Travel Tips For Consultants

Travel is a fact of life for most consultants. Many spend 45 weeks on the road every year, and some say they wouldn’t want it any other way.We know one married couple where both are traveling consultants. They often joke that they should write a book called “Marriage on Three Days a Week” because they only see each other from Thursday night to Sunday night most weeks. Of course, they take great vacations with all the frequent flier miles and hotel points, and neither one is left at home to manage the household while the other dines in restaurants every night and comes home expecting all the chores to be done.Like many others, they have learned how to be comfortable on the road so that their travel schedules are a source of new experiences and great stories instead of a hardship. If you learn how to be comfortable in your environment, you’ll do better work and last longer in this demanding field.There are two types of consulting roles, from a travel schedule perspective. One type of consultant is the real Road Warrior who is in a different city each week, often visiting two or three different clients and staying only a couple of days each place. The other type travels to the same destination every week to work on a long-term engagement over several months. Which type of travel schedule you end up with depends as much on your personality as on your skill set.No matter which type of travel schedule you have, there are some seemingly small things you can do to make yourself significantly more comfortable on the road.Enroll in every frequent flier and hotel points program you can. The biggest perks in business travel come when you get a free family vacation later. All those trips to Pittsburgh might buy you a trip to Honolulu or Prague or wherever your heart leads you.Whenever possible, use the same airline and hotel chain for every city. This helps you rack up the points faster, and it also establishes a level of comfort and familiarity for you from the moment you arrive in the city. Not every Marriott is exactly like every other Marriott, but there are enough similarities between them that you will begin to feel at home quickly.Packing for TravelDevelop a routine for packing. Make a checklist that includes everything that you know you’ll need for any trip, including items like toothbrush and cell-phone charger. Go over the checklist every single time you pack a suitcase.If you don’t follow this advice, you will eventually end up spending $200 on a “charge everything” device and using a hotel toothbrush that will rip your gums out.
Always assume you will have to carry your luggage yourself. If you aren’t sure you will need it, don’t take it. You can always buy one there. (Don’t accept engagements in locations that don’t have stores.)
Pack something comfortable to wear in your hotel room and clothes you can wear to work out.
Plan to sleep in something you don’t mind being seen wearing in public. In the event of a fire, hotels will evacuate two floors above and two floors below, even if it’s just a small fire in a trash basket. That’s what that loudspeaker above the bed is for.
All luggage looks alike. Make your bag easy to spot on the carousel and less likely to be stolen with a few strategically placed strips of duct tape or a big pink bow.
The military knows that rolled clothing does not wrinkle. Don’t fold it, roll it. Turn jackets inside out, fold the collar up and press one shoulder inside the other.
Think about what you pack from the perspective of Customs and Airport Security. For example, many airlines will not allow you to carry steel-tipped darts in your carry-on luggage. (Yes, one of us learned this the hard way. Not the one you think.) Carry all medication in the original packages, particularly prescription medication.
Purchase two of everything you use daily, like cosmetics, razors, toothbrush, etc. Leave one set at home. Pack toiletries once and leave them packed. This way, you don’t have to worry that you forgot something essential and will not notice until the middle of the night in a strange hotel room. When you run out of something on the road, replace it. (This is easier if you use common brands that are sold nationally.)
After only a few weeks of travel, you’ll know exactly what you need to pack and what you don’t.Hotel LivingIf you are traveling to the same city every week, pick a hotel that you are comfortable in and make friends with the people at the front desk and in Housekeeping. If you can commit to a certain number of weeks, they might even give you a break on the room rate, which is also good for your customer.Once you’ve tried two or three different rooms in different parts of the hotel, you’ll begin to identify specific things you like or dislike. Within a few weeks, you’ll probably have a favorite room. Don’t be afraid to ask for it every week. Staying in the same room every week can increase your sense of comfort and it’s easier to remember what room you are in. Every one of us has been frustrated at least once by trying to open a hotel room door, only to realize that the key doesn’t work because this is the room we were in last week, and we have no idea what room we have been assigned this week.If you followed our instructions for packing and bought duplicates of all your toiletries and travel needs, you can check a suitcase with the bellman over the weekend instead of carrying it home with you. Leave your laundry with a dry cleaner over the weekend and come back on Monday to a fresh wardrobe without carrying a bag with you to the airport. That’s freedom!Make friends with the people who have control of the food. If you are eating all your meals off the Room Service menu, you will soon get bored with the choices. Encourage the person who answers the Room Service line to give you suggestions.When Christine was working in one city where it wasn’t considered safe to leave the hotel and wander around at night, she called the Room Service number one night and said, in the most pitiful voice she could muster, “I’m hungry and nothing on the menu looks good tonight. Help me!”The Room Service voice laughed and said, “Miss Lambden, don’t you worry. After all these months, I know what you like. Let me surprise you.”In addition to the best steak and the freshest salad ever served by Room Service, the waiter brought a glass of red wine and said, “The chef said to tell you that he knows you don’t like red wine, but this is special. Try it with the steak. Alternate one bite of steak with one sip of wine.”She still talks about that steak. After that night, she never had to look at the Room Service menu again. When she called, she would say, “Maybe a fish tonight?” or “I’m in the mood for something chocolate.”Remember, if you are tired of the hotel menu, just imagine how the chef feels.Since you can’t eat all the time, here are some other ways to fill an evening in a hotel room:
