209: Rituals for Better Business Travel | Master Sales Series

George Leith

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Are you a road warrior?

Traveling for business can be a great experience, however, it can also be a chaos ridden, hair-pulling, stress inducing nightmare if you aren’t organized and prepared. In this episode of the Master Sales Series, George walks you through his top 14 tips for conquering business travel.

14 Tips for Conquering Business Travel

Welcome back. It’s another edition of the Master Sales Series. We’re having a lot of fun with these. And just when I think I can’t come up with other topics, we come up with more topics. So coming up, one of my favorite things to talk about, and it’s been some hard-earned lessons, I’m gonna give you some of my number one travel rituals, how I get through being a road warrior, 220 flights a year, 190 bloody hotel stays a year, lots of miles. It’s not all it’s cracked up to be. We’ll talk about those travel rituals when we come back on the “Conquer Local Podcast.”

Don’t get me wrong, traveling for business can be a lot of fun. You get to meet new people, get to go to crazy places, you get to be on a plane, somebody comes by and brings you a nice Woodford on the rocks. But you got to learn some things to make this thing…because after a while it’s like, “Do I really gonna have to go to Wichita, Kansas. It’s not all gonna be Paris and Rome, folks, it’s gonna be times you’re gonna have to go to Modesto, California.” So when you’re spending a lot of time on the road, it can really get to be a bit of a grind. I remember I was on the road for five weeks. This is about four years ago, five weeks straight, and it was really tough emotionally. I wasn’t even in a relationship at that time.

It was just George conquering the world by himself, but it was tough. I missed my kids. I missed my mom and dad. I missed my friends. You know, the hotel room start to become the same. Hard to find the bathroom in the middle of the night sometimes, run into walls and stuff. And then it starts to wear on you. Now, there also are some things that can just give you the back sweats. You know, what the back sweats are, is when you’re like in turmoil and you’ve got a lot of stress because you lost your phone, or you can’t find your passport, or you slept in, or you can’t find your gate, or you check your watch and you realize your plane took off 10 minutes ago.

So here’s some rituals that I’ve come up with. And, you know, I’ve got a lot of people that I’m gonna credit for this that have helped me with this. So one of my really good friends, Lorrie Morgan, her company and I travel quite a bit about five years ago, and she gave me some really good advice.

1. Pick an airline, and stick with it

She said, “Okay, number one, pick an airline and stick with it.” You can fly other airlines, but when you pick one airline, you’re gonna start to get a thing called status. And with status comes some perks. One, you get to get on the plane first. Why is that important? Well, you get overhead bin space. And that is a big deal. Because if you’re late getting on the plane and you go to slide into your seat 18F and it’s already full, and you’ve got a carryon bag, now you got to move the carryon bag back in the plane. It’s gonna take you forever to get off of the…so that’s number one, picking an airline.

Here’s some other benefits to picking an airline. When you start to get to the platinum and to the diamond tiers, you’re gonna start to earn upgrades and you’re going to get lounge access. Oh, and you don’t have to line up in the security line, you’re gonna get priority clearance. So you definitely want to sign up for every airline that has a rewards and a loyalty program, you’re gonna wanna sign up for that. I’ve signed up for them all. I have them all. Everyone, doesn’t matter which one. I fly Delta. I like Delta. I’ve had really good experiences with Delta and I like the people there. They do a pretty good job. Now I’ll run across somebody they’re like, “Oh, I hate Delta.” Anyways, it really comes down to your personal preference, but I really enjoy that brand and they’ve got a great program.

I travel a lot. I was fortunate enough to get to Diamond this year. Don’t have to stand in line, lounge access. You get upgrades like crazy unless you’re flying between Minneapolis and Atlanta. That’s a tough one to get an upgrade on. So that’s your first piece. Pick an airline. Stick with it. Get your status in place you can get some loyalty. The other thing that is nice about it is when you start on those loyalty programs, you start to get the miles and then you can utilize those miles for personal trips. And that’s one of the perks. Now some companies will say, “No, you got to use those miles for business trips,” but a lot of companies will say, “No, it’s part of having to live in bloody airports and sleep on those stupid couches sometimes because your flight is delayed. You can keep the miles and use it as a bit of a perk.” So it’s a nice thing.

