What I Learned On My Summer Vacation


Kristi Houssiere’s career in the high-tech industry spans more than 20 years. Here, Houssiere realizes while on family vacation that there are crucial lessons you can apply to business wherever you go, if you're willing to learn them.—Jennifer D. Bosavage, editor

As Director of Worldwide Channel Programs and Operations for Guidance Software, I often find myself applying happenings in my personal life to how they relate to my work in the channel, and this summer was no exception. Here are three lessons I learned from a recent family vacation touring the beautiful northern coast of California that can apply directly to the channel:

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1) Plan for change. Who knew that when my family and I showed up at the airport on Saturday at 6:45 a.m. to begin our vacation, that our plane and the flight crew wouldn’t be there ready to take us? When the plane finally took off at 11:00 a.m., we adjusted our plans as we knew we wouldn’t hit our first road trip milestone at Point Bonita Lighthouse in Sausalito.

We all know that in the channel, change is the only constant. Re-assessing or even optimizing your plan may be needed to address changes in the market, selling region or in the channel community as a whole. For those of you that create or support channel programs, you clearly understand the many operational and departmental interdependencies present in your company. As department initiatives change, executives move, or new products are announced or acquired - you too have to adapt and change your plan to mirror new objectives. So plan for change and create programs that can adapt to the channel’s ever-evolving environment.

2) Don’t miss the big picture. You can’t always see the forest from the trees. This was especially true as I found myself climbing 75 feet up a redwood tree to then launch myself on a zip line through an ancient forest. I was physically forced to only focus on the trees, bringing a whole new meaning to the phase “tree hugger!” Losing sight of the big picture can happen, especially as new programs are just developing.

Have you ever been in meetings to build out a new channel offering and someone steers the discussion toward minute delivery details, before the program purpose, goals and objectives are fully confirmed? Set then communicate the big picture by mapping it out and developing a crisp, simple overall purpose, goal and timeline for the program. Share your goals with key stakeholders and ask for input to ensure it is valued and relevant. Make sure your time is well spent by sticking to those core objectives rather than getting “lost in the details.” When you do work out supporting details, keep a critical perspective on the main objectives and you’ll reap the reward of a job well done.

3) Remember, there is no “I” in team. A large part of our vacation was spent driving through quaint small towns, windy coastline and the Redwood National Park. Everyone in the car had jobs that benefited the team as a whole. My husband was a terrific pilot and schedule keeper while I took on the role of co-pilot and peacekeeper. My daughter was DJ and meal planner (important for mind and spirit) and our son acted as comedian, social media historian and photographer. In the channel, not only do you need the right tools for your desired outcome, but you need the right team too. Build your team (whether they are direct reports, subject matter experts or borrowed task masters) in a way that utilizes everyone’s strengths and expertise. Assigning the right team players to the right task should not be overlooked. Keying in on who does what best while understanding what each person has a passion for helps to navigate toward the team goals in a very efficient manner.

Two more personal (bonus) lessons learned during the family road trip, to which you may be able to relate: My 12-year old son could put an ACLU attorney to shame in his cries for quality and fairness, and my 14 year old daughter could be 100 percent entertained forever anywhere (or completely oblivious- depending on how you see it) with cell coverage and her iPhone. Sigh.

We completed our epic road trip up the California coast and through the woods in only 1,100 miles. I loved watching my children discover and learn from the world around them. I too was reminded of ways I can use my experiences (yes, even on vacation) to improve my work in the Channel. By leveraging these three principals of flexibility, big-picture thinking, and teamwork, we will better serve our channel partners and utilize their abilities to grow sales.