Is Now a Good Time to Panic?

The unfortunate thing about business travel is that, unless you are able to fly by private jet, you will have to use public transportation to travel any significant distance at all. That means you are going to have to deal with airports, security procedures, crowds of “non business” travelers around you at all times and … Continue reading “Is Now a Good Time to Panic?”

The unfortunate thing about business travel is that, unless you are able to fly by private jet, you will have to use public transportation to travel any significant distance at all. That means you are going to have to deal with airports, security procedures, crowds of “non business” travelers around you at all times and the inevitable delay or canceled flight.

As a business traveler, you have a mission to complete. This is not necessarily an adventure nor is it something you are doing for fun. Its business and you handle it as business. If you travel frequently on business, you have a standard process you go through to handle waiting for flights and how to store and retrieve travel documents when they are needed.

Most of time we had handle the presence of large crowds around us. After all those families on vacation, groups of teenagers on spring break or young couples on honeymoon have as much right to the airways and the airports as you do. But everything changes when flights begin to get canceled, especially if you are in a situation where so many flights are canceled and large amounts of people are going to be stranded in that airport overnight.

When such a situation begins to loom, it is easy to sense that feeling of panic rise up as you sense it happening in those around you. Inexperienced travelers may have no idea how to handle this situation. But as a business traveler, you are there doing the bidding of your company. You probably are on an expense account of some sort and you should have good credit that you can use to navigate this situation. So if you see an airport shutdown situation happening around you, you may ask yourself that question, “Is this a good time to panic?” The answer is no. But it is a good time to act fast so your needs are met.

It is always a good idea to keep your wits about yourself in an airport situation so you can take action early if you see an airport shutdown situation beginning to happen around you. The thing to remember is that you are the one in control here and you do not have to let yourself be put at the whim of the airlines or the airport. But detecting the crisis coming early is the key and taking quick action.

Often as flights begin to get canceled, you may find yourself in long lines to try to rebook flights or find a solution to the problem. Realize that if the airport is stopping all flights due to weather or other reasons, there is no resolution waiting for you when you get to the front of the line. And staying in line will only add to your sense of crisis and panic.

So get out of that line! You have resources to make accommodations for yourself. The last thing you want is to have to pass the night in that airport. If you can get another form of transportation, you can still get to your destination albeit a little late. But rental car agencies are going to be flooded with people who, like you, are looking for a solution. So the earlier you can diagnose the situation as not acceptable and get a car, the faster you can leave the airport and head for a hotel or for your destination.

Use the same strategy in booking a room at a nearby motel or hotel. If you can get to private accommodations for the night, you can work, make your phone calls and preserve your energies so you are able to conduct business well once the crisis is passed. But the key is don’t panic, devise a solution quickly and put your plan into action efficiently so you can redeem as much of the day as you can because of your wise use of resources.

Flying Into Danger

It’s not something we like to talk about but bad things happen to good people, even good business people who are just out on the road to pursue the prosperity of their company. But in some cases, there may be some real travel threats on your route to your business destination. This is especially true today in the age of terrorism where a trip to Europe or the Middle East can mean some very real danger may loom as you travel.

It is our job as responsible adults to think about the dangers that could happen on an upcoming business trip and assess that danger and either approach the business objective differently or prepare accordingly. The first step if you suspect that your next business trip may be hazardous either from political unrest, bad weather or other reasons, is to do an honest review of the importance of this trip. If you can accomplish he goals of the trip without putting yourself or your business associates in harms way, that would be preferable to a potential disaster on the road.

If it looks like the trip is still a go, be sure you learn all you can about your destination, recommended safety precautions and the nature of the potential danger. The US State Department keeps their web site up to date on the nature of potential security risks at http://www.travel.state.gov.

The next step for preparing for a business trip that may be hazardous is to double and triple secure your documentation. You can make copies and scanned images of your important personal documents such as your passport, visa, driver’s license and other crucial identification cards that you must have overseas. By leaving copies of these at home where a contact person can access them and uploading digital copies to a public folder that you can access anywhere you can find the internet, you give yourself a safety net should those documents disappear. Also review the status of your travel documents and get y our renewals done now if there is any chance one of them will expire as you are out on the road.

If you are traveling to one or many foreign countries, make yourself familiar with the location and phone numbers of the US embassies in those countries. By having that information on your person as you move from country to country, you are ready to move swiftly should you need to call on them to help you out of a jam.

