Ten years ago my business took me all around the country and the world. But unfortunately I didn’t see very much of it. I was a guilty-feeling working mum, so buzzed in and out as quickly as I could through anonymous airports, stations and hotels. Always in a hurry, no time to stop.
What a waste. Now my travels are less constant, but much more of a pleasure. I can see now, that it doesn’t take much effort to make much more of business trips. So with the benefit of hindsight here are my top tips for making the most of business travel opportunities.
When it comes to business travel, less is definitely more. I aim for fewer, better quality trips. Be more critical about whether you really need to make the trip. In this digital age we tend to use the phone less, but I have found that a few phone calls can build and cement relationships as well as a face to face meeting. Video conferencing has improved massively and adds a dimension.
2. Plan ahead
Gone are the days where my planning consisted of accepting a travel file from my assistant. Invariably I’d find myself in a bland, soulless hotel. On one occasion, the only social space was a sports bar stuffed with raucous football fans. Not much fun for a woman on her own.
Now I check out potential hotels using review sites like Tripadvisor. I’ve found some real gems that way and I get to view the facilities first, see those social spaces and read reviews from other solo business travellers. Plus, I’ve ditched bland chains and saved money.
Your travel pack needs to include ticket and travel essentials as well as a guide or printout about your destination. PartnerPlusBenefit have developed a series of destination guides for the most popular business destinations throughout Europe and further afar. These guides offer information about where to stay in the destination, how to travel around the local area and what to see.
3. Enjoy the destination
Try to fit in an open-top bus or walking tour. It gives you a fast overview of where you are and all the highlights. If you have longer, check-out a local guide and experience something of the local culture. Or if you’d prefer to connect with the local business scene look at Meetup or Eventbrite to see if there are any interesting business events while you’re there.
4. Build connections
Linkedin is a marvellous tool for developing your business network. Who do you know in the town you’re visiting? Meeting up for a random coffee could spark new business opportunities, make your trip more meaningful or both. Use the Linkedin search function to find any first level connections. If you don’t have any, select second level connections and see if there is anyone you’d like to ask for an introduction to.
5. Business mums
I’m still a business mum, but I’ve ditched the guilt about business travel. Children react to our frame of mind, so if we feel bad about something, it’s likely they will too. Leadership is about setting the tone, in business and at home.
I make my travels a positive experience for us all. My daughter loves to help with the planning. Of course there are gifts from interesting places. And facetime on the iphone is wonderful for having that after school or bedtime chat, wherever you are. But the most important change has been my attitude.
Business travel has become a privilege and a pleasure. If you have the opportunity, make the most of it.