WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU HIT THE ROAD?
Our first summer we stayed at hotels mostly, but we also used Airbnb and stayed with friends and family where we could along the way to save money. Meeting friends and family while out on the road added an extra dimension of getting to know each other, and it is great to get home-cooked meals.
Our first summer we took two of our own cars, which were both sedans. It might be hard to do the trip in one car, but it would also depend on the length of your trip, the number of team members, and how much you are packing. Packing four people’s luggage in a car for 6 weeks would be difficult. You could also think through other travel options, like train, bus, or air, but we think there is something special about traveling by car. You get to see the places you go and everything in-between close up and in person. You get to pull over and explore, meet people, and discover new things that you’d otherwise miss.
c. Funding your journey:
We received no financial support from our school that first summer and raised money on our own using crowdfunding. Specifically, we ran this IndieGoGo campaign and then the following year this second one for our Inaugural Class of fellows. We had one corporate sponsor who offset some of our lodging costs, and we secured internships at the beginning of the summer to earn some money to offset our costs.
d. Managing Costs:
The biggest costs of the journey are transportation and hotels. If you can line up free or reduced-cost housing in each city you visit and avoid renting cars, you cut out a significant portion of the cost. If you can’t stay with friends or family in a given city, reach out to a couple of the hotels and explain that you are a group of business students coming to town to volunteer in the community. Tell them about the awesome work the entrepreneur you are supporting there does, and they will often give you a discount – specifically ask if they can cut the rate down to the government rate, or as close to it as possible. Last summer, Michael called every single hotel that our 8 teams stayed in – nearly 75 of them, and 60 of them gave us significant discounts. Ask to speak with the manager or the sales manager, and be sure to call the front desk of the actual hotel, not the central reservation number. The first answer you will get may be “no”, but be persistent.
You and your team’s safety has to be your #1 priority at all times. We recommend the following:
a. Travel well-equipped: Check out the DMV website and Life Hacker for ideas on what to have in your car, but at a bare minimum always have flashlights, a first aid kit, jumper cables, food, and water.
b. Travel with support: Get AAA roadside assistance. You will be grateful you have it when you blow a tire outside Albuquerque. Share your itinerary with friends and family: Make sure at least one person outside of your team has access to your schedule to know where you will be traveling and when you expect to arrive.
c. Discuss and commit to driving and safety norms: The driver should never have a cell phone in their hand. Institute a norm that has the front passenger in charge of navigation, using the cell phone, and anything else that could distract the driver. Have a team discussion about driving habits and abilities. Some people may be more comfortable than others with city driving, long highway drives, etc. Know your limits and share them with your team, and make it a safe space to voice concerns about driving habits. If someone else’s behavior is making your feel unsafe, tell them. We encourage your team to commit to and sign the same driving safety documents that we use for our teams.
III. WHAT DOES A TYPICAL WEEK LOOK LIKE?
Arrive to your destination city Saturday or Sunday, and have a dinner scheduled with your entrepreneur for Sunday night. This is an opportunity to get to know them outside of the walls of their business and to further develop the relationship you’ve been building with them remotely for months.
Monday: Kickoff & first steps
Have a morning kickoff meeting with your entrepreneur and any of their team members who will be involved in your project. Introduce yourselves to the whole team and share your story of being on the road this summer and explain why you are doing it. By this point you should have been in touch with the entrepreneur for months scoping the project and doing pre-work, but now is your opportunity to re-confirm the scope of the project, the shared goals for the week, and the first step that the team plans to take. Given how quickly things change for many entrepreneurs, the scope of the project will likely shift, possibly dramatically.
Set the expectation that this is a collaborative experience, and that given they know far more than you about their business, they will be involved in the work as an equal member of the team, not just as an audience. Make the entrepreneur and their team aware of how much time you hope to get with them, what days, and what times during the week.
