Going on the Road
In this section, you will learn how to make those business trips a little easier by understanding what to take and what to delegate.
Everything begins with planning, and the same is true for going on the road. Poor planning results in having to buy a second copy of something you already have, the inability to get something done because something else was left behind, and the likelihood of being "called on the carpet" by your boss upon returning to the office.
Regardless of the level of personal and/or company high-tech capacities, each of the following issues should be addressed before going on the road:
Confirm all business appointments by phone and follow up with an e-mail before leaving.
Confirm reservations (airline, car rental, hotel, restaurant, and so on) at least three days before traveling.
Reschedule any local appointments while you're away. Otherwise, a negative image is cast on you and your company. The person whom you stood up will feel a lack of respect or will think that you are simply not interested.
Delegate all regular and special assignments to staff before your departure. You don't want them constantly calling and interrupting your travel, meetings, and rest periods with requests for instructions.
Assign a trusted staff member to create daily activity reports via e-mail. This keeps you updated and saves phone time. You don't want any surprises when returning to the office.
Thoroughly review all documents needed while on the road. Be certain that a hard copy and a computer-generated copy remain at the office. If you lose one of those documents on the road, the staff can fax or send an e-mail attachment immediately.
Make note of any extraordinary events occurring in the office while you're away. This affords you the opportunity to provide input that would otherwise not occur while on the road. Sometimes, face-to-face input simply is more influential than an e-mail or a phone call.
Stock up on the tools of your trade that you may need while traveling. These include a combination of laptop or palm computer, power adapters, additional batteries and power supplies, personal organizers, address and appointment books (if you're not yet computerized), a portable tape recorder, writing instruments, a calculator, and note pads. Your company's level of computerization and the length and nature of the trip will dictate which items to take.
Depending on company marketing and promotional strategies, you may want to take along an ample supply of brochures, novelty advertising items, and any other items used in company advertising and promotions.
One of the most serious items to address is a list of all user names and passwords for computer, telephone, and ATM access. If you are bad at remembering these things, be careful where you place that information. You may want to place that in a palm computer or a personal organizer in a password access mode. This way, if the computer or organizer is stolen, it will require a hacker's skill to access that data. A very old alternative is to write this information on a sheet of paper. But where will you hide it?
Make three copies of your travel itinerary: one for you, one for home, and one for the office staff. Now all the significant people in your life know where to find you.
Wireless handhelds provide basic e-mail access and PIM software. For reviews of the latest versions, try ZDNet's PC Magazine at http://www.zdnet.com/pcmag/.
Packing for the Trip
Today, attaché cases take on so many different shapes, sizes, and amenities. Have one that fills your needs. For example, some traveling business people like attaché cases that allow for the regular storage amenities and space for a laptop computer. Others prefer one case for the computer and one for the other necessities of their job. Here are some other matters to consider:
Place your airline tickets, car rental, and hotel reservation forms in one small container or bag that is easily accessible.
Use one file folder or envelope for all hard-copy receipts of your business expenses.
Bring a floppy disk or CD (assuming that you have a CD-W) containing important business documents as backup to hard copies.
Take a map of the area. Highlight the hotel and restaurants that you'll be visiting. Highlight the planned route if you're traveling by car.
Electronic, or ticketless, ticketing can be a boon to the business traveler. All you need is your ID to board the plane. Keep a copy of your reservation for flight numbers and times.
Business travel is part of most management positions today. In fact, many people work only from their "virtual offices," consisting of a laptop computer and a packed briefcase.
With technology as part of your team, laptop included, time on the road can be well organized and efficient. Here are some options for staying connected, at home or away:
Virtual desktop services. These abound on the Internet. You can store files, forward e-mail, and access calendars and address books. Many allow sharing, so you can keep in touch with the office. Examples include www.desktop.com, http://www.halfbrain.com, and http://www.netledger.com. For e-mail centers, try Hotmail at http://www.hotmail.com, or Yahoo! at mail.yahoo.com/. Yahoo! also has a directory of virtual offices.
E-mail autoresponders. There are plenty of autoresponder services on the Internet, both free and for a fee. Go to http://www.emailaddresses.com/email_auto.htm for a directory of free services.
Laptop modems. To take advantage of your laptop and stay connected to the office, have a modem installed on your laptopor purchase one in the first place with that peripheral. Some airports and hotels provide phone line access for modems, but do be cautious if selecting a hotel specifically for modem access. Those using digital phone access can damage your modem; you need a regular tone line.
Remote access program. Install this type of software on your office PC and your laptop, and you're good to go. However, your laptop must be configured to function in a company-wide, intranet format. If you're on the road a lot and you visit other company facilities frequently or routinely, encourage the company to implement remote access formatting at all sites, to facilitate your ability to access your office PC from any company location worldwide. For reviews of the latest remote-control software, go to ZDNet's PC Magazine reviews at http://www.zdnet.com/pcmag/.