Call your mother.
Read.
Go to a movie.
College libraries are often open late. Learn something.
Work out. Remember the Freshman Fifteen in college? The life of a consultant includes too many meals in restaurants and too few long walks in the park.
If you exercise at home, try to exercise the same way when you are traveling. Find out if it’s safe to walk/run outside near the hotel. This is also a great way to find the neighborhood restaurants and pubs that the travel books don’t know about.If you exercise in a gym at home, stay in a hotel with a gym and use it. If there is no gym available in the hotel, remember that many national chains have memberships that allow you to work out in any city. Like national hotel and restaurant chains, gyms are a great way to find familiar surroundings in an unfamiliar place.Exploring new cities is a great way to get exercise and enjoy your time on the road. See the sights. Shop. Ask the people at the hotel and at work what you should be sure to see while you are in town.We know one consultant who managed, in one year, to see Niagara Falls (working in Buffalo), the Arch in St. Louis, the Napa Valley wine country, six shows on Broadway, and Fort Lauderdale during Spring Break.Did you know that Kansas City is the City of Fountains? In the winter, the city slowly freezes some of the fountains so you see frozen ice where water flows in the summer. Just beautiful.Did you know that you can visit the Budweiser Clydesdales at Grant’s Farm in St. Louis? If you think they are fun to watch on Super Bowl commercials, just imagine how magnificent they are up close.These opportunities may not present themselves again. Don’t spend every evening in your hotel room.Every city has something unique to offer and the people who live there will be happy to help you discover what is wonderful about their hometown.Single Life on the RoadThe constant-travel lifestyle is often more appealing to single people who do not have a family at home waiting for them each week. For these consultants, the only challenge is finding a way to maintain a home when you aren’t there during the week.Here are some tips:
Ask a friend or neighbor to pick up your mail once or twice during the week.
Install automatic light timers in your house. Install motion sensor lights outside. This makes it look like someone is home and protects your stuff. (It also makes bats and possums find another yard to live in, but that might just be an Austin thing.)
Hide valuables. Burglars know all about looking in the freezer for your jewelry, but would they think to look in that bag of potting soil in the garage? Hint: Tell someone you trust where you hid them…you’ll remember all the great spots you considered, and you’ll forget the one you picked.
Splurge a little with all that money you are making as a consultant and hire a maid service to come in and clean your house while you are gone. If you have a lawn, hire a yard service, too. The last thing you are going to feel like doing when you finally get home is housework, and you’ll be happier in this job if you don’t feel that you are neglecting chores.
If possible, have a trusted house-sitter stay in your house. Then you won’t have to worry at all.
In addition to maintaining your house, a single person on the road has to maintain a social life. When you are out of town all week, it’s easy to find yourself excluded from your friends’ conversations about plans for the weekend. You have to work harder to maintain those friendships at home, especially if you are also forming new friendships in the city where you are working.It’s not totally unheard of for consultants assigned to the same client week after week to form friendships, or even romantic attachments, in the city where they work. Having bonds with people all over the country can be a huge advantage professionally because your network is expanded to include all of their colleagues, as well.Don’t date someone in the client company. This can get messy. (Yeah, we know. Your situation is different. You’ll handle it like grownups. We’d like to believe this, but in our experience it rarely works out that way. Even so, this is still good advice for everyone else.)Married With ChildrenLife on the road is harder for those who have a family at home. You miss them and you feel guilty about leaving them behind, and even more guilty when you’re having fun without them.The same tourist attractions that enliven a single person’s travel can make you miss your family even more. You find yourself thinking, “The kids would love this,” or “Niagara Falls by myself? I don’t think so!”Here are some tips for making travel easier when you miss your family:
Write long letters saying all the stuff you would have said if you were at home. Buy a fax machine for the house so you can send them before you go to bed and the family can read them with breakfast. (We know. Email works just as well. Except it doesn’t. Handwritten letters mean more. They just do.)
Give the hotel’s fax number to your family or set up a personal e-fax number. Encourage letters from home. Also drawings and report cards and anything else that will make you feel closer. Almost all children could benefit from the occasional writing exercise, and most of them already know how to operate a computer.