2. Don’t do different sh*t

The second item, and I’m gonna give this credit to our CEO, Mr. Brendan King, don’t do different shit. Meaning do the same thing every time. Put your passport in the same pocket of your briefcase. Put your laptop in the same spot every time. Don’t leave it in the seat back pocket, put it in your bag. Make sure you double check your seat back pocket every time. Make sure that your cell phone is in a certain spot. So this was one of the key components, don’t do different shit means that if you are ever woken in the morning and you slept in by 15 minutes, everything should just work like clockwork because you do the same thing over and over and over again. This has been a really important lesson that I appreciate. Thank you, Brendan. It saved me a ton of anxiety. In fact, the only time I get anxiety is when I do different shit. It’s like clockwork that happens.

3. You need 2 pieces of ID

So another thing that has happened and, you know, I come by a lot of these lessons from the school of hard knocks, you need two pieces of ID and they should never be in the same place at the same time. So here’s what I mean by that. You got your driver’s license, you’re gonna need it if you’re gonna rent a car and you get your passport, you’re gonna need that if you do any sort of travel. I always take my passport and two credit cards and I put them into the hotel room safe. And if I’m going out at night, I take my credit card and my driver’s license. The reason that I made the choice to put the passport in the safe is if you lose the passport, you are literally screwed. If you lose your driver’s license, you just can’t rent cars. So screwed. Can’t rent cars. Pretty easy, right?

And this happened to me. I was in Tyler, Texas and I fell asleep. I did different shit. I gave the flight attendant my jacket. I put my passport in the pocket of my jacket. She brought back my jacket, so I could put it on at the end of the flight. Took the passport out of the pocket and put it into the seat back pocket. I was half asleep, left my passport in the seat back pocket of the plane. But oh, it gets better. I went to Delta and they’ve got lost and found in the Dallas airport and I said, “Hey, I was on this flight in Tyler, Texas.” They said, “Oh, no problem. I’ll call Lost and Found.” And they did have George’s passport. So that was great. I continue to travel around Texas and do business and I go to fly home and I go to Lost and Found and they did not have George’s passport. Well, not George Leith, they had Jorge Vicente’s passport. So not George Leith’s passport. So this isn’t gonna help me.

So I go to the counter thinking that, “Well, I’ll just use my driver’s license.” And the lady at the counter says, “I can’t give you a flight back to Canada without a passport. If you do not have a passport, you cannot even get back.” So I said, “Well, what do I do?” So I had to fly to Seattle, rent a car, drive across the border, and at the border crossing, show that I was Canadian with my driver’s license and explain that I’d lost my passport. The other thing that you can do, I found out after the fact is you can go to the authorities and report your passport stolen or lost, whatever it is, and they can give you some sort of a document that you can then give to the airline. So there’s other ways around it, but literally, you need to have that passport.

4. You need to have at least 2 credit cards

So here’s the tip, you need a couple of credit cards anyways. So this is another piece. This is why the passport and one credit card go in the safe and your driver’s license comes with you. Because if you only have one credit card and it gets frauded, meaning somebody takes the number and you happen to be in Fort Worth, Texas and some dude in Miami is trying to use it at a Whole Foods, the credit card company will shut the thing down and you can’t turn it on. Like just, “No, we’re shutting it down. It’s being frauded.” So you’re again, screwed if you only have one credit card. You’re going to Western Union and getting your dad to wire your money or something like that. Happened to me, by the way. So now you have two credit cards. They have to have high limits, and you put one with your passport in the safe and you have your driver’s license and your other credit card and now you’re good to go. Even if something bad happens, somebody holds you up, you could still get back to the hotel, they know who you are, let you in, you’re good to go.