Autoresponder A program that receives e-mail. It reads the e-mail address of the sender and automatically e-mails your reply. An autoresponder is useful for contact management and marketing.
Remote access program Enables you to connect to the office computer from your laptop. You can transfer and copy files and run applications.
Voicemail. Leave your departure and arrival times on your office voicemail message. Make sure to bring remote access numbers to retrieve messages, or have an assistant transcribe messages and e-mail them to you. You also might install a voicemail software program offered by such companies as eFax (http://www.efax.com) and Fax4Free (http://www.fax4free.com). They provide you a phone number where voicemail can be sent, and then you access it via an e-mail attachment. The service to you is free.
Fax. You can install the same software from eFax or Fax4Free, and it also serves as a remote access for faxes. Someone can send you a fax via the same phone number assigned for voicemail, and you are forwarded that document via an e-mail attachment. Again, the software and the service are free. The alternative is to make sure that fax services exist at your hotels while on the road.
Don't skimp on hotel costs. Look for one that caters to the business traveler, such as Marriot or Hyatt hotels. You want at least a business center on the premises for fax, copying, receiving or sending overnight packages and letters, and so on.
Cell phone. For some, this is a luxury; for most executives who do a lot of traveling, it is a necessity. Regardless, don't be without it if the budget allows. A cell phone keeps you connected with the office and clients, if necessary, from anywhere and at any time, with no coins or credit cards. Be certain to have the necessary accessories for various types of plug-in access (if you have that type of phone) and a battery charger.
Dictation. Voice-recognition software (see "Using High-Tech Tools and Software" on page 169) for dictating and electronic downloading can make a tape recorder out of your laptop. Hate transferring those notes from paper or a traditional tape recorder? This software on the laptop can eliminate another low-tech device from the business arsenal that you carry on the road.
Furthermore, you can fall back on the following standards on a business traveler's to-do list:
Business cards. Take along a supply of business cards. Why? Very simply, the phone numbers (office, cell, fax, and voicemail) and e-mail addresses for contacting you or your company are provided for the client or any other networking relationship. Today, the business card better serves the function of listing the various avenues of communication rather than merely listing a name, address, phone number, and pretty logo. The client should know how to contact you. If you travel from one city to the next, given cell phone and/or remote e-mail access, it enhances customer service by allowing the clients to contact you instead of having to wait until you get back to your office. Furthermore, it is considered appropriate to first present your business card when conducting business in certain countries overseas.
In your business diary, the IRS wants to see four things for business entertainment deductions: the date, the place, names of people there, and what business was discussed.
Traveling abroad requires additions to your checklist of things to do before leaving. Some are mandatory, or you'll never leave the country:
Have all visas and your passport validated well in advance of the trip. Naturally, you will have to go to the nearest consular office of that country to get a visa. Go to the U.S. State Department Web site at http://www.state.gov/, and click on the directory for consular offices to find the location nearest you.
Check the U.S. State Department's Bureau of Consular Affairs Web site at travel.state.gov/ and click on the hyperlink for travel warnings.
If you're not fluent in the native language, learn some basic expressions, and take a language dictionary with you. Pocket versions of dictionaries are easily found in local bookstores, but electronic versions offer more languages. LingoTranslators (http://www.lingotranslators.com) provides dictionaries for 25 different languages. Phone-Soft (http://www.phone-soft.com) provides links to several online sites to locate these electronic dictionaries.
Take the time to learn the customs and mores in the country of destinationit can mean the difference between business success and failure. For example, circling the thumb and index finger in the shape of an "o" to signal that things are okay is acceptable in the United States but is considered vulgar in Brazil. Two informative books to guide you in adjusting to other cultures are Survival Kit for Overseas Living: For Americans Planning to Live and Work Abroad, by L. Robert Kohls, and U.S. Expatriate Handbook: Guide to Living and Working Abroad, by John W. Adams, are easily accessible in the book category of amazon.com.
Bring a power adapter for your business tools requiring alternate current.
Learn the currency exchange rate, and bring a minimal amount of the currency with you.
Don't forget any prescription medications.
Be extremely careful where you keep your password data. You don't want to instantly become the victim of a thief or a hacker with the drop of a wallet.
For more tips about traveling abroad, go to the Small Business Knowledge Base at bizmove.com/. Another excellent, informative Web site for overseas travel is provided by America Online (AOL) at http://www.governmentguide.com/govsite/aol/0
The 30-Second Recap
- Technology can make time on the road productive and efficient.
- Keeping in touch with the office through daily communications is essential.
- Prior planning and packing is essential to organization.
- Confirm everything before you go, from reservations to staff assignments.