Executives without Borders

July 18, 2006

If you’ve woken up in a strange hotel room and you’re not sure where you are; chances are it’s not due to the ingestion of foreign substances, but rather that you are part of a growing trend of “executives without borders”, aka road warriors or corporate soldiers.

The globalisation of business, the increase of luggable technology, the decrease in airfares and the changing thinking of businesses and executives, means there are tens of thousands more of us running mobile offices.

Our dispersed client base sees us frequently haunt airports as we rack up the frequent flyer points and travel in excess of 300,000 kilometres per year and in our solitude airline clubs become a welcome oasis and we learn to pick up fellow executives at the bar just to have someone to talk to.

The Diners Club In Flight Index Survey (Nov 2005) found that 18% of all travel in Australia is for business and that 62% of organisations predicted that travel would increase for them next year.

The business of running an on the move business requires a great deal of pre thought and the tackling of some unique problems.

A true road warrior is recognisable by their two pieces of carry on luggage (a small suitcase on wheels that fits in the overhead compartment and a briefcase), their ability to recite the various airlines air schedules and their cavalier attitude to the on board safety instructions.

One of the Executives without Borders best friends is technology; especially mobile phones, laptop computer, modems, and Personal Digital Assistant (PDA). The most important weapon and the ultimate road warrior status symbol is the PDA with the holy mantra being smaller and faster.

Eighteen months ago I bought my first convergent PDA. This pocket sized device, which miraculously cured my back ache by allowing me to leave five (5) devices and all their associated chords, adaptors and paraphernalia, is the hub of my business.

This all in one Swiss army knife like device allows me to have all my contacts and appointments at hand, a phone, a dictaphone, a camera, a video recorder, an MP3 player, a cable speed wireless modem (that also connect to my laptop) which allows me to receive and send emails and surf the web wherever I am, it allows me to fool myself into being “in control”.

The next vital piece of technology is your laptop.

There has been huge strides forward with most computer brands offering lighter models. Many of these hovering around the 1 kilo mark and some even below, but all fully featured with all the bells and whistles.

I’d suggest as well as considering your specific computing needs you ensure the laptop you take on the road is wi-fi enabled which will allow you to go to McDonald’s, Starbucks, many hotels and airports and lots of other places and surf the net wirelessly – this has security issues that you’ll need to take care of, but as always there’s solutions out there. I also carry around a bag (a huge pencil case) of cables, memory cards, spare batteries, spare stylus and other technological gizmos with me everywhere I go.

Other equipment is also being built for the road warrior for example data projectors which perform and travel well and weigh in at around the 1 kilo mark, but whatever technology you use in your day to day businesses there is bound to be a “travelling” version of it.

Now that you’ve got your “mobile office” assembled, its time to turn your attention to the clients and your appointments.

The first rule of booking interstate and overseas appointments is that each trip has to defy the theory of time. Meetings must be held back to back and in as many places as possible – in offices, hotel lobby’s, café’s, serviced offices, in cars, in planes, in trains, in taxis and at airports and at all hours of the day and night.

To be able to squeeze all this in to your day you’ll need to choose your flights carefully and you can do this on line with any of the airlines or through third party consolidators like www.webjet.com.au, www.flightcentre.com.au, www.lastminute.com.au, www.zuji.com and many others.

Likewise there are many sites on which you can book accommodation in addition to the hotels own sites. These include www.lastminute.com.au, www.wotif.com.au, www.needitnow.com.au – do an on line search and you’ll find lots of others. I have found that the hotels are keen to secure your business and if you contact them directly, armed with your best internet price, you can often squeeze an even better deal.

Once you have chosen your airline, choosing your seat is next. Viginblue allows you to choose your seat online up to 24 hours before your flight, as will Qantas in the near future, and both offer touch screens at the airports.

The true road warrior always wants a seat closest to the exit and on the aisle, to make fast get-away’s possible, we’re talking milli seconds of difference here, but in the race to do more in less time, every nano second counts.

If you’re not sure what the best seat is go to http://www.seatguru.com/ or http://www.seatexpert.com/ for insights in to the best seats on any plane.

When travelling it is imperative that despite the gruelling schedule you drink a lot – water not the other stuff – and eat sensibly. You also should try and build in some exercise, maybe walk to you next appointment or get there ten minutes early and walk around the block.

It is also important to maintain contact with family and friends. I use webcams and VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) to make keeping in contact easy and cheap.

With webcams I can see and speak with my children, wife and dog, have long chats, have a virtual dinner or breakfast with them, and even help with the homework. With emails and VOIP phone calls I speak to friends, colleagues and clients. The tyranny of distance is softened by the good use of good technology.

Those that travel frequently will tell you it’s not the picnic that it’s made out to be, those exotic ports of call are no more than another hotel room passing by in blur; but the challenge for many of us in building our businesses is to see through the traditional fixed business walls and begin to think and act globally about the opportunities that await us.