3 Reasons Why Business Travel Will Never Die

Posted by Richard Moran & filed under Uncategorized.

airport

We all complain about business travel. The complaints are consistent: we are treated like cattle, it’s bad for one’s health, the seats are too small, the food is inedible, upgrades are never available, we get nickel-and-dimed with extra charges, the flights are delayed and, it is expensive. Worse, the conditions around business travel seem to be getting worse, not better. We business travelers know that we make up a huge percentage of airline revenue and we complain, but we are now reconciled to a dismal experience.

The perils of business travel are now so legion that LinkedIn just had an entire series on bad business trips – it was not a contest I wanted to win. Business travel can be a source of stories, adventures and new friends, but the misery side of the experience is more likely.

Nonetheless, like cattle going to the hay, we willingly trudge into line behind Group #2 in the boarding area to hop onto those planes, hoping that there is room for our carryon bag. Why do we do this, often willingly? In a day of conference calls, sophisticated video conferences, and other technologies that should eliminate business travel, it is as predominant as ever. Is it to collect Frequent Flyer Miles? Sometimes, but the experience is a lot of torture for few miles. Is it for the joy of completing expense reports? Probably not.

So why do is business travel still such a big part of corporate life? Other than the reality that sometimes the boss makes you, there are three simple reasons why we continue to travel:

1. The Hero Factor – Entering into business travel can be like going into battle and we are going to win the battle. We are going to speed through the TSA lines, get some work done on the plane, close the deal, and return triumphant. We are not martyrs; we are the super people that brave the elements and the gate agents for the good of the Company. We will return with the bounty.

2. The We Want to Get Away Factor – No; it’s not about getting away from the spouse and the kids, although for some that may be a reason for volunteering for business travel. We may want to get away from the office because we need to get things done. Sometimes, airplane time is the only time to be productive and think and set goals. Travel can be a break from the routine and it can sometimes be rejuvenating.

3. And, Sometimes You JUST HAVE TO GO – The demanding client who wants to shake your hand before the deal is done still exists. The photo opportunity with the boss is still important. Making the final pitch can only be done in person, video won’t do. There are lots of times when we still just have to show up.

The airlines know that business travel is not going away. In spite of the technology, business travel is increasing. Airlines know too that a business traveler may book a flight the day before we travel. In so doing we spend three times as much for the same ticket that Aunt Mabel bought six months ago. So all airlines say they are trying and some are making life a little better for the business traveler.

So much disruption is happening in so many “mature” industries. Let’s hope that disruption can happen in the airline business and make life a little better for the intrepid business travelers.

Out of Office: The Words No Business Traveler Wants to Hear

Posted by Richard Moran & filed under Uncategorized.

flight can
This post is part of a series in which LinkedIn Influencers and members share their business travel advice and stories from life on the road. Read all the posts here.

The contest I don’t want to enter is who has the most business travel disaster stories. Although, if I did, I might win. Anyone who has spent time in consulting, sales or a bunch of other “travel required” fields is in the same boat. No one wants to remember the worst stories.

But while we are on the subject, there is one particular trip that I remember well. I had to be in Manhattan for an important Monday morning meeting so was on a red eye flight on a Sunday from San Francisco to New York – start there in the disaster category. Something went afoul in the reservation process and I was re-ticketed to a middle seat in the last row of coach, right next to the bathrooms. I was seated next to a person who was traveling with a cat in a small bag. I am allergic to cats. There was a medical emergency so we landed in Chicago to drop off a passenger meaning we were delayed into New York. Being late, I had to take a “sink shower” at JFK and change into my suit and tie surrounded by others in the lavatory. I took a stressful taxi into the City and arrived just in time to be notified that my client had cancelled the meeting.

There have been many trips like that and after a while one becomes inured to the indignities. But along the way you learn many tricks from fellow road warriors. The experienced business travelers usually don’t want to share secrets of travel, especially with the newbies. I see the newbies searching for electric outlets and overhear them talking about Marriott Reward Points. It is refreshing to see people excited about business travel. It doesn’t last long.

Any frequent traveler knows the one with the most Frequent Flyer miles is not the winner. Those of us who are always on airplanes are conditioned to have low expectations and to deal with what ever is dealt our way. We develop a certain set of instincts that protect us from disappointment and prepare us for the war that is business travel. We can look at a gate agent and know without asking that the flight is delayed or that the hope for an upgrade is useless.

