So you’re going on another business trip… but don’t let bad past experiences jade you. Work travel can be a career and personal growth booster. Here’s how.
While the chance to escape from the office environment may be a welcome reprieve, a domestic business trip often brings new challenges and limited relaxation. Yet, proper preparation and time management can maximise business travel benefits. We get advice from Brent Combrink, who owns Cape Town-based company ProMentor, coaching and mentoring executives and entrepreneurs throughout South Africa.
Before you leave
Start your trip on a good note by ensuring that you have attended to all details before you leave. Combrink suggests the following preparation tasks:
• Change office voice mail intros.
• Activate out of office auto-response on email.
• Take your ID book (or passport for international travel) and all travel reference vouchers, including flight, car hire and hotel documents.
• Enjoy special time with family before you leave.
• ensure that all relevant clients have been informed that you will be away.
• Complete all urgent work tasks so that you are not inundated when you return.
Always ensure that you have your laptop with you so that you can work during flight delays and after take-off on flights. Otherwise use this time to unwind as you mentally prepare for the trip ahead.
When it comes to time management, Combrink stresses the importance of scheduling appointments. “When I go on business trips, I ensure my schedule is booked at least a week in advance with back-to-back appointments,” says Combrink. “After hours I visit relatives and associates, or I often work in the evenings.”
Work trips can also be a way of expanding your client base. “Schedule as many sales appointments as you can around existing client appointments, even if that means doing coffee at 7pm,” suggests Combrink. “You can also reconnect with past colleagues to keep the network healthy.”
Claiming back expenses
If you’re not a business trip veteran, investigate what expenses you can claim back from your company. According to Combrink, you should generally claim for any expenses you may not have incurred had you not been on a business trip. These include dinners, parking expenses, airport transfers, and so on. While it is a good idea to keep slips, SARS allows a tax-free R240* “subsistence allowance” per night out of town for domestic travel without needing proof of payment vouchers.
Combrink provides the following tips to make your business trip a successful one:
• Have a checklist for items you need to pack.
• Have everything (travel, accommodation, appointments) booked well in advance.
• Cover your risks: get travel insurance for big trips. When clients finance your trip, have written agreements that they either pay for the travel directly (avoids impact on cashflow for contractors and small businesses) or ensure that the client is liable for trips that they need to move or cancel.
• Have a good support structure for whatever needs to happen back home, whether it’s a reliable, self-managing PA at the office or someone to take care of things at your house.
• Mix business and pleasure; make time for sightseeing or enjoying something unique in the town that you can’t do at home.
This article was written by Gillian Bloch