In my time as a Revolutionary Assistant, I have sent my manager on some grueling trips. I remember one where he had to fly all over the west coast and lay off people who had been with the company three and four times as long as he had. It was a whirlwind trip that lasted only two days and left a trail of bodies, and that’s no one’s favorite thing to do.
So, how do you make something like that, or any other treadmill-like trip more productive for your manager? It’s not really about micromanaging the itinerary – your manager has gone to an airport take-away and gotten sushi without your direction in the past, and chances are it’s going to happen again – but really more about making sure he’s prepared and able to get the most done in the least amount of movement:
Reserve travel, hotel and ground transportation with convenience in mind – My manager travels a lot, and he has his favorite hotels and restaurants in mind most of the time. But when that’s not the case, I get to work and discuss the best places to eat and spend the night with assistants at the companies my manager is visiting. It’s a great way to make connections and make sure your manager is only a few minutes from his meeting places. I also like to reserve in advance to save money!
Make sure your manager knows about – and knows how to use – the latest and greatest in smartphone apps – Travel is made easier by phone apps that can get you what you need when you need it. For instance, an app like Gate Guru or Flight Tracker provides flight information and terminal maps right at your fingertips, so you can hit a Starbucks or grab some aspirin in no time flat. New services like Uber provide quick rides, and the app Waze (which I just downloaded myself!) tells you how to avoid traffic based on the advice of thousands of other drivers on the road. Translation apps are available for people traveling in foreign countries, which is also very handy!
Capitalize on his flight time – If he’s in the air for a while, that’s a great time to get reading done, review reports, etc. I try to book flights where wi-fi is available, but if not, I create PDFs of documents he needs to review and add them to his tablet so he’s able to sift through paperwork without carrying a stack of items with him.
Ask if his devices are charged and business cards are packed – Or ask about anything else he might forget to do or pack. There’s nothing worse than running out to an Apple Store across town to purchase a new charger – it’s a time waster and a huge irritation. (But, here’s a helpful hint: Hotels find themselves with BOXES of chargers and power cords left behind by forgetful guests, so tell your manager to check the front desk first!)
Arrange for car service if he’s attending a convention or a trade show – I work in retail, and there’s no bigger nightmare than getting your manager from hotel to hotel when he’s at that ICSC show in Las Vegas each May. Those of you in the IT industry probably experience the same thing with the big Las Vegas show in the summer. It’s crazy! I like to arrange for car service wherever possible, because if my manager tries to catch a cab he’s going to be waiting for an hour and paying just as much money!
Plan for a nice reward after a busy day – I don’t know about your manager, but mine was likely to find a McDonald’s after a day at work. If he’s going to be alone at the end of the day, think about making a reservation at a nice restaurant or a late-afternoon massage appointment.
Of course, the best way to be productive is to not travel at all. If a video conference or Skype call will suffice for a face-to-face meeting, that’s going to be the best way to go! If your manager isn’t familiar with those kinds of tools, it’s time to show him right now!
Business travel is a test of mettle and determination most of the time, and a Revolutionary Assistant takes every step to minimize the effects of the demons on the road!