What a summer! In the USA, everyone’s packing their suitcases and clogging roads and airports. I have been traveling (and masking) since last February, and just returned from the Colorado Rockies where I was immersed in the Rocky Mountain culture.
As you plan for growth and an eventual emergence from this crazy pandemic, it’s important to know how things work in different US regions. Also, if you are building virtual teams and strengthening customer relationships, you need to know what your remote teams and customers value.
Every region has its unique qualities and idiosyncrasies. I recently got a dose of life out West! What an adventure. My boyfriend and I booked a Rocky Mountain, Colorado getaway and attended my nephew’s wedding. I reunited with family members and savored the great outdoors. Thankfully, the Rocky Mountain region allows for plenty of distancing, and Colorado shows encouraging vaccination rates (54% are fully vaccinated; I’m hopeful it spikes past 70%).
Michael and I at “Breck”
I never expected this brief sojourn to teach me so much about living out West including the Rocky Mountain culture, and the implications for hiring remote teams. With half of my clients struggling to find great marketing talent, I hope these observations help you adapt to cultural norms that may not necessarily align with your own.
1. Bicycles may be a prerequisite to earning Colorado residency. It’s not uncommon for homeowners to build a playroom to store their outdoor equipment. Long, meandering bike trails hug I-70. It’s a delight to see families savoring the great outdoors together. Michael and I drove one of the few cars that lacked a bike rack! Biking is baked into the CO mountain ethos. Which is a good thing…because…
2. Driving on I-70 rivals a modern-day Formula One race, with fatal guardrails. This highway carves an impressive yet treacherous trail through the Rockies. Eighteen wheelers pepper the right lane and make a slow crawl through the passes. Although the posted speed limit is 70mph, that is strictly a guideline. If you visit the Rockies, or are planning a company meeting, keep your day trips short. Longer trips on I-70 will spike stress levels.
3. Some social rules are just…guidelines. In restaurants and hiking trails, I noticed that pets and children are often left unattended. Expect some blatant disregard for the rules. This saddened me, and here’s why.
I grew up in a small rural town in New England, where we revered gardens and other people’s property. It was a sign of respect.
That definitely wasn’t happening in the local mountain towns. One evening in Frisco, CO, we strolled Main Street. The owner of a bustling restaurant had clearly spent considerable money on landscaping. One family of patrons decided it was perfectly fine to let their toddler march through the beds and trample plants.
The hiking trails were not much different. Signs asking pet owners to leash their dogs were posted everywhere. That didn’t stop people from letting their dogs run loose. I witnessed two very frightened children on the trail when some 60-pound dogs charged towards them. The dog owners didn’t seem to care.
I hope this laissez-faire attitude changes. Otherwise, this invites lawsuits and rancor.
4. Housing costs fuel a growing socio-economic crisis. In this region, home prices keep climbing. One of my family members owns a two-bedroom townhome in Castle Rock. Today, a nearby 700 square foot property sells quickly—with multiple offers– for $620K.
How can a young couple or family afford to live in the area? They can’t. They try for a while. Then they move out. Case in point: one CPA couple I met told me that they have struggled to find an affordable home near Vail. Their quest for an affordable Western Mountain community is underway. This economic strain will affect the diversity and vitality of the area—and limit the talent you’ll find there.
5. Fitness feats are the new Porsche. Remember the 1980s, when friends tried to impress you with their cars, homes, and designer threads? In some regions of the USA, this is still the case. In the Rockies, it’s about flaunting fitness feats. During my casual conversations, several Colorado residents boasted about their completion of the 54 peaks—the “Fourteeners.” Each of these peaks are over 14,000 feet.
The “hard core” mountain dwellers revel in adventure, and need ample time to train and achieve fitness feats.
6. Skip the edibles. Just spend time at 10,000 feet. Colorado legalized the commercial purchase of cannabis in 2014—the first state to do so. I spotted multiple dispensaries in every town. It took me three days to adapt to the Copper Mountain altitudes, which resulted in some lazy hours on the sofa, slow uphill hikes, and massive water consumption.
Why bother buying edibles when you can simply spend time at altitude? It’s a more cost-effective solution. I digress…
Travel is one of the greatest ways to see the world through new eyes, escape old patterns, and appreciate diversity. As we design new teams and hire in areas outside of our familiar regions, it’s up to us to understand their norms and values.
If you are in the throes of reorganizing your teams to reach new heights of growth in 2022, and want to compare your strategy to your peers, drop me a note. Happy to be a sounding board.