5. Take a pictures of your hotel room numbers

Next, take pictures of your hotel room number. Now this is an interesting thing, when you start going to three different hotels a week, every week, they all start to look the same. And I remember one night having security tap me on the shoulder. I’d had a couple of drinks. It was in Cincinnati. Went to a great restaurant named Jack Ruby’s. Okay, two or three bottles of wine, it’s really what it was. Anyways, my hotel was the Hyatt, I was actually in the Marriott with my room key trying to get into 621. I knew the room number, I just had forgotten what hotel I was in. Anyways, room numbers great one. I did have a time on Sanibel Island too where I had just checked in and I went up to the room and I went down to the gym and I hadn’t even been drinking on this time. So no excuse other than they just all start to run together. I had to go to the front desk and ask them what my room number was.

So you just take a picture, have it on your phone and then you know…and way better than carrying that little thing that they put the room card in. So there’s a reason why you don’t have a room number on your key, is because if somebody steals it, they can get into your room or if somebody holds you up and takes you to the room. So that’s one of the reasons. If you have it on your phone, at least it’s locked on the phone.

6. Take pictures of your receipts

Take pictures of your receipts immediately. So this is another thing. I used to just take all the receipts and put them into a pocket in my briefcase and you lose that crap. You forget where they were from. You forget who you had dinner with. Now you’re lying on your expense reports. You know, just bad things are going on. It’s pretty easy. You’re right there having dinner, you got the two pieces of paper because you need the detailed receipt or the accounting department is not gonna take it because whatever, you know, tax jurisdiction you’re in, you need to have detailed receipts. Take a bloody picture of it right there, get yourself Concur, FreshBooks, QuickBooks, whatever it is to record them and make that expense thing way easier.

Now, do I get this right? No, it’s still a challenge because I’m not really a detail-oriented person. I have a personal assistant that helps me with my expenses. But even for her she really likes it when I take a picture of it immediately and send it to her. So we just have a folder and Slack and it’s just between her and I and I just take a picture and I upload it to Slack. Done. I have gotten way better at that piece. Here’s the thing, it’s gonna save you money. The estimate that I had by crinkling them all up and putting them into a pocket and then remembering to upload them some days, I’m losing 10%, probably 15%. And when you’re running $10,000 to $15,000 worth of expenses a month, do the math, it’s costing you money. So that’s one of the reasons why companies get you to pay for it, by the way, is because they want you to be accountable for that information that’s coming through.

7. Get a credit card specialized for travel

Speaking of expenses, get yourself a credit card that is specialized for travel. I use RBC Avion and it’s fantastic. You’re double-dipping then. You’re getting points from the airline. You’re getting points from the hotel. You’re getting points from the car rental company, and you’re getting the points on the credit card. So now you’ve got two different places that you can travel. You can book your airline flights, you can buy a new TV, do whatever you want with the stuff that’s on your credit card and then you do the same with the hotel points and you can do the same with the car rental points so you’re, you know, using a points credit card that is specialized for travel.

Now the other thing that I like about the…I have the RBC Avion Infinite Privilege. It cost me $499 a year. But guess what? I’ve had times where I call the concierge number and they can get me concert tickets or they can get me into a hockey game that you can’t get into. They can get me into a restaurant that you phone the restaurant they’re like, “No, we’re sold out.” You phone that number like, “No, no problem. We can get you in there.” Another card that our CEO Brendan King really likes is the American Express Platinum card. It’s fantastic for getting into lounges. The Avion card does have the priority pass lounge thing as well. So, you know, two high-end cards, they cost you a little bit of money every year, but the perks far outweigh the $499 a year you get charged.

8. Keep EVERYTHING in the cloud

Now when you’re gonna be on the road, you’re gonna be working. Here’s a real simple thing, don’t store anything on the hard drive of your bloody computer, phone, iPad, whatever you have. Keep it all in the cloud. Because if your laptop bag gets stolen, you can always go to the Apple store and buy a new one, access the cloud and still make the killer presentation to the client. So here’s where I learned this one. I’m in Orlando, Florida. It’s early in my career as a road warrior. I’m at American Automobile Association, the AAA. I’m gonna make a big presentation to those folks. Got the rental car. I’m out in the parking lot, pulling on my jacket, and I closed door to the rental car. And I realized that I have locked my briefcase, my keys, my phone, everything in the car, and I have to make a presentation.

