By Drew French, Founder and President, Your Pie

Travel has always been an integral part of the Your Pie story. In fact, many people don’t realize that the idea for Your Pie was actually inspired by my honeymoon trip to the Italian island of Ischia, where we visited my wife’s extended family. Even after 11 year of leading Your Pie, I find that experiencing new cities and different cultures continues to catalyze innovation, motivation and fresh ideas that I can bring back to our corporate office, test kitchen or restaurants.

Immersing yourself in a new place is one of the best ways to escape monotony and look beyond the blinders of your day-to-day grind. I encourage all entrepreneurs to consciously make time to step away, change your perspective and learn to appreciate the way others live beyond your direct circle of influence—you’ll be surprised at what you can learn. Here are a few of my favorite tips for maximizing your travels for the benefit of your business:

Use Every Business Trip as a Chance to Explore
A few months ago, my wife and I visited the Pacific Northwest to spend time with our brick oven vendor, whose company culture has always struck me as unique and very magnetic. While we were there, it was great to observe another team’s interactions and make mental notes of things I want to replicate at our home office in Athens, Georgia. Leaders vary, of course, in personality, vision and management style, and it can be a great exercise to shadow other leaders to learn how they motivate teams and foster culture. When those leaders are partners or vendors, that’s even better! They have the added benefit of understanding your business in context and can provide a valuable outside perspective.

When taking any kind of business trip, make time to step outside and explore your environment. The local cultures of Bellingham and Seattle, Washington, are very different from our hometown of Athens—plus, Seattle’s food scene is very forward thinking, and we found a lot of inspiration in walking the streets, discovering small restaurants and learning about the city’s micro-cultures.

Share the Value of Travel with Your Team

I believe that traveling with your team bonds you in ways that might not happen inside the office. This year, I traveled with 17 team members to Las Vegas for the International Pizza Expo. It wasn’t my first time attending this event, but I wanted to give some of our corporate team and franchisees  a chance to experience the show, compete in the pizza cook-off and learn together from all of the other exhibitors. I’m always in awe of how pizza culture varies around the world, and I was excited to help my team see beyond the fast-casual, down-the-line pizza that defines our concept, and to identify other worldly influences we can implement to amplify our food and elevate our guest experience. In addition to the learning aspects, hanging with your team outside of the office, enjoying meals together and sharing experiences is a blast and strengthens your company culture. Whatever industry you are in, I recommend investing in attending conferences or trade shows with your team every few years.

People Tell the Story of a Place

One of the coolest meal experiences I have ever had was in Ischia, Italy, where my wife and I honeymooned. Natalie’s family is from the island, and one night we went to her great aunt and uncle’s home for dinner and to watch Italy play in one of the World Cup semi-final games. The courses kept coming throughout the evening as everyone watched and socialized. Italy went on to win not only that game, but the entire World Cup. Hugging and cheering, we experienced family, food and culture in a way I never had before—and will never forget. This is the experience we seek to replicate at Your Pie, and it can only come from connecting with the people around you.

When traveling, the people you meet and engage with in a new place shape your memories of the trip more than you may realize. Whether you know the people you are visiting, happen to strike up a conversation with your waiter or even chat with a passerby on the street, engaging with people in a meaningful way, learning from them and understanding different ways of life can elicit incredible inspiration.

Do you have a business trip planned in the near future? A summer vacation, perhaps? Take some time to really appreciate your destination, and give yourself the freedom to explore a new path or experience a new point of view. I guarantee it will bring you rest and some ideas or revelations you weren’t expecting.