Jun 11

Immersed in the Business Traveler Subculture

As I write this I am somewhere between Austin and Cleveland and yes, I am completely immersed in the Business Traveler Subculture (BTS). Although my travel has ramped up lately, I really don’t have to travel all that often. I think that’s why I am able to recognize the subculture all around me. For the BTSer its just another day at the office. It started back in Cleveland when I was grabbing lunch at my gate.

Business travelers photo by Robert Couse-Baker via Flickr Creative Commons

A guy next to me was banging out some spreadsheets and all of a sudden asked me to watch his stuff because he had been paged. When he came back he just said “free upgrade to first class” and smiled. He went back to his spreadsheet. My coworker then arrived and said “hey, I got a free upgrade to first class so I won’t be sitting near you.” What the hell? I soon learned that he is a lifetime member of some “million mile” club or something to that effect due to years of business travel to Europe. Obviously, I am now experiencing what I always pretty much knew, there is a business traveler subculture and though I can be immersed in it, I am not a part of it.

Every direction I turned, I witnessed another amazing BTSer doing their thing. A guy was pitching rubber gaskets to a client in Chicago while meeting with the ticketing agent (probably for an upgrade) and blasting out an email on his laptop. The pitch was convincing. I almost took 10,000 gaskets from him too.

A woman ran past in a business suit and high heels that didn’t slow her down. She couldn’t have been faster in a pair of Nikes and a jogging suit. Again, she balanced her Blackberry and a large bag that she was going to apparently try and carry-on her plane. I made sure I had only one personal bag and my small suit case that fit inside the little metal cage used to measure carry-ons as you board.

Some guy turns to a stranger and says “we have some storms moving in so the plane will probably be rerouted around Chicago.” He shows his phone to the stranger. The stranger gives one of this half smiles and says “yeah, cloud deck will be pretty high and storms of that size.” BTSers are also meteorologists.

Then there was the steady stream of BTSers that flowed through those private lounges such as “The Admiral’s Club” and other creativly named exclusive clubs. Exclusivity is a good word to describe the Business Traveler Subculture. I am sure that the biggest hollywood movie starts would not be allowed into The Admiral’s Club unless they were a BTSer (or traveling first class – internationally only). The perks seemed to continue forever. Priority boarding. A “special welcome.” I am waiting for the Captain to ask if any of the BTSers would like a chance to sit on his lap and steer the plane for a bit.

The BTSer treats the airport as their own office, only more luxurious. They get all the perks of a fine hotel with the comforts of home and functionality of the office. While I am in the office all day, business is being conducted in all over our ever-connected world.

My experience makes me wonder how much longer companies will be paying for the overhead of a large office. It makes more sense to send all your workers home to work virtually. It will be interesting to see how productivity and standard of living will fluctuate when the rest of us catch up to the Business Traveler Subculture.


Jun 11

Golf and Business

Golf and business go hand in hand. People do business with other people that they like and not just companies. Therefore, it is imperative to let your potential new client get to know you as a person and not just by your rehearsed sales pitch which includes that funny trick can do with your gold-plated pen before you lay it down on the contract and ask for their business. People see through those stunts. You need to offer them something they don’t get elsewhere; you need to offer them substance and character.

Golf Course photo by Cam Switzer via Flickr Creative Commons

Offering substance is easier said than done. You have flaws. We all do. Those flaws may be more evident on the golf course than in the board room. On the course, there are variables which are out of your control. Wind. Rain. That shank into the woods on five. All these variables make a round of golf much like business and much like life – packed full uncontrollable variables that illustrate your reaction to such events.

Throwing your club into the woods following your bad tee shot shows that you are an emotional person who reacts illogically when faced with a challenge. Blaming the wind or other variables shows your lack of accountability and gives your client a glimpse of what lies ahead when they call with a concern or a complaint.

On the positive side, being able to lose well shows that you are a gracious person who knows exactly who you are. You do not need to win a round of golf to prove how great you are – you already know. As a side note, it’s bad form to beat the boss or a client in anything. If you are that good you can make it close and show that you are a good competitor.

Horrible golfer? Skip the course all together. You will most likely not be able to hide your frustration in front of the client. You should choose another low-pressure alternative to the board room meeting. Perhaps you should choose dinner if you know some great place and can order in French although I think dinner is played out. Maybe taking the client sailing will best display your multi-dimensionality. There are many low-pressure alternatives to a round of golf and that can put you and your substance on full display. It’s important to pick the activity that suits you best, offers plenty of opportunity to discuss your product and to ensure the client has a great time.

As a small business owner you need to have a decent golf game (or one of the alternatives above). Networking on the course builds relationships and strong bonds – as long as you don’t make an ass out of yourself. Golfing is a low-pressure way of displaying your substance and throwing in some well-timed banter about your company and or product. Be classy and the client will select you and your company will just be along for the ride. And you thought playing golf with business associates was just a way to get out of the office for an afternoon!