Business trip: how to plan one and avoid unexpected events?

  • 16/04/2019
  • 10 分钟

Jonathan Dumphreys, commercial director of Towing at Wilson Sons, amasses more than 300 business trips in his three decades working at the company. Every year, he travels to Asia, to Europe, and to North America. With that much experience, he has learned a lot about the challenges and the best practices when traveling on business.

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Even with the ease in making videoconferences and quickly communicating with anyone through a simple call, business trips are still relevant, in Dumphreys’ perspective.

“By the facial expressions and body language of a person, you can know if negotiations are going well or not, if the situation is or isn’t comfortable. Videoconferences don’t offer that input”, he believes.

The director also highlights the good impression that can be caused by meeting clients in person. “To me, that shows that you’re willing to spend your time — 24 hours traveling on a plane to Asia, for example — to be face to face with the client and understand the whole dynamic of visitation and negotiation. Presence is extremely valid, in my opinion”.

Do you also travel frequently on business or is about to go on your first business trip? On the topics below, we present essential tips for a successful trip, based on Dumphreys’ experience. Check it out!

How to plan your trip — and close deals

Plan the details

Even for a leisure trip, this is important: plan everything. For business trips, that’s even more important. After all, it’s filled with meetings, lunches with clients, and other appointments which must be set in advance. “You must have flexibility in your schedule to fit in a meeting that needs to be rescheduled”, exemplifies Dumphreys.

He points out that, before, meetings used to be set until two months in advance. However, that can be done nowadays in a much more dynamic way. The director has set appointments even two weeks in advance and confirmed them two or three days before the meeting. On Dumphreys’ perspective, the way people work has changed a lot, and many no longer spend that much time in the office, but traveling.

“The key point in this kind of trip is organization. You must be extremely organized and meticulous, and should keep a very disciplined routine. Otherwise, you end up feeling absurdly tired during the trip, and that’s not good, because you must be wide awake when negotiating”, he says.

To be able to maintain such a level of organization while traveling, the commercial director says that he never lets emails or reports accumulate daily, for example, and he plans his routine even before arriving at the destination.

You also need to pay attention to travel insurance. For Dumphreys, you basically need to verify the extension of the coverage and if it facilitates the return to Brazil in urgent cases. Since he travels a lot, Dumphrey prefers to get an annual insurance instead of having to negotiate one for each route.

Know what you can do on your own

Even though it might seem more practical to count on an agency or delegate the planning to the company, you can solve many aspects of the trip yourself.

Dumphreys prefers to handle issues of plane tickets, lodging, and scheduling on his own, because he believes that the person that will travel is better able to understand the itinerary they need to follow than an agency to which they delegate planning.

When choosing a hotel, for example, he takes into consideration not only the cost, but also the proximity to the places he needs to be in and to public transport — which is often more viable than cars in bustling cities such as London or Tokyo.

If it’s your first time on the destination, resort to the clients and ask for hotel recommendations near the place where you’re meeting them. Besides strengthening trust, you’ll have the advantage of the “local point of view” that your clients certainly have on the region.

The commercial director offers another tip: “Have everything mapped out on Google Maps, every client address. I do visitations each day based on the places that are closer to one another, in order to save on travel time. With that in mind and knowing my clients’ habits (if they prefer to meet at their offices, for lunch, or for dinner, for example), you’ll know how much time you’ll need on your trip.”

He also recommends using the airline’s and the hotel’s app to keep up-to-date in relation to connecting flights, cancelations, and special offers at the hotel. To manage your travel itinerary, use TripIt Pro, an app where you can manage your whole trip.

Study the culture of your destination

Doing business in Japan can be very different from negotiating in Brazil, explains Dumphrey, since culture is different in each part of the world. A good relationship with the clients can often determine the course of a deal, so it’s essential to respect — and, preferably, understand a little about — the culture of the place to which you’re going.

Dumphreys says that, on his first business trip to Japan, in the 1980s, he resorted to a flight attendant on his way to Asia to learn at least how to introduce himself in Japanese. That caused a good impression on his clients: “It broke the ice immediately because they saw that I was someone coming from the other side of the world, very different from them, but introducing myself in the local language. I have friends in Japan to this day, 30 years later.”

It’s important to research the local culture even before traveling. That way, when you’re already there, you can enjoy the opportunity of getting to know the culture in your free time. Besides being worth it for the outing, it also improves your relationship with the clients, according to Dumphreys: “It shows that you’re interested in their culture.”

Another relevant point is to always be open to new experiences, including gastronomic ones. In Asia, for example, it’s common for business meetings to be filled with a great variety of dishes, and it’s expected of the visitor to try a little bit of everything. For Dumphreys, those who travel to many parts of the world can’t be resistant to experimenting different flavors.

And, of course, something that could never be missed on a business trip is the ability of negotiating! Improve yours with tips from our following posts:

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