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Importance of face time

Published: 
Thursday, August 14, 2014

In today’s fast-growing and ever-shrinking world, business partnerships are increasingly being handled online. How would you recommend dealing with partners when you no longer have the luxury of constant, in-person meetings?

 - Andres Jaramillo

These days it’s possible to deliver a presentation to a client in South Africa in the morning, sell a product to a customer in Australia in the afternoon and end the day with some fish and chips on the British seaside—all thanks to innovative global technologies that allow businesses to be run from any place with an Internet connection.

For me, making business decisions from Necker Island, a relatively remote location in the Caribbean, has meant embracing different ways of communicating. Today, any successful company must do the same.

Personally, I still prefer having meetings in person. You can learn so much from eye contact, body language and conversational tone (the appropriate tone, after all, doesn’t always come across in virtual conversations). When it comes to business partnerships, if you have the opportunity to first establish a personal, face-to-face connection, go for it. Then when you follow up online, you’ll have a foundation for a good relationship.

Using different platforms for communicating is important for fostering modern business alliances, as is the ability to have an open mind in order to welcome new ideas. It’s important to remember that learning from different cultures and regions can give your business a huge advantage; the more varied the environment, the more good ideas your team is likely to come up with, which can mean more options for your customers. At Virgin, for example, we’re always using different means of communicating in order to encourage team members around the world to collaborate and innovate.

One way we do this is by using Google Hangouts. This popular online video platform makes it possible to see and hear who is talking in a group, and it allows for a wide on-screen display, which is tough to do on the screen of a smartphone, and impossible to do with email. The platform is particularly good for sharing ideas.

For instance, each month or so, our nonprofit foundation, Virgin Unite, asks entrepreneurs from around the globe - including those from the Branson Centre for Entrepreneurship in the Caribbean and Virgin StartUp in England; to discuss innovative business topics on Google Hangouts. It’s a fantastic, real-time way for our team at Virgin and various entrepreneurs to learn from each other. We also hold internal Hangouts so that staff from different Virgin companies can share their experiences and work more closely.