So thank God it was at AAA because they were able to get my stuff out of the car. They didn’t even charge me. But first I was able to make my presentation because all of my presentation materials were in the cloud. So whether it’s a backup and you’re gonna store some resident on your hard drive or your computer or you’re gonna have a hard copy, I don’t really care. It’s just having the backup on the cloud. You know, USB sticks are so 2010. Let’s get that stuff on the cloud because then you can access it from anywhere. Imagine if you had a MacBook and you needed to use a dongle and you didn’t have a VGA dongle. If you had a PC and maybe it was connect…so, you know, sometimes you go to these presentation rooms, they’ll have their own resident computer connected to the projector. And if you’re on the cloud, again, you can just access the cloud and still make the presentation.

9. Pack key equipment

Oh, that brings me to dongles. Dongles for days, I call it. I have a little bag full of dongles. Every single freaking dongle that Apple has ever created for every computer and they follow me around everywhere. I also have my own clicker to do presentations, I just find that bring in your own stuff ensures that you’re going to have a great presentation. I even went as far as buying one of those mini projectors because I was paranoid at the bulb of the projectors would go out. That didn’t work out too well because the thing I bought was piece of crap. But as many things as you can have to make sure that the reason you’re on the road is to do sales stuff, which is make great presentations, show off your products and services, and you got to make sure that you are bringing the right things for every occasion.

10. Always have some foreign currency

Always have a little bit of currency for the country that you’re traveling to. It’s pretty easy to do this now. You don’t have to go to the bank a week before, and I remember when I was doing some traveling early in my career you gotta get traveler’s checks. I got some people right now listening to the podcast going, “What the hell is that?” Y’know, American Express traveler’s checks. Don’t leave home without them. It was a thing. You went and got these traveler’s checks and then if you got held up or they were stolen or lost, you could just shut them off. It was pretty unique.

Here’s the reason why I like currency. When you get to some of these countries, they may not take credit card. And I find this a lot with cab companies. I’m not picking on cab companies, but I am. I was in South Africa and got into, you know, to the cab company that has the contract with the Johannesburg Airport. So you’re thinking it’s pretty legit, right? And jump into the cab, get the ride all the way to the place that I was going, and then they say, “No, we don’t take credit cards.” And I’m like, “Well, all I have is credit card and American cash.” “Nope, don’t take American cash.” They wanted South African Rand. So you go to the hotel desk hoping they have an ATM. No ATM. Now you got to get the cab driver to drive you to some bank, put your credit card in to get the cashout or a debit card. Anyways, it just will save you a bit of grief as soon as you get off the plane you find one of those currency counters. Grab yourself, you know, whatever is equivalent of 100 bucks.

It’s nice to have some tipping money too. I did find this to be very unique to South Africa. I have, you know, yet to run across this and other jurisdictions. They have security guards in all of their parking lots so when you rent a car, there’s a security guard there and they would like to see a couple of coins to make sure that your tires don’t get slashed. I don’t know if that’s a unique to South Africa thing. I’ve yet to experience it anywhere else. You know, and it is nice to have a little bit of cash just to tip as you’re running around. It might help you get some better service.

11. Pack smarter

So next up, really simple one, but it does take some discipline, always pack your luggage the night before an early flight. Now I’ve taken this a step further. If I’m flying out the next day, I pack my luggage the night before. And if I’m going out for a client dinner, I pack my luggage before I even leave for the next day. Just set aside 15…the other thing is, if it’s taken you more than 15 minutes to pack, you’re packing a bunch of crap you don’t need. So you’ve got to become a little bit of a minimalist when it comes to packing. You don’t need eight suits. You don’t need eight dresses. You don’t need eight pairs of shoes. You need to come up with a wardrobe that’s gonna be functional. It’s gonna serve for a casual night. It’s gonna serve for professional nights. You know, you don’t need 20 shirts.

I’m about to embark on six weeks on the road nonstop. I’m taking five shirts. I’m gonna dry clean the shit out of them. If it doesn’t work out, I’ll just go buy three more. The thing about it is you’re gonna be on the road, it’s pretty easy to go get stuff. There’s a Murphy & Johnston in pretty much every airport or a Brooks Brothers. You don’t need to be packing the 59-pound bag that you then have to take crap out of it. Oh, weight the bag. Like nothing irritates other travelers more than you rookie travelers that put 59 pounds worth of stuff in a bag. You can only get 50 pounds, it’s a known fact. And they’re gonna charge you a lot if you got more than that.