If you do encounter trouble and require medical help, you should have on your person your crucial personal data that can be used to quickly get you help. You can print up a card with your name, names of who to contact in an emergency, blood type, medical details such as allergies that should be noted, important medicines that you may have that can help you if you are in physical need and anything else a lay person might need if you are in a far away place in critical need. For even more security that this card is able to communicate your critical data, you can have it translated into the language of the country you are visiting so there is no delay as local health or public service persons work to get you help.

The more you do to prepare for your trip, the better prepared you will be to respond to trouble or even avoid trouble entirely if it occurs. By understanding the local customs and what to do in an emergency situation overseas, you can respond calmly and quickly to crisis and secure yourself, your business associates and property early and quickly. Then if danger does rear its head, you will be well prepared to lesson its impact on you.

The Airplane as Your Office

Business travel very often involves long hours in flight to the city where your work will be done. For most business people, this is lost productivity time that can be torture if you cannot get work done in flight. How often have you said to yourself or to a coworker, “That’s all right, I will just work on that on the airplane.” That is a noble intent but circumstances inside an airplane cabin, especially in coach, can make the fulfillment of that commitment hard to accomplish.

Like anything else, if you are going to redeem the time while you are in the air, you should come prepared with an agenda of work you can get done in that setting and with your expectations well in check before you even check in. Let’s face it, the cabin of a domestic airplane is not designed for business productivity. You may have a myriad of distractions from crying babies to a talkative neighbor. The airline personnel have quite an agenda of items to interrupt your time with and then there is the turbulence and the narrow seats that dictate that whatever you are going to get done is going have to be done in a place of very little space availability.

To expect that you will have the seat next to you to spread out your work or that this will be the flight of perfect peace and quiet is to set yourself up for frustration and disappointment. So to be prepared to achieve some level of productivity on an airplane, be aware of these limitations and design your work so you can use that time within those constraints, not in spite of them.

A basic necessity to use to realize some level of concentration in flight is a good set of ear plugs or an earphone and an ipod. You can use that device to pipe music to your mind that can be conducive to concentration and thought. Now earphones sufficient to block out the kind of distractions you will encounter on an airplane will have to be pretty sophisticated. So don’t cut corners on this purchase. It will pay you back over and over as you use them to block out surface noise in airplane cabin.

The best way to walk off of that airplane with a sense of accomplishment is to set your goals before you board and make them goals you can attain. You cannot expect to be able to open up your laptop and work peacefully in coach. It is very possible you will be able to do that but you may find turbulence, an active population around you or other factors may make such work very difficult to do. So to be sure, prepare a project to work on using your laptop but don’t be disappointed if it turns out to be too difficult to attempt. And above all avoid having a deadline you have to hit using the time during your flight to make up for lost time on your deadlines. That will only make the flight frustrating and result in an angry and worn out business traveler.

The best form of work you can assign to yourself is analysis or reading. If you have a document or some documents to review, the confines of an airplane seat accommodate that work just fine. Business reading is easily the best form of work to do in flight. Using those head phones to block out the world, you can lay back with a book, a business magazine or a report and take your time to study it or read lengthy blocks of that material during a long flight. In a two to three hour flight, you can read entire chapters of a business book and come off the flight with a tremendous amount of food for thought to take into your businesses meetings at your destination.

It is possible to redeem the time in the air by accomplishing some solid work. But the key to getting success at that goal is to be realistic about what can be done in an airplane seat and tailoring your expectations and goals accordingly. If you do that, you will be happy with how you used the time and the flight will go by much more quickly as well.

A Corporate Travel Policy that Works

It is a myth that employees who travel on business resent the corporate travel policy. The truth is that employees like to know what is expected of them and how to comply with a corporate policy as long as that policy is fair and gives them the ability to do what they need to do on the road. So a well thought out corporate travel policy is a benefit to the company and the business traveler alike.

If it has been given to you to put together a corporate travel policy, your mission from the stand point of the company is to develop a policy that standardizes business expenses, eliminates waste and excess on the road and puts some controls around that part of the business expense picture. So there are some definite focus areas you should include in the stated corporate policy including…

* Reservations. The business can utilize a travel agent that is looking for the best deal for the company. The best rates can be identified and taken advantage of but only while making sure the business traveler’s needs and the business objective of the trip are satisfied. Requiring that employees utilize the corporate travel agent again is not unfair and it clarifies for the employee how to handle the situation.