Buy a small digital camera or use your cell phone to take pictures and make a “Day in the Life” slide show for the kids. Take pictures of your day from the time you wake up to the time you prepare for bed – pictures of your hotel room, your breakfast plate, your cubicle and co-workers, the bookstore you stop at after work, the restaurants you like – everything! (Trust us, they’ll love it.)
Driving in Strange (translation: “New To You”) PlacesWeather conditions and driver courtesy rules vary from city to city. In some cities, driving is a brutal competition, and it’s considered rude or suicidal to slow down for a yellow light. Someone will honk at you or run into you. In others, you’ll get dirty looks if you don’t yield and let a waiting car merge in front of you. On most country roads, failure to wave at passing drivers marks you as an outsider.No matter where you are, these tips will help lessen the impact of driving during your travels:
Get a map when you arrive. If you know where you are going, you are much less likely to end up in the wrong place.
If you rear-end a car on the freeway, your first move should be to hang up the phone. Better yet, go hands-free when you are driving. Best of all, hang up and drive.
Rent your car from the same agency every week and be extra nice. Usually, the same agents are on duty every Monday morning, so eventually they’ll know you and may offer you the cool convertible or the Jag for a week at no extra charge.
Not every state or city has a “right on red” law. Check with the car rental agency or look for a “No right on red” sign before you assume it’s legal in any intersection where you are.
If you are stopped for speeding, running a red light, driving the wrong way, or, worst of all, hitting something, be very polite to everyone involved. Of course, this is true when you aren’t traveling, too, but you have a better chance of making your meeting or flight if you deal with the situation nicely.
In New York or Boston (or London or Beijing), take a cab or public transportation. Some warnings say “Don’t try this at home.” With regard to driving in these places, the rule is “Don’t try this on the road.” In other words, ask someone at your destination or consult a travel guide to find out whether it’s advisable to drive yourself around.If you are facing your first winter in a snowy climate, ask someone to teach you how to drive in icy conditions before the first blizzard. You may feel foolish, and they will definitely laugh at you, but the first time you feel your car start to slide, you’ll be glad you did.For us, just saying “I’m from Texas” is often enough to have our clients offer free driving lessons, icy conditions or not.Air Travel TipsSince 9/11, keeping track of the rules for air travel and getting through Security checkpoints has become more of a challenge, but the airlines have made a sincere effort to help.Every airline and airport website has information about security requirements and how much time will be required to get to your gate. Experienced travelers quickly learn to avoid the busiest times of the day and week. In fact, we don’t know a single traveling consulting who would consider flying on the day before Thanksgiving under any circumstances.Airport websites will also give you information about other amenities that are available in the terminals. For instance, did you know that the Hong Kong airport has showers and rooms where you can take a nap? After a long flight across the Pacific ocean, a shower is a wonderful way to spend your three-hour layover between connecting flights.The airport in Portland, Oregon, has a great mall. You can get all your Christmas shopping done between flights and have the items you bought shipped home. Oh, and did we mention that Oregon doesn’t have sales tax?The San Francisco airport has twenty different museum galleries that rotate art, culture and science exhibitions on a regular schedule. At SFO, you can’t avoid being entertained and educated while you travel.Here are some other tips for making air travel easier:
When you make your reservations, ask for a seat near the front of the plane. Airlines assign seats back-to-front and families traveling with children tend to plan further ahead than business travelers, so the shrieking three year-olds are usually in the back of the plane.
Always request the Exit Row. Children aren’t permitted, and you get more legroom.
Wear earplugs or invest in some good noise-canceling headphones if you plan to sleep. People talk louder on airplanes.
Planes have only 3% humidity, so you get dehydrated quickly. Carry a bottle of water on board. (This will also keep your feet from swelling.) To keep costs and carryon weight low, carry an empty bottle and ask the flight attendant to fill it for you. On international flights, there is usually a water fountain available for passengers to serve themselves.
When they say, “Limit two carry-on bags,” assume they really mean it and be prepared to check everything but your purse, briefcase and laptop. A good alternative if you are in a hurry is to “gate check” your bags. Especially with smaller commuter flights, this means you get your bags immediately when you get off the plane with no stop at baggage claim.
Pay attention to the safety speech every once in a while. Like washing your car to make it rain, it’s just good karma. We’ve asked, and yes, most flight attendants feel just as silly giving the speech as you do listening to it, but the fact that no one is listening just makes their job harder.
To prevent a stiff neck from sleeping on a plane, ask the flight attendant for a blanket, roll it up and wrap it around your neck before you fall asleep. Your head won’t roll from side-to-side, you won’t snore and you won’t look nearly as ridiculous as those people drooling on their neighbor’s shoulder. They make C-shaped pillows that do this, but that’s just one more thing to carry with you. We prefer to travel light.
While you are traveling, do everything you can to make your life easier. When you are enjoying yourself, you are better prepared to perform at work, and you’ll be more successful.Cubicles and conference rooms are the same everywhere. The work won’t change, but taking the time to make friends with the people around you, at work and at the hotel, will make all the difference in the world to how well you do it.

