Also posted at herot.typepad.com.
One of the key elements is making a business relationship work is establishing trust. This is especially challenging when the parties are seperated geographically. Technologies such as videoconferencing can help, but the conventional wisdom is that these tools are useful for reinforcing an existing relationship but that to establish trust at the beginning requires a face-to-face meeting. A recent experience has caused me to challenge that assumption.
As I have written previously, I have embarked on a long-term assignment with VSee Labs as their Chief Product Officer. That became official after a month of meetings with the CEO, employees, investors, customers, and Board members. None of those were in person. All but one were using VSee’s videoconferencing product. By the end of the proess I thought I knew the company pretty well and accepted the assignment, but the real test was last week when I met some of my new colleagues in person for the first time. What was surprising was my lack of surprise.
The context was a business trip to Houston to meet some of VSee’s customers. (There are some things that one still needs to see in person, such as Mission Control at NASA. More on that later.) As I walked into the lobby, I saw Linda Wang, one of the Network Architects across the lobby. We recognized each other instantly. The same thing happened when the CEO, Milton Chen, joined us. He was just like on TV. Anyone who has worked in a large enterprise can recall when they met face-to-face for the first time with someone they previously had only dealt with via email, phone, and IM. There is always an element of surprise. But there was none of that here. So with this limited data point I conclude that while face-to-face meetings are still necessary, they don’t need to happen at the onset of a relationship.