Kurt Vonnegut said, “Peculiar travel arrangements are dancing lessons from God.” Every frequent traveler develops a unique dance to deal with the vagaries and challenges the road presents. To help with the dance, here are a few suggestions from the unwritten Guide to Business Travel:

  • At security, always get behind the guy in line with the loafers. Or, put another way, get in the line with other road warriors. Avoid the spot behind the family with the strollers.
  • Never check a bag, ever. If you have too much stuff for a carry on, dump it out and start all over. It’s not about the fees or the schlep factor, it’s about the flexibility in changing flights. If you want to change flights, which you will, the first question the gate agent will ask is, “Did you check a bag?”
  • The “seat pocket in front of you” is not your friend. Anything you place in the handy pocket, like eye glasses, passports, tickets or presentations, will eventually be lost and never retrieved. Airlines are not known for effective Lost and Found Departments.
  • Set expectations on upgrades. Being on a list is not the same as having a seat. Flying on Monday mornings or Thursday evenings means having a seat at all is lucky.
  • Bring reading material. No matter how much work there is to do, breaks are essential and you never know how long the flight will really take. Bring a book to read, a real one or on a device. People magazine doesn’t count.
  • Wear earphones. Nothing says, “I don’t want to talk to you” like a big set of earphones. Plus, the airline earphones are not very good.
  • Be alert for bad news. Certain travel words should set the hairs on end in anticipation that things are about to go downward. So finally, for those less traveled, I submit the most dreaded words for the business traveler. These utterances usually come from the cockpit but given technology, can now come in a text or from another weary traveler.
  • Unfortunately
  • Good News, Bad News (It’s never really good)
  • Shuttle bus
  • Talking to maintenance
  • Reservation was not guaranteed
  • System problems
  • Storm
  • The president is in town
  • We’ve been notified by ATC
  • And the most dreaded of all:
  • That bag needs to be checked.

After hearing the words, we sigh resignedly and do what we are told. Sometimes going into the Zen mode is the all there is to do.

Travel shouldn’t be the hard part of the job but sometimes it is. All we want is to get to where we need to be, or most importantly, get home. In between, the work gets done.

Rich Moran is the author of Navigating Tweets, Feats, and Deletes, a book that shares workplace lessons and insights on how to succeed in today’s digitally disrupted workplace.

 

End to End: Do We Need to Finish Reading Business Books?

Posted by Richard Moran & filed under Uncategorized.

book
Business books are a source of hope. No matter how desperate the situation at work, the secret solution may be in the latest best selling business book. That’s why we buy them. Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Lean In, is no different. The book is part pep talk and a lot of practical advice for both men and women. The book provides a lot of hope, is a huge best seller and puts women in management (or the lack thereof) back in the news. Good for Sheryl.

But the book made news for another reason in recent weeks. Among all books released on Kindle, Lean In is near the top of the list of books that we begin reading but don’t finish. It ranks up there in the never finished ranks with A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking and Capital in the 21 Century by Thomas Piketty. OK, I get bailing out of complex Physics, and dense economics. But why would a book encouraging women to delegate, outsource and pump up their ambitions be abandoned?

The simple answer is that most business books are not designed to be read completely. There is no need to feel guilty about leaving your bookmark in Lean In on page sixty. I doubt Sheryl is worried or feels bad about being on the “unfinished book” list. Her book is on lots of other lists like the New York Times Bestseller List. She can take comfort in the knowledge that her message is out there and that her lean in message resonates.

And that’s what many of us business authors are trying to do – get messages out. If we succeed, then the book is a success, regardless of the number of pages read. If messages are important, why aren’t business books read to the finish? Here’s why…

You got it. That is, you got the message and you now believe your time is better spent trying to live the message than reading the book. If you become a mentor to women as Sheryl Sandberg suggests, she probably doesn’t care if you finish the book.

There is no ending. Business books are not great literature and do not build up to a big ending. Go ahead and feel guilty for not completing Moby Dick because there is lots of action at the end. For most business books, the end is a summary.

You can go back to it at any time. Great business books are handy and a source of reference any time during a career. Good to Great by James Collins and The Leadership Challenge by Kouzes and Posner come to mind. We don’t finish the great books because we are always reading them.

Just-in-time advice is all you need. That is, you find the one or two chapters in a book that pertains to you. When you need a marketing solution, you find the marketing chapter. When you are stuck on a people problem, you find what pertains and consider that. The rest of the book can be on red alert for future reference.

I am not suggesting that we skim business books only. Like real business, the devil is often in the details of a business book. If you are enjoying the read, go all the way. Whatever you do, don’t stop reading or you will miss new thinking, new solutions and a few new buzzwords. There are so many good business books to read, you might get one tidbit from many and that can make you more successful.

So if you have a stack of unfinished business books on your bookshelf, don’t feel bad, you’re far from alone. Glean what you can from whatever cool title you picked out for vacation and be glad.

Richard Moran is a best selling author and evangelist for organization effectiveness. He is best known for his series of humorous business books beginning with bestselling, Never Confuse a Memo with Reality. Feel free to skim his latest: Navigating Tweets, Feats, and Deletes–Lessons for the New Workplace.