Last week I was in Seattle, so I decided to stay an extra day and drive up to Vancouver to meet with the staff at PASS HQ on Thursday. I met up with Bill Graziano & Rushabh Mehta on Wed afternoon and we finally started the drive up about 6:30 pm. Fairly uneventful drive up, though not as nice as I had hoped because we were driving after dark, missing the scenic view. We talked a little about PASS, but nothing serious, just relaxing after a busy first part of the week. About 9 pm we hit the Customs checkpoint, and then the fun began. They were somewhat confused by us because; we all work for different companies, we were leaving Canada on different days in different ways (2 by plane, me driving back), and we didn't have the address of the office handy (we were just headed for the hotel that night). They have us park and we go inside to stand in line, after about 30 minutes finally asked to provide our documents and tell our story again. Finally they decided we were either no risk or too dumb to be a risk, and let us proceed after about a 45 minute delay.
Our hotel was in downtown Vancouver, and took a while to get there, lot's of stop lights. Nice area though, and nice view. I think the thing we all noticed is there are lots of condominium towers and lots of Asian restaurants (at least compared to where we're all from). I was up early the next morning and went over to the hotel restaurant for breakfast, only after eating did I find out out was a $25 breakfast and no, it wasn't that good (and I won't bill that to PASS, I should have asked first). We left a little later than planned because one of my travel companions was late (it wasn't Bill), and we stopped at McDonalds by PASS HQ for coffee - not recommended, made from concentrate and truly bad.
Our office is nice, not extravagant, just enough for what we need and in a location I suspect is reasonably priced. We had an agenda set up, but that was soon off track and both Bill and Rushabh had to dive into VP stuff (that's "very portant" I think), so we reconfigured and I spent most of the morning talking to Craig and Sanj about advertising, the PASS Connector, and related items. Sanj is my support line, and it was good to spend time just talking with her and understanding how things worked. For example, one thing I didn't know was that after she builds the Connector each week, she currently sends to David (our IT guy) to convert it to HTML. Obviously not the most efficient plan, so we'll get someone to spend some time with her to show her how HTML works and let her own the entire process. Lots of little discoveries like that only happen when you have time to just talk, and one of many that made the trip worthwhile for me.
We went across the street for lunch and I was disappointed to learn that Vancouveriates (ians?) don't seem to appreciate really iced tea. The restaurant staff tried making some from English breakfast tea, but I don't see how the English drink that stuff for breakfast, much less lunch!
After lunch we finally got everyone back on track, and spent some time working on the staffing diagram. A big challenge is to align tasks with Directors to the extent possible, but staff usually works across Directors and also on the Summit, so this was a chance to review what had been developed over the past two years and look for gaps. For me it was clear that there were a few things that made sense to move to Sanj, and that will probably happen over the next couple months as we migrate those. Overall it was a bit amazing to see how much stuff goes on, especially with regards to the Summit. I'll see if we can get the Visio diagram posted when it finishes up the review process.
From there we talked about a lot of smaller stuff; our content strategy and how it relates to SIGs, how to make the elections run smoother this year and how to grow/find great candidates, marketing strategy around Summit generated content, and more. I'll have to omit a lot of the details for now because much of it needs to filter back to the Board, but it was a solid 3-1/2 hours of work, and again proves my contention that if you want to get creative work done, you have to put people in a room and just see what happens - nothing else works as good.
We ended our meeting at about 5:30 and headed back to the hotel, meeting up with Judy, Craig, Blythe, and Kate for dinner at 7 pm and talked some about PASS, real estate in US/Canada, state of the economy, and some plain old small talk. It was cold by the time we left for the hotel at 9 pm - I was ready for head for home! My drive back through Customs on Friday was painless, and the direct flight to Orlando from Seattle was ok, about as good as 6 hours on a plane is likely to be flying coach.
I've made a note to write more about our HQ office and staff sometime in then next couple months. Interesting story to tell, and they play a vital link in providing continuity as board members come and go.