The Happy Traveller - Survival Techniques for Export Representatives



Working and travelling. To combine the two might seem like a rare privilege.

Well it can be, for some. But to avoid (or least to minimise) the risks of illness, fatigue and disaster, an export traveller needs to think about themselves. The chances are that nobody else will.

Travelling to far away destinations on business is often both thrilling and daunting. It’s the responsibility of the traveller to:

Arrive at the destination safely and on time

Arrive mentally and physically fit for the tasks and meetings ahead

Arrive fully prepared

Return home safely

As with most other business activities, proper planning will do more than anything else to deliver success. Whether intending to travel for three days or three months, and whether it’s a one-off trip or one of many, the first task is to consider the objectives of the trip. What will success look like?

Always be realistic in your plans. A single journey is not always going to resolve everything. The key advantage in travelling is to improve understanding, to see the situation at first hand and to have more productive discussions with customers/suppliers/representatives than could be achieved by other means, even in the age of Skype. Know what you expect to achieve before you plan the trip.

Make every effort you can to keep the objectives simple. Don’t be persuaded to add too many additional tasks to the agenda if they can be reasonably avoided. This can sometimes be difficult, especially when travelling a long distance. If you are put under pressure by colleagues, at least make it clear that the trip has primary and subsidiary objectives, so that less vital tasks can be given lower priority if necessary.

Plan your travel carefully. There’s a black art to timing most trips. Booking a long way ahead can save money on air travel and often on hotels, but there’s the danger of the trip unravelling, for example if key visits have to be changed when a contact changes their plans.

Don’t be tempted to cram too many meetings into your itinerary. It might seem impressive to colleagues if you have a full programme of meetings every day, but how productive will that really be? If visiting potential distributors for example, it’s never a good idea to be constrained by time if you can possibly help it. Delays are often inevitable when travelling in an unfamiliar place, and it can also be extremely destructive to have to rush away from a constructive and promising first meeting because you didn’t allow enough time. Maintaining flexibility in a programme is vital, and that often means resisting the temptation to fill the diary with meetings for their own sake.

Above all, consider your own needs. You need to be at the top of your game, particularly where meetings are expected to be challenging or sensitive. Regular travellers should get to know their personal preferences when travelling. For example, if you use a gym or swimming pool regularly at home, try to choose hotels that have these facilities or where they are available nearby. Include time in your plans for some leisure activities.

Always ensure that you are prepared for things going wrong. Leave details of your itinerary with a colleague, and if appropriate with a family member or close friend. Know how to get hold of vital contacts such as your insurer if your belongings and phone are lost or stolen. Your passport is a lifeline, treat it with the greatest respect. Ensure you have details such as the number and expiry date accessible in emergencies. This means having them written down, accessible online, and also in the hands of someone you can easily contact at any time.

Give yourself time before and after each meeting to prepare and to make notes of essential points. On long journeys, it’s too easy to forget essential details and promises. Read through your notes as soon as possible after each meeting and make a list of action points.

On extensive trips, less is usually more. Keep the agenda simple, keep it flexible and never try to do too much. Consider your own personal needs, and ensure you keep healthy, safe and in good shape.

Article written by Tim Hiscock - Associate of Strong & Herd LLP

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