The Unexpected Benefits of Traveling for Business

Traveling for business can be a drag, but it can also lead to both professional and personal growth. Here are some things you’re learning from your travels, whether you realize it or not.

You’re meeting new people.

Relationships are absolutely essential to the human experience. It can be pretty tough to nurture new ones when you’re around the exact same people every day, not all of whom you might enjoy the presence of completely. When you travel for business, you’re meeting new people all the time and learning from the experiences. A few may even turn into a great friend, significant other, or future employer.

You’re discovering great restaurants.

Eating on the road can be really bad or really good. If you’re into food from different places and cultures, traveling for business is a great way to experience meals in cities and towns you never would have otherwise. You may even be able to expense the cost back to the company! Before you hit the road, get online and research the best restaurants, food carts and hole in the wall diners around the country — or the world.

You’re creating new life experiences. 

In addition to great restaurants, traveling for work is also a great opportunity to see and do things you wouldn’t otherwise. Have you always wanted to try stand up paddle boarding? A hike through snow-capped mountains? Explore the Everglades? If you’re a history buff, it means limitless visits to museums and historical sites. Make sure to schedule room in the itinerary for some R&R, and then maximize it. Research the sites and attractions before your next road trip.

You’re getting great at packing.

Nothing makes a great traveler like frequent flying and hotel stays. Now you can pack for a week away with a moment’s notice. When you’re a business traveler who’s got packing down pat, you know how to prepare and travel like a pro.

You’re building up miles and perks.

Frequent traveling is an opportunity to build up lots of free personal miles using your own credit and airline cards—even if you get reimbursed for your trips. The more you fly and stay in hotels, the more likely you’ll also be eligible for elite and VIP status.

You’re honing your adaptation skills.

Successful travelers prepare well and know how to adapt and handle challenges when they arise, such as a delayed flight or hotel issue. You’re building problem-solving skills that can apply to every area of your life and learning how to be a more adaptable person.

You’re learning to prioritize health. 

If you’ve ever been sick on the road, you now know the importance of staying healthy when away from home. You know the importance of good nutrition, drinking enough water and getting enough sleep, and working out to keep your strength up. Building up healthy habits will serve you in every area of your life.

You’re recharging out of the office.

While traveling for business can be a drag, it’s also a great way to get out of the office and break up the doldrums of the same old 9 to 5 work week. Next time you have a trip, make a point to see some sights and do something new and interesting to refresh your body and soul.

You’re setting yourself up to work remotely.

We live in a digital remote world, and those who successfully travel for business are proving they are effective even while traveling. You can use that to secure a telecommuting or virtual office job down the road because you’ve already proven you’re reliable out of the office.

You’ve got tax write-offs galore.

A smart traveler knows a good accountant and takes advantage of legal tax perks such as how to write off business class, food and entertainment when you’re traveling for work.

Source: Inc.com

Are Rideshare Services Really Safe?

Ride-sharing companies have exploded in popularity over the past few years and have expanded to hundreds of cities. While they may be convenient and less expensive than other livery options, are they really safe for consumers?  Here’s what to know.

First, let’s take a look at the licensing requirements for most regular taxi drivers and public chauffeurs. In Chicago, for example, all public passenger vehicles must have a license issued by the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection in order to legally operate. In order to obtain this license, a driver must attend the Public Chauffeur Training Institute and pass a written exam, as well as a physical exam and a criminal background check. As another example, Hoyt Livery drivers are technically employees of the company—licensed, insured and trained in Hoyt’s standards of excellent service.

The two largest rideshare companies, on the other hand, are not regulated or licensed in some cities, like traditional taxi services.

Most rideshare companies have safeguards of sorts in place, but these safeguards are at the discretion of the companies themselves and are therefore not standardized.

One popular rideshare company claims that it performs criminal and driving background checks on its drivers as well as vehicle inspections for their cars. Another says that it conducts a “rigorous screening process” for its drivers, whose personal auto insurance coverage is verified, although whether insurance companies would actually pay out personal coverage in a commercial situation is uncertain.

