Since I got a surprisingly warm reaction to my post the other day on business travel (by way of full disclosure, I consider anything short of an actual cease and desist order a warm reaction), I decided I would magnanimously share a little more of my distilled wisdom on the subject. Fortunately for the reader, I own my own wisdom distillery.
Most highly successful business owners seem to have one thing in common. They place a high premium not only on their own time but also the time of their employees. They constantly preach the old adage of not just working harder but working smarter.
So, for example, if the average CEO discovered that the roof of their headquarters building needed replacing and a well-meaning observer were to suggest that he or she organize a work crew from among their existing employees to repair it, that executive would look at the author of that unsolicited advice as if they had three heads.
“You seriously want me to take a dozen people off-line and have them perform a task for which they have absolutely no training or background? Do you have any idea how much productivity would be lost around here not to mention how shoddy the roof repair would no doubt be? Why don’t you come back with another idea when you are not smoking a controlled substance?”
And yet (you knew there was the inevitable “and yet” coming, didn’t you?), some business owners think nothing of assigning the critical task of travel management to a group of over-taxed, highly stressed administrative assistants. Let me see if I can demonstrate how this abysmally bad idea is based on a handful of commonly held but nonetheless erroneous myths.
Myth #1: Booking travel couldn’t possibly take that much time.
Well, on this one I will give you partial credit. We have timed our own highly skilled corporate agents who average over twenty-five years experience and they can typically book an air, hotel and car reservation in under three minutes. That is because they are using a GDS (an airline reservation system) that they have used for decades and their fingers fly over the keys like hummingbird wings over a field of nectar.
An admin, however, will typically spend forty-five minutes to an hour on the same reservation once they have visited numerous airline, hotel and car websites and / or placed several phone calls. Now if your admin is so under worked that you are desperately looking for ways to help combat boredom, then you have found the perfect recipe. Assuming your company does even a modicum of business travel, you should have no difficulty in quickly filling those empty hours.
Myth #2 We hear travel agencies charge fees these days. We can’t afford to use a travel agency.
I know. Shocking, isn’t it! Unfortunately, some business owners have trouble seeing the forest for the fees. If you run a business, I encourage you to focus on the potential savings, not the minimal costs. As Robert Burton put it around four centuries ago, “Don’t be penny wise and pound foolish.”
There is not a travel management company worth its salt that cannot easily offset their service fees with the savings they generate. We just do it a little better than most. We are experts at obtaining low air fares, discounted car rates and reduced hotel prices. We save you money, and . . . in keeping with the theme of this little treatise . . . if you believe time is money, we even compound the savings.
The finished product is demonstrably not the same, just like with the roof analogy. It is inevitable that many more mistakes will be made, certainly not due to incompetence, but simply due to inexperience and lack of training.
What happens when there are weather delays and equipment malfunctions? It is my observation that when those things happen, as they routinely do, you see two sorts of folks at the airport. The first group is standing in a long line with anxious looks on their faces praying that there are options still available when they get to the front of the long queue. The second set of travelers is sitting in the bar chatting on their cell phone with their travel agent who has them rebooked before either they or their glass of beer has time to break a sweat.
To summarize, having admins book travel without any professional assistance is decidedly time not well spent. If you are looking for an example of the better use of time, being a coffee lover I will close with this anonymous tidbit. “A cup of coffee with a friend is happiness tasted and time well spent.”