking that business people don’t still need to actually shake hands for global business to thrive.

But I’m a firm believer that they do.

Effective business relationships are built on partnership and trust. Talking on the telephone means you can hear someone. Connecting through a video conference facility means you can hear them and see them. But there’s something in sitting opposite a business partner, in sharing an environment together, that takes your relationship to places that telecommunications simply cannot reach.

Despite the technological advances that offer us viable and cheaper alternatives to flights, hotel stays and jetlag, the benefits of face to face business will in many instances far outweigh potential cost efficiencies.  That said, serial business travellers like myself have an important role to play in reducing our carbon footprints but a well planned schedule can significantly reduce time in the air, while still allowing those critical face to face meetings that forge the close and personal relationships which are vital to building strong and sustainable businesses.


Jean M Stephens
Chief Executive Officer