Brilliant at the Basics

We as a business culture have hocked solid basic business skills in favor of glitz. Taking its place are new and shiny concepts and magic bullets.

I recently saw a link to a post by Nicholas Bate at his “Business of Life + Life of Business” blog, which many readers have seen and enjoyed. I know it made my day. In fact, even though I am otherwise meticulous about maintaining a clutter-free desk, one exception is the printout of Bate’s post that I keep there.


Bate sets out 100 rules for success in business. These are all very basic, but also very widely ignored. What really resonated with me in the manifesto is that we as a business culture have hocked solid basic business skills in favor of glitz. Taking its place are new and shiny concepts and magic bullets. Bate masterfully dashes the notion that having the ability to “leverage social brand currency” gives you a free pass. I mean, you still need to show up on time.


Bate’s rules came to life for me this past week during a multi-destination trip that transported me from a jaw-droppingly gorgeous hotel to a normal, mid-grade chain property. Changing venues like this is always, if you’ll pardon my vexation, a harsh comedown. Especially since I no sooner got over this downer than I found myself stuck at said latter hotel for several extra nights as a result of that latest in the series of epic snowstorms which we have taken to calling “Snowmageddon.”

At first blush, I was bummed out. I had given up Gorgeousland, with its two bathrooms, brace of forty-odd-inch plasma TVs, and ubiquitous inch-thick granite surfaces for Plainworld. Sharply tricked-out attendants no longer rushed to open doors for me nor tote my bags. I had no awe-inspiring balcony, and the shower and bathtub were, disappointingly, combined. Plainworld was a bore.

After the first night there and following a solid breakfast I walked back to my room to work on a few things at my plain desk. I began to realize that I was totally fine. At that my peevishness lasted all of four minutes because I had recognized that this hotel had their act together in a serious way. The staff was polite, well-informed, and helpful. The building was extremely clean and conveniently laid out. They had good coffee and free Internet access. The bed was comfortable and the shower fixtures were intuitive and simple. Despite being stranded, I got a ton of good work done at that desk. Indeed, I put myself ahead, work-wise, because I was in such an agreeable and un-distracting environment. This particular property, which I happily reveal to be a Starwood, was excellent. I will stay there again.

This is what happens, I thought, when travel industry providers get “brilliant at the basics,” if I may use Bate’s terminology. There is no doubt that the business of travel gets more complicated if not weirder, every day; in fact, 2011 is off to a galloping start in that department. But none of it is any excuse to surrender our common sense or pride in good work.

If you have a good think about it, there’s room for all of us to perfect the stuff that really matters and to waste much less time on things that amount to perfect distractions.


About the author

I travel a lot, like many of us. And I work for Amadeus, the largest transaction processing and IT company in the world serving the travel industry.