Experience of different cultures enriches your workers' lives.
I run a business that aims to make the world a better place, and I have always found engaging with the world and its different cultures has formed my business over the past 20 years.
In addition, I have had some of my best ideas when in more remote parts of the world. I strongly believe that travelling benefits you as a person and also benefits your business through the different perspective and ideas you will bring back when returning.
So much do we as a company believe this that we have just implemented a 7-year sabbatical where employees gain an extra two weeks paid holiday (or 4 weeks half-paid) in their 8th year.
There is only one rule: the sabbatical has to be taken adjacent to at least one other week of normal holiday, meaning that people have to take at least a three-week holiday to encourage longer periods of travel.
There are around 7 people that will benefit from this immediately as they have already been with us for that length of time. So why do I believe this is so important?
No matter how small your company is, in the 21st century you are a global business. Your company is visible throughout the world, and most of your customer and supplier relationships have an impact on various communities throughout the earth.
This influence may be through the direct impact of your supply chain, or through potential carbon impact harming communities through rising water levels due to climate change.
Some aspects of our effects have been hidden through lack of knowledge in previous decades, but now the behaviour of all businesses is in the spotlight for the world to see.
It is easy, however, for these disturbing facts about the people of our world simply to remain as statistics unless we become personally involved in the problems and pain of the people in much poorer parts of the planet.
I have found that travelling to poorer communities in the world has vastly enriched my life, and many others I know who regularly travel to similar places would agree with me.
Journeying to other countries and cultures enables us to see more easily the failings of our own culture and can also challenge us to make changes within our own business when we return.
Yes, there is a time and a place for sitting on a sun-lounger, sleeping, eating and drinking, and we all need time out to recharge our batteries and spend time with our partner and/or children. However, I do think it is a tremendous shame to travel to any foreign country and not engage with its people and culture.
How many of us actually spend time properly communicating with the indigenous people of the country when we are there on business or holiday? For me, the times spent learning from different people are the most special times of any holiday or business trip.
I have had many times conversing with people who have been directly involved in a struggle against an oppressive regime which has had a profound effect on me.
Visiting museums is fine but engaging with the struggles of people in the world will help you run a business that truly benefits those oppressed people, who then become far more than a statistic.
I would encourage you not just to visit places but to engage with the people who live there. Your life will be richer, and as a result, your business will be become a better place as the ideas, values and humility will shape them too.
In a more direct way copying ideas from other countries has always been done by the most successful businesses. Being within the world of food probably gives us an advantage here, as food is the basis of a large part of any culture.
Many of my good ideas are ‘borrowed’ from others, and even if not directly copied, I continue to be inspired and gain a different perspective on my own business by visiting other cultures.
If you are fortunate enough to be able to travel on business, do make it your duty to learn from those running similar businesses in other cultures. Just as on personal trips, building relationships will repay itself many times over. Through talking to and learning from others, you will enrich your business and benefit your customers and staff.
My most formative times, and certainly the places where I have the best ideas, are when I am away from my immediate situation, and travelling is a key part of that.
Not closeting yourself away when you are in a foreign country may lead to the odd strange adventure, but more normally you will be inspired and exhilarated by learning from others.
Nothing is more humbling than meeting remarkable people with completely different backgrounds to ourselves, who are achieving amazing things, despite having all the odds stacked against them.
It is all too easy to be cocooned in our cosy existence in the West and not realise the implications of some of our stereotypical Western behaviour on people in other parts of the world.
I am talking about behaviour and practices that damage the environment or the effects of some of our purchasing behaviour on poorer communities in different parts of the world. Have you noticed on appeal campaigns such as Comic Relief the video footage is always based around individual stories of poverty, illness, death or tragedy?
The presenter could instead focus on statistics that give the sheer scale of what is happening to provoke us to action. But, as any fundraiser will tell you, it is far more effective in fundraising to focus on a family or an individual who is suffering, rather than announce big statistics.
It is just the same for us in our businesses. Focusing on how we can improve and change a small community directly creates much more passion for us and our teams as well as the positive feedback of seeing another community in the world changed for better through our actions.
As a company we are engaged in a community, schools and orphanage in Western Kenya, and the over £150k raised over the years has been repaid many times over in to the lives of those within the business who are engaged and have travelled over there.
So, in summary, travelling to and engaging in other cultures will both enrich your life and make you a better world citizen and also make you a better entrepreneur or business person. So, please do not hold back.
Paul Hargreaves is the author of new book Forces for Good: Creating a better world through purpose-driven businesses. He is also the CEO of the fine foods wholesaler Cotswold Fayre.
How Encouraging Your Team To Travel Can Benefit Your Business