Then immerse yourself in the entrepreneur’s business. If they are a barbershop, get a haircut and talk to customers. If they are a skateboard company, watch them build skateboards and talk to the team. Use the product. Help make the product if you can.
Time to get your hands dirty and do something: a survey, customer interviews, brainstorming sessions, a simple model, etc. By the end of the day, share what you’ve done with your entrepreneur, share what you’ve learned, ask more questions, continue to refine the scope of the work. Remember that you won’t solve anything in a week, especially if you try to solve everything.
— “Ensure you have given the entrepreneur a skeleton slide deck or summary of what your deliverable will look like by Tuesday evening, in order to: 1. Ensure you are moving in the right direction – so you are sure you are addressing the heart of the matter or concern 2. Get feedback of what exactly they would like “the solution” to look like. Are they more comfortable with a conversation and some tools? Would they prefer printed documents? Flowcharts? A training manual? etc.” – MBAx1 Fellow
If you haven’t already, now is the time to fully pull the entrepreneur into your creative process and share with them your progress up to this point and what you imagine your deliverable to them will be by Friday. Get their input on what seems like it will be helpful and where you may be off-track.
— “Regularly level set to what an entrepreneur needs in order to get started on Monday and make sure all of your work drives to that.” – MBAx1 Fellow
Thursday: Inspiration Day
To understand businesses who are having a positive impact in their communities and be an effective partner to them, you need to have contact with their community. Get outside the four walls of the business and meet with people – other local business owners, people connected to your entrepreneur or impacted by their business, local government leaders, local community capacity builders, etc. One great way to do this is to do service work – volunteer your time. Ask the entrepreneur where you should go and what you should do. If possible, bring them too.
— “Go out of your way to connect with other entrepreneurs in the cities you are in and the communities.” – MBAx1 Fellow
Today’s the big day. By this point, given how collaborative the working relationship has become with your entrepreneur, and given the daily check-ins, nothing in your presentation should be a surprise to your entrepreneur or their team. In fact, their ideas, feedback, and insights should have driven a lot of the recommendations, so they should feel just as much like their ideas as yours.
You pull everyone together for a morning presentation, run it as a group conversation, and thank everyone on the team. If you are lucky, they are so grateful they take you and the team out for lunch. We look at Fridays not as saying “goodbye” to a client, but saying “see you later” to friends. Remember that the most valuable deliverable you can give a client is not a perfectly formatted presentation – it’s four friends.
We recommend setting aside time at the end of the day Friday or Saturday to debrief as team. It’s important to reflect on what you did well, what you could have done better, and to give and receive private individual feedback. Use our Weekly Debrief Huddle Guide to take full advantage of the opportunity to improve your team performance and develop personally as well.
Daily & Weekly: Takeaways from MBAx1 Fellows
IV. TELL THE STORY:
Entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship are incredibly popular in the media and in our culture in general, but we typically are only exposed to a very particular type of entrepreneur. The reality is that the types of entrepreneurs we choose to work with are often under-represented, and we believe that just as important as going to work with them is sharing their stories with a broader audience. Our first summer on the road, we wrote about our experiences with our entrepreneurs on Tumblr, which then became our official MBAx Blog where every team of MBAx Fellows writes a blog post about each week of their journey. We would love to feature posts from you and your team as well, but would encourage you to also have your own blog.
These are all great platforms to start:
Social Platforms: At the most basic level, tell the story of your summer and the entrepreneurs you work with to your closest networks on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Search twitter for #MBAx1 to see some of the stories, photos, and memories shared last summer from the road. We’d love for you to use #MBAxOpenRoad so we can follow your journey.
Local media: Contact local newspapers and tell them you are coming to town and whom you are going to work with. This is a great thing for a “city lead” team member to do when planning the journey. Share the amazing work the entrepreneur is doing and see if you can get someone interested in doing a piece about your visit and the entrepreneur.
Connect with Us: We would love to know what you are doing, follow your journey, and hear any feedback or new ideas you have as well. Please keep us posted!