BAGGAGE INSPECTION: CROSS-CONTINENT COMMUTER
Farenheit 212 C.E.O. Geoff Vuleta packs—and sleeps—for the distance.
If you think your commute to work is the height of hellishness, consider that of Geoff Vuleta, co-founder and C.E.O. of product-innovation consultancy Fahrenheit 212. It used to take him 24 hours to get to work.
“I had a very naïve ambition that I could commute between Auckland and New York,” says Vuleta, a New Zealand native and former Saatchi & Saatchi executive who in 2002 co-founded Fahrenheit 212 as a unit of the advertising firm. “As odd as this may sound, it became normal, taking a day to get to work. Living in a hotel room was the worst part of it—it was not a way to grow a business.”
Vuleta had one simple rule for tolerating the journey: no sleeping in U.S. airspace. “If you stay awake across America, leaving or coming back, it makes it a ton easier to sleep through the flight across the Pacific or when you land in New York,” he explains.
But soon enough, that technique wore thin. In 2005, Vuleta relocated to New York—though he still spends nearly as much time traveling as he did before his move. “It’s a very rare week indeed when I’m not on a plane at least once,” Vuleta says.
Fahrenheit 212 spun off from Saatchi in 2006 and currently counts among its clients Procter & Gamble (Vuleta travels to Geneva for their projects), Boucheron (Paris), and Samsung (Seoul). The consultancy specializes in revitalizing brands and rethinking products—it helped Samsung develop new applications for its L.C.D. panels and launched rice-based Pringles in Europe for P&G.
When not overseas, Vuleta is crisscrossing the U.S. to manage his domestic accounts, which include Clorox (headquartered in Oakland, California) and Coca-Cola (Atlanta). “We’re a fledgling business in startup mode, and we’re hungry,” he says. “You’ve got to do what it takes.”
Luckily for Vuleta, being continually in motion is in his blood. “New Zealand is a travel nation,” he says. “Eighty or ninety percent of New Zealanders have passports. My daughter is 10 and she’s flown 25 times. Travel’s part and parcel of your life.” With all this coming and going, he has packing down to a science. He keeps prepacked toiletry bags—both week-long and overnight versions—on hand at all times. And he always takes advantage of hotel laundry services before embarking on a return trip.
Lately, Vuleta says, he prays that trips don’t necessitate passing through a U.S. airport. “The American airport system is dire,” he says. “It’s appalling; it’s underwhelming; it’s beyond frustrating.”
So what would this big-ideas specialist do to revamp the industry? “I wouldn’t know where to start,” Vuleta laughs. “It’s too lazy, too regulated, too self-serving—the biggest catalyst for change would be for one or two of the big airlines to go under.”
His irritation with the system did prompt him to take on a project he might not have otherwise. “Somebody turned up yesterday with an idea that would ease the carrying of liquids in your toiletry bag. We said, ‘We’re going to help you.’ ”
Too ease his own pains, Vuleta will stick with two other travel fundamentals: “Encourage clients to come to our offices and use JFK, the world’s worst airport, only if walking is the only other option.”
by Megan Angelo Aug 22 2007