One would think that the need for most business travel would have evaporated by now in this era of WebEx, conference call, PDF and PowerPoint communication, but there are still circumstances where the old-fashioned version of FaceTime, that is, real, one-on-one time spent with a prospect, client or colleague, is preferable and necessary. There’s no real substitute for looking someone in the eye while delivering a firm handshake. Not yet, at least.
Traveling for business is time-consuming and expensive, though, so making the best use of that time is important. Here are five ideas that can improve the trip away from home.
Number Five: Stick To The Schedule
Human beings are creatures of routine and you, Business Traveler, are no exception. Staying on target extends to body and mind. That means that if you don’t have a meeting until 1, you should be working on something relating to whatever it is that you do from 9 until it’s time to make your appointment. After all, if you had sent an employee in your stead, wouldn’t you expect productivity while you’re not only paying the travel costs but their salary as well?
Asking yourself “is this the best use of my time” is an excellent yardstick for any set of tasks when at home and just as valid when traveling. Whether you’re a boss or you report to one, returning home with work done means that you’re able to stay focused in a set of circumstances that are potentially disorienting and that makes you much more worthy of hero status. Use your time as if it’s a valuable, rare commodity because, well, it is.
Number Four: It’s Not Personal
It seems like common sense that traveling to a place that isn’t (really) work or home on business should keep your mind on business, but it’s easier than you think to stray from the mindset you (should probably) have back at the shop.
Try to think of yourself as an ambassador for a country called Your-Business-Name-Here. In that esteemed position, you are the face of your “country” abroad, even if ‘abroad’ means Portland. It’s easy for your personality to unfurl when unfettered by the familiar, but what you put forward on your trip is what your contacts will likely perceive as the most credible and current version of what your organisation is about. In short, it’s not about you. You may have the face of Bob or Clara or John or Tina, but you most definitely will be the face of United General Widgets Incorporated International, LLC. Remember – your countrymen are counting on you.
Number Three: Feed The Beast
Just because you’re traveling doesn’t mean that your body and mind are ready for a radical change in routine. If you eat a salad with dinner every night and then walk for a half-hour, you should when you’re away from HQ. If you’re poring through the latest Steele or Patterson novel at home each night before bed, don’t stop because you’re away on business. Routine helps to ground you and validate your individuality, which is doubly important when in a strange place.
Number Two: Avoid Temptation
Traveling away from work can feel a lot like being on a bit of a vacation. You’re away from home, your neighbours and coworkers are nowhere in sight. But it’s over quickly and no part of the carry-on you take home need be regret. The easiest rule to follow in this regard is this: don’t do anything while on your trip that you wouldn’t do at home, with your spousal counterpart, boss and physician in the room, watching intently. This may seem strait-laced but since it’s easier to stray from the path in a place where nobody knows your name, the kill-switch of common sense may be stuck in the “it’s okay” position.
This conservatism doesn’t only apply to the baser acts that could land you on the local evening news. If you’re likely to head up that alley, you probably wouldn’t be reading this article anyway. There’s more to avoiding temptation while traveling on business than staying away from dirty dancing and the injudicious intake of substances with dubious health benefits. It’s more about avoiding gas-station sushi and karaoke competitions that roll ’till dawn. The temptation to do or try new things is there, but a business trip, where performance and ROI comes into the equation, is not the time to enter the local wet T-shirt tequila limbo contest, even if it is for a good cause. Plus, don’t forget that with smart phones, Twitter, Facebook and The Internet in general, your antics are but one SEND away from making you internet famous – or infamous, which is much, much worse. Permanent, too.
Number One: Gather Intelligence
Since business travel is so all-fired expensive, not just in terms of real travel costs but also because of absence of your set of hands from home base, keeping an open mind, eye and ear about this new place is a bonus opportunity. What’s the local economy about? What are the people about? Is there a feeling for the regional culture that you can absorb through interaction not only with your business contacts but through others you meet? Understanding the macro-scene at your destination means getting away from the hotel lobby and visiting the area with active interest. What would you want to know about the area and the people who live and work there if you were relocating there? What’s important to you given that hypothetical is likely the same thing important to people who live and work there, thus giving you the opportunity to better understand your business foes and friends.
The sometimes-tiresome adventure that is business travel yields fruit on many levels that don’t necessarily apply to the reason for the trip in the first place. Using that time to the fullest are travel points that never expire.