Better Sleep™ offers Canada's best premium weighted blanket that is 5 times heavier than your duvet and is proven to reduce stress and anxiety for a faster, deeper sleep. Better Sleep - Premium Weighted Blanket for Insomnia & Anxiety Reduce Stress and Fall Asleep Faster With Canada's Best Weighted Blanket. Better Sleep™ will provide you with a constant, comforting hug whenever it's needed. neuropathysolutionplan.com

Home Based Business System – The 3 Pillars of Building a Business

There are three main components that each home based business system needs to pursue in order to operate and make money: list building, building your relationship with prospects, and providing a money-making service. By performing just these three simple steps, your home-based business system will operate at incredible profitability without having to waste money on other, less necessary tasks.The first step may be the hardest, but with diligence you’ll be develop your own personal strategy to locate the ideal MLM prospects. Many home based business services opt to purchase lists from other companies, but this can be expensive and you won’t gain any market experience using this technique. Though you’ll be provided with well-populated lists of MLM prospects, these lists may not contain all that many interested customers. By generating your own lists, you’ll be able to target those who you’re really trying to sell to, and you won’t have to pay a dime for it.Next, you’re going to want to have something to provide this list of MLM prospects. If your home business system has nothing to offer, they simply won’t be all that interested. To appease their appetite, offer them some free samples or valuable information. This will lure them in a little, interest them in your product, and hopefully develop a positive relationship that you can then take to the bank.The final step for any real home based business services is to provide an actual product or service to sell. After all, if you don’t actually offer anything to the customer can you even be considered a business? This product or service doesn’t have to be much, but it should be something that you can provide competently and at competitive prices. Though your home based business system doesn’t have to provide the greatest service on the planet, or the best priced service, you should make both of these qualities reasonable enough to present a tempting offer.If you follow the first two steps, your product should be able to sell pretty well. You’ll have a list to market to, valuable information to provide them with, and most importantly a real product to sell them once they fully buy into your business. That’s all there is to operating your own enterprise.Discover all the insider “tricks of the trade” for your home based business system, and grab My FREE REPORT titled: “How To Create YOUR First 6-Figure Month In Network Marketing.”

