Last week I was invited to an all expense paid, five-star trip to Vail, Colorado to attend the American Ski Classic with my wife. The company that invited me is wooing venture capitalists and CEO’s of fast growing technology companies (i.e. prospective clients) on the trip for five nights and four days. We would get paired with an Olympic skiing legend on a team that will compete in two days of racing, enjoy five days of dinners with the Olympians, catered slope-side lunches after racing, tickets to watch the pros race, and a free pair of race skis. OMG!
They had invited a good friend of mine and his wife a few days before me and he declined. I told him he was nuts – “how on earth could you turn down such an amazing opportunity”, I said. When they invited me I agonized over it for 24 hours, but ultimately so no as well. So why did we have to turn them down? Was it conflict of interest or moral obligation? Hell no! If someone wants to offer me an all expensive trip to a five-star ski resort with absolutely no strings attached other than the common courtesy of considering them when we are in the market for their services then we are free and clear to accept. No, the reason wasn’t nearly as complicated as that. In fact, the reason is simply that we are too damned busy building and running our companies to take advantage of the many perks people dream about when they are working their way toward the top. Oh, and here’s the thing about those fancy lunches and dinners we get invited pretty much every day of the week – they are work! You are almost always entertaining clients or being entertained, which is really just an elegant way of saying you are selling or being sold. When you are “on” all day it is exhausting to be “on” all evening as well. Of course we do these events at night because its our job to see and be seen, but truth be told most CEO’s just want to go home with their significant others, climb into their PJ’s and veg in front of the TV. Sure, we absolutely appreciate the invites and the people, but after a while fancy dinners aren’t so special anymore as the novelty quickly wears off. Ultimately there is a pay-it-forward obligation affect to being invited to these things, so everyone gets what they want in the end.
Am I sitting here writing this post eating my heart out that I am not going to the American Ski Classic to be paired with an Olympic skier, sip Champagne, and hobnob with a bunch of other CEO’s and fancy people wearing my brand new race skis? Oh God yes! But I take comfort in knowing that if I continue to keep my head down and execute on our plan now my investors and I will have lots more opportunities like this to turn down in the future. So in the end its just a matter of delayed gratification.
In the meantime, I’ll study the itinerary below, close my eyes and imagine myself slope-side eating fancy food with fancy people and then live vicariously through my friends that did go on the trip when they get back (and yes, I blacked out the name of the company hosting the event in the hopes of getting invited again next year). Please feel free to join me on my imaginary trip to Vail.