My Experiences in Consulting – Travel made fun
A consultant who doesn’t like traveling and meeting new people is so incomplete.
In my forty plus years of consulting, I have realized that travel is perhaps an essential part of the profession. The extension of that requirement is meeting new people and facing new situations. In this blog, I discuss the facets of business travel and the way it could be made fun. In a separate blog I will cover the aspects of meeting new people and facing new situations.
Travel is very part of consulting. I tell the candidates who aspire for consulting jobs to be prepared for travel and only those who really enjoy it should take up the profession. From my own travel, I evolved an organized approach to travel. In my case, first my firm had invested in my continuous education program, and I had truly accepted that the firm will need my expertise in different offices in India and overseas. In the early years, I have traveled for shorter and many times longer term stays. It took me a few trips, particularly to difficult places with strict visa requirements and also currency exchange, to pick up five fundamental essentials to make travel a fun experience.
The first simple step is to clearly plan differently for short term travel, say for a day or two or a longer one. The short visits will normally have the person go to the airports, railway station to take the journey, reach the destination, commute from airport to the hotel, check-in at the hotel and many more steps during and outside of these steps. This calls for a quick check of weather conditions, travel itinerary and bookings (hotel, airlines, private taxi etc.). I have learnt, to examine each aspect, booking, clothes and attire and not to leave it entirely to the office support services, after I had some goof-ups and bloomers. It does not take much time to examine the hotel site and find out more of the various things available within the hotel and around. After very frequent travel to a particular destination, I developed preference for seats in the aircraft, room facing quiet side of the block, restaurants at the hotel etc. For longer stay travel, I recommend more study based on the duration of the stay. If there are weekends during the stay, then be equipped with information on the city and surrounding areas/ activities of interest for instance golf, local travel and events based on the interests a person has. I have some very rare moments at unexplored places. So, after discussing the planning and detailing the travel, I turn to my next aspect, i.e, to organize oneself before traveling to a new city or country.
Know the place of visit a little more – over the years the process of seeking knowledge of a place has changed. During the earlier years of my career, I used to talk to the taxi fellow about interesting places, food, events like orchestras, plays, operas especially in Europe or sports events. Those days, during my earlier years I was required to pay for an extra day or two days stay from my own resources. When I could afford, I used to have my family with me, even if it was for a weekend. Then when I grew in seniority, my firm was prepared to pay and finally, the client in most cases with invitation to my family as well.
I still remember my trip to Bhedaghat in Jabalpur and the boat ride in the lake (sort of) at the base of waterfall of Narmada River, or my visit to Neuschwanstein Castle just outside of Munich during my assignment in Munich, and several more. Though I paid for most of my personal travel I consider it was worth it.
The third subject is on travel light – during my travel, on many occasions I have seen colleagues or client traveling with me with heavy bags. The fun of travel is gone, and the person worries about the bags. I was traveling from Mumbai to Vienna (Austria) on one occasion, with a client. The Chairman and Managing Director of a large public sector bank. It was business trip and the client had agreed to pick us at the Vienna airport and take us to Salzburg on road. The client had a meeting with a German client, headquartered in Munich, for a possible joint venture, and was agreed that the German company will be the host for our trip. We met at the check- in counter, as agreed. He had a senior person accompanying him and both of us were surprised to see each other’s luggage. Between the two of them they had five large suitcases for checking- in and a couple more for cabin I was having a cabin bag and a laptop bag. In Salzburg we stayed for two days and scheduled to fly to Munich. About three hours before checking in at the airport, the client realized he had forgotten, in which bag he had kept his travel documents and passport. You can well imagine the ruckus thereafter. The client had to rebook to change the flight.
Travel light has another aspect, a person must keep specific place in the bags for specific items. These are simple things and for a person who is well organized, it may seem non-significant. It’s the clumsy travelers who take away fun out of travel and sometimes make it difficult for the others.
The fourth crucial factor is to study the client environment and be prepared for any casual talk outside of business. I remember traveling to Tehran some six years ago where I was placed in a very embarrassing situation. Inadvertently, I offered my hand to her for a handshake to a lady senior officer in a bank. I regret till date, whenever I think of that moment as it is considered very impolite to do that in Iran and other gulf countries.
The fifth subject like the above one is based on how a person wishes to make his notes with the purpose of referring to his notes. Importantly one must record do’s and don’ts for a place visited, for future travel. I recommend use of a diary or a log to note down the detail and all critical information relevant for reference. I personally log all information that may be useful later. I remember my first stay at Hyatt Regency at Bikaji Kama Place in Delhi, some several years ago. The room was facing the highway underneath and I have a light sleep syndrome. The rest you can imagine. Fortunately, the hotel guys were nice and moved me to a quiet side of the hotel. I noted the room number and relevant information which made my many pleasant stays there after that. Also, if I come across nice staff members, I will get in touch with them during the following visit.
Business travel can offer surprises and catch you unaware. The more organized the travel, the more the fun. So, to conclude, I will say make travel a happy event and instead of worrying about surprises, enjoy your business trip, make as many acquaintances as possible. It will assist you in working more efficiently as well.