The other thing that I’ve started doing, if I am gonna be traveling and I am going to be doing some shopping, I have a really nice leather coach bag that I pack inside the suitcase. It weighs about a pound and a half, pound and three quarters so it’s about the size of a pair of jeans. And so I got one last pair of jeans but I have a bag in case we buy some stuff, we can just put it in a carryon bag and now I’m good to go and I don’t have to buy another bag.

12. Invest in luggage

All right, so next up, let’s talk about…oh, I should talk about luggage because there are a number of different luggage brands out there. I just got back from a great trip to Asia. Wow, Rimowa, they own Asia. Everybody’s got a Rimowa. Super expensive aluminum luggage. It’s pretty cool. Tumi has come out with a really nice luggage bag. But the luggage bag that I’m liking today is Away. And Away is a startup that came up here recently. I bought an aluminum Away bag here just a couple months ago. It’s about a third of the price of a Tumi. It’s about a fifth of the price of a Rimowa. It’s got a nice little USB charger inside it so it’s a carry-on. You can’t have the lithium battery in it if you put it underneath. And I liked it so much, I bought the large series. So when you are on the road for a longer period of time, you’re gonna do the 50-pound bag, I got one of those. So Away, I told all my friends about it. A bunch of them have bought them and they love it. So it’s as good as a name brand and it’s a new startup that has just be a fantastic brand.

13. Check into hotel shuttles

Okay, next up, your hotel might have a shuttle and that shuttle comes to the hotel. A lot of brands have, I’m a Hilton guy. Hilton has got them. Most Hampton Inns, most Hilton Garden Inns come straight to the airport, gives you ride. It doesn’t cost you a penny. Maybe you should tip the guy that lifts your bags. They run pretty much on the half hours. So, you know, that’s one way to get to the hotel. You know, you might have to wait a little bit but not bad. Uber is great. Lyft is great. The one thing about them though is that they put them in the weirdest places. So in Atlanta, they put the Uber and Lyft station pretty much in Miami. So you’ve got a walk quite a ways to get to the Uber and Lyft station. I did it right after my hip surgery last year. It was not a pleasant scene.

Anyways, the reason for that is the cab companies are all in a deal with the airport. Pay them some sort of a fee to have their station right out front. But we all know about cabs, I’m not picking on them, but it’s just not a good user experience. When you look ahead, you find this hotel shuttle. Uber, Lyft, fantastic as well.

14. Become a master of your apps

I got one other item that I wanted to touch on and become a master of your apps, I call it. I have a folder on my phone. It’s called Travel. It’s got all my top travel apps that I use from checking on flight status to checking the weather at the location you’re going to be at. I also have on there a great little app for renting cars called Silvercar. It’s one of my favorite car rental companies. For about the price of any other car that you’re gonna rent, you always get an Audi A4. And now they have the Q5. But better than that, they pick you up and they drop you off at the airport. So no more horrible rental car shuttles and parking 20 miles away and all, even drive right up to the gate and they just come get you. So it’s pretty cool. It’s called Silvercar by Audi now. In fact, it was a startup and Audi got involved with them and I think they ended up buying them out or something like that recently.

Anyways, just a few things that will make your life a little bit better. I had someone request that I would do an addition on travel rituals. I hope that these things help you when you are on the road to become better. We welcome any suggestions that you may have that I can pass on. I’m sure there’s some road warriors out there. Brad Petersen, my good buddy from MatchCraft, Kimberli Lewis from SIINDA, Paul Plant, that I have a privilege of working with. Maybe you guys have some things that you’d like to share. Get them in here to me on LinkedIn, and I would love to share them with the rest of our listeners. May the rose ride up to meet you. May the wind always be at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face and the rains fall soft upon your fields until we meet again, and may God hold you in the palm of his hand. I’ll see you when I see you. I’m George Leith.