While many professionals enjoy traveling for work, most small business owners have a limited travel budget and an even more limited amount of time. Each trip you take, you are leaving behind your business. However, there are many situations where traveling to meet with customers or attend a conference will help grow your business and increase revenues. With some planning, you can get a big return on your investment every time you pack up your suitcase.
Determine if the Travel Opportunity Is Cost Effective
With increased gas prices and airfares, think carefully about how the trip will benefit your bottom line before making a plane reservation. Ask yourself if you could accomplish the same goal through a video conference meeting or participating in an online training course. However, sometimes personal connections are worth every penny of the expense report. Many business deals are made over breakfast and companies often select vendors they have a personal relationship with.
Ellen Friedland, president of Voices & Visions Productions says she prefers face-to-face meetings when competing for a job or beginning a new client relationship. “There are dynamics that happen as people scan the room’s landscape and pick up different gestures, facial expressions and general energy,” said Friedland. “The collective experience enables the folks present to brainstorm, ask questions and set agendas in ways that generate feelings of comfort and confidence that will last through the partnership.” After the initial relationship is formed, she finds that video conferencing is a great way to save money and still conduct effective business meetings.
Plan Layovers to Meet with Additional Clients
If you have clients in different locations, you can try to book your travel through those cities. “A few months ago we were making plans to fly to LA from New York. I knew that a trip to Denver would also be beneficial for another client,” Friedland says. “When I checked the flights, I learned that I could travel from New York to Denver then Denver to LA for the same price as the flight from NY directly to LA.”
Reduce Costs Whenever Possible
Research different airlines, routes and days and book in advance whenever possible to get the best fare available. Evaluate public transportation costs and availability to determine if you need a rental car or if you can save money by using taxis, buses or subways. Just be sure that you don't have to walk six blocks from the bus stop in August and show up disheveled to your meeting.
Hotels are often a great place to save money. In many cities you can find a clean and safe hotel at an affordable rate. Friedland has been able to save considerable money on lodging by using discount travel Websites such as Hotwire. “The overwhelming majority of times I find the selections to be great,” Friedland says.
Use Travel Time to Catch Up
Many business owners find they can use their time in the air to catch up on tasks that often get neglected back in the office. When selecting your seat, use the airline's Website to pick a seat with an electrical plug location underneath so you can work on the plane without worrying about your laptop battery life.
“When I take myself out of the day-to-day context of my business, I find myself able to be more creative. I use some of my time while traveling to look at goals for the year, brainstorm business opportunities and come up with marketing ideas,” says Eva Wisnik, president of Wisnik Career Enterprises, Inc. She also brings business-related reading material and will often write thank you notes on her return flight to people she met with.
Meet with Other Professional Contacts
One of the best ways to get the best bang for your buck is to use your trip to meet with other current customers, professional contacts or potential customers in the city you are visiting. Wisnik has found that it is often much easier to get a business contact to meet with her when she is traveling from out of town, and tries to set up as many appointments as she can when in a city. “People see you being in from out of town as a bigger deal and as an opportunity that might not be there tomorrow,” Wisnik says. She also holds “mini-cocktail parties” when traveling and invites business contacts and customers to come to a local bar for a drink between 6 to 8 p.m.
By taking the time to carefully evaluate all of your business travel and maximize your time away from the office, you can use the trip to make relationships and bring in new customers that will provide revenue for years to come.
Jennifer Gregory is a journalist with over 17 years professional writing experience. Jennifer blogs via Contently.com.
Photo credit: Pixland/Thinkstock