Temporary Foreign Worker Program Can Be Costlier for Small, Independent Business

The Canadian temporary foreign workers’ program was recently in the news again.As you may recall, the Conservative government moved to make changes earlier this year in hopes of reducing the avalanche of applications and temporary workers in Canada. But as Carol Goar pointed out in an article in the Toronto Star, the numbers accepted into Canada between January to June 2013 actually increased by 5%, when compared to the same period in 2012.While some of these arrivals may include those applications submitted prior to the change but fulfilled this calendar year or represent an outlier in a transitional period, Dan Kelly, President and CEO of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business continues to lobby against tighter regulations, as they may negatively impact his membership base.Mr. Kelly offers sober thought for those SMBs operating within the western provinces’ robust economy. Faced with low unemployment and open positions unfilled for a myriad of reasons, wages have been driven higher by the oil and gas industry, and the businesses servicing them. In being forced to pay at times exorbitant wages to attract Canadians to low and high skill jobs in our western provinces, the labour component of a company’s balance sheet challenges the bottom line of any business, let alone small and independent business.Temporary foreign workers, and the previous allowance for a 15% discount on wages, helped fill these available jobs, while propping up profits.In my role as a business adviser, I help small and medium independent businesses primarily in Ontario improve their top and bottom line. I have observed most owners spending their day putting out fires, with little to no time available nor financial experience to plan and improve business operations, sales, direction, and hence, profits.This short term focus in turn impacts their hiring decisions, wage scale and ability to train or retain staff, and bears a direct cost to the business most owners don’t capture nor measure when making decisions.I would counsel business owners to spend a portion of their week working towards more medium and long-term planning and implementation. Those may seem like scary terms in small business speak, for big business or people who have time, or so I have been told, but time spent putting out fires might be mitigated if business owners spend even two hours up front considering cost-reduction, revenue-generating exercises, such as the following:Operational efficiencies:

thin-client or zero-client computers vs purchased or leased computers and services contracts.

revised purchasing terms with a consolidated vendor base, improving cash flow.

review and amend inventory mix to improve working capital. Hidden inventory costs deplete resources.

establish formal process to sell old or excess inventory, freeing up space and cash.

audit and analyze cash flow, sales, inventory, returns.
Sales:

is your pricing model optimized? Can you enhance and communicate product or service differentiation to allow for a price increase?

can you improve go-to-market strategy? Are you reaching the right customers? The right industry? What is the cost of servicing your current customer base? What is your cost of customer acquisition, and is it optimized?

Introduce a formal promotional calendar mechanism. Track success of each promotion run, capturing incremental price/product (service) revenues, seasonality factors, and failures.

referral programs for employees, end-users or direct customers

strategic alliances with other key business partners.
Human Capital:

develop a mentoring program, linking new hires and junior staff with senior staff, and offer rewards for individuals or teams that suggest and implement measurable cost-savings or sales generation. Create competition for “best” idea and reward with annual prize.

establish and communicate performance objectives for each staff member and offer bonus program for goals reached and surpassed.

weekly Monday hour long meeting with all staff (or representative from each department), with sharing of successes, failures, issues. Collaborate on projects and on-going issues. Establish priorities for week, month etc.

semi-annual review with all staff of overall business and financial performance creates stakeholder connection for all employees, improving loyalty and retention.
I’m sure some of you are sceptical or may complain that there simply aren’t enough hours in the day to spend on anything other than capturing, filling and shipping orders in a timely manner for product-oriented business or scheduling, delivering and completing contracted services.My advice rests on the following premise and applies to any small business owner in any country: by enacting these profit-enhancing steps, you are changing your business culture and may succeed in raising the discussion with your (new) customer, strategic partner, (prospective) employee, vendor or investor above that of low(est) cost or price provider. Anyone is capable of coming along and pulling that floor out from beneath you, and because a response is required, it inevitably leads to a race to the bottom. It’s a zero sum game. Lowest price is not a bankable nor sustainable business strategy model.Why not work, in small and large steps noted above, in improving your financial performance, and investing those newly gained dollars in a loyal, engaged and motivated staff that grows with you. Invest in them by paying fair wages and they will invest in you.Replacing staff every two years through the temporary workers program is the type of costly and short-term thinking that undermines a business’ potential for success and growth. For some business owners, it’s a short-term requisite, or an absolute need due to true shortage of high skillset, but the longer-term approach should strive for sustainable, profitable growth delivered by a staff committed to your small business.