* Use of credit. It is a bit of effort and expense to set up corporate credit cards that you can require your traveling employees to use. But by trapping expenses to the corporate account, you can get a record of a most of the business expenses that the employee is incurring. Many of the expenses of travel such as airline and hotel can be directly billed back to the company thus taking the issues out of the hands of the business traveler.

* Travel rewards. If you have your corporate travel coordinated by an internal or external travel agency, corporate accounts with the major airlines can be established so the frequent flyer miles can be collected by the business. As such, the business can redeem those miles and realize those benefits as a significant discount to apply against the travel budget.

* Per Diem. Your corporate travel policy must communicate clearly to the traveling employee what their limits are for hotel, rental car and meals on the road. You want to head off before it starts any tendency by the employee to go overboard with daily expenses. This part of the policy should be reviewed annually to update to current costs.

* Reporting. One of the chief complaints employees have about corporate travel policies are that the expense reporting system is cryptic and hard to fill out. You will give the employee a standardized form that each traveler in the company must fill out to get reimbursed for expenses while traveling. But review these forms and even design your own so the format is understandable and you have categories to cover all types of expenses the employee might encounter.

Along with these general categories, your corporate travel policies should include some leverage for employees who are faced with exceptional situations. Room and food expenses can vary widely depending on where the employee must travel. So you don’t want to set the hotel limit to $125 per night because it is reasonable to stay in a comfortable hotel for that rate in Lincoln Nebraska but enforce that same limitation for an employee who must do business in New York City.

By creating a policy that in general protects the corporate budget but is also workable to employees who are about the company business, you will have a tool that will serve both company and employee interests and enable business travel to be what it was always intended to be – a productive, business focused activity that achieves the goals of the enterprise.

Moving Through Airport Security Quickly

Ever since homeland security has become such an issue, moving through airport security has become more difficult. As a seasoned business traveler, this part of your business trip requires some savvy preparation and your knowledge of the system so you can sail through security at the airport as quickly as possible. But the ability to navigate airport security quickly is not something that comes easy or without some significant planning and training.

The biggest problem of getting through security is not you, it’s the other people who did not come prepared for this process. If you get stuck behind someone who is completely stumped by what is expected of them, it can take forever to get through the system. So the first priority is to hit airport security when the crowds are low. The easiest way to accomplish this is to take the first flight of the day out of that airline. This will be the time when there are fewer people in the airport than anytime of the day.

Usually it is only business travelers who are at the airport at six a.m. so they will be the ones that already know how to handle security and the lines will move much more quickly. Like them, you have already learned the most recent rules about what will pass through security and what will get you stopped. You will need your driver’s license and boarding pass several times as you move through the process. So have that out early on and ready to show it often. Don’t put that information away until you are on the other side of security and ready to go to the gate. That one-step alone moves you along quickly through the different checkpoints of airport security.

Usually airport security uses a queuing system to handle the crowds. That means that usually it is one long line moving up to the gates and then that line splits into several gates where various teams work the travelers through the scanning stations. As you are standing in line to go through the gates, keep an eye on the different stations. Some stations will stop more people or their equipment is too sensitive so it is moving slower. You may notice that a new team has arrived and is preparing to open a new station. With a bit of maneuvering in line, you can hit that new station as it opens and move through fast before the lines accumulate there.

This is also a place to do a bit of profiling. While it is not ok for police to profile, you can look over the people ahead of you and profile those who will either be detained for scanning or will be a big problem when they are ready to put their stuff on the belts. Certain ethnic groups might get scanned more often. It’s sad but true. We all want racial equality but if you can avoid being behind that person, you might get through security faster. Also, avoid “amateur travelers” who have lots of kids, the elderly, people in wheelchairs or anyone who looks like they are confused by this process. You can be a hero and help someone out if you have plenty of time. But as the lines split up to go to the different stations, you can simply avoid being behind people who will slow up the process and go to the fast lines to get through more efficiently.

You can cut down on how much you get scanned before you get to the airport. Wear slip-on shoes that you can get off quickly and back on quickly. Boots and tie shoes just slow you down. Keep the amount of “stuff” you are carrying through security to a minimum. Put your wallet, keys and other pocket material in your briefcase or purse before you even get in line. In that way you are down to shoes and that item to move through security and you can move more quickly.

These tricks of the trade can make the beginning of your business trip much less of a problem and get you to the gate more quickly. The security personnel will appreciate that you know what you are doing and you will reduce your stress and move along to your business goals with less anxiety and a greater focus on your objectives.