In addition to the personal auto coverage the drivers must carry, commercial coverage is provided by two of the largest rideshare companies as an extra protection; it covers riders from the moment their request is accepted until their trip is complete.

Also, most rideshare companies rely on a feedback system from riders as a way of learning about the quality of their drivers, and weeding out less-than-ideal drivers, as well as riders.

Why the difference in regulations and requirements?

How is it that rideshare services can operate without the same oversight as regular taxis? Partly because rideshare companies are a relatively new frontier, and as such, technology-driven rideshare companies are operating in a legal gray area.

What about rideshare companies that operate on a donations-only payment system? The donations-only business model is enticing for consumers, but further complicates the practical status of such companies. Is the company providing taxi service if they don’t technically require payment? And if they aren’t technically a taxi service, do they need to abide by the same regulations as taxis?

Backlash from cities and states

The business model has received backlash from some city government officials, who believe they should be licensed and registered to operate, as well as an international association that represents 1,100 traditional taxi companies. The Minneapolis City Council has also recently legalized rideshare services, which allows the city to regulate and license them.

The two largest rideshare companies were halted indefinitely in Pittsburgh in July 2014 by the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission to check if the companies have adequate insurance, appropriate driver background checks and inspections. Other governments have taken similar action.

A spokesperson for the Taxicab, Limousine & Paratransit Association was quoted as saying, “These companies are operating illegally. They’re under investigation in many municipalities for their insurance and background checks.”

Steps are already being taken by many states to regulate rideshare companies with the public’s safety in mind. Not long ago, the Illinois state House passed a bill aimed at protecting consumers by requiring rideshare companies to conduct background checks for all drivers and safety checks for the vehicles they use. They will also require companies to get commercial insurance coverage for all drivers. Many rideshare services claim to already take these steps, but state regulations are meant to ensure that these rules are uniform and enforceable.

The takeaway: rider beware

While ridesharing is a convenient and cost-effective way for many people to get around town, realize that they do not have the same regulations and licensing requirements as regular taxi and limousine companies. As a result, rider beware—consumers need to be comfortable with riding at their own risk.

Sources: Angieslist.com and CooneyConway.com

Inspiring New Year’s Resolutions of CEOs

As 2017 begins, we thought it would be interesting to look at some New Year’s resolutions of top performing CEOs, courtesy of Inc.com.  We hope they inspire you to make 2017 your best year yet both personally and professionally.

Find your zone and do work that truly inspires you.

Successful people usually have a good idea where their “zone of genius” is—that place where you’re doing what you’re best at and most enjoy, lose track of time and produce your best and most satisfying work. Wouldn’t it be awesome to go there more often? To be more in sync with your job and purpose, and at the end of the day feel more energized than burned-out? Make it a priority in 2017.

Your dream job is not just a fantasy. You can make it a reality if you identify your zone of genius and how it intersects with your career and life. Then, think strategically on how you can make your work move toward greater “in the zone” moments.

Learn something new every day.

There is something incredibly valuable in expanding your knowledge and learning something new on a regular basis. Successful CEOs know this. Consider the correlation between Mark Zuckerberg’s personal goals and Facebook’s annual success. In 2010, Zuckerberg committed to learning Mandarin, and Facebook exceeded 500 million monthly users and became the largest social network. In 2015, his goal was to read a new book every two weeks, and the next year, Facebook grew as a major publishing platform.

Think about a way for you to incorporate new learning into your life on a regular basis, whether that is reading a book for 20 minutes a day, taking a new class, or even learning a new word each day. Think you’re too busy? Remember that knowledge fuels success.

Be a mentor—and connect with your mentors.

Another key to success in work and life is mentorship. Positive and productive mentorships help employees learn, become more engaged and reduce work attrition. This year, make a point to find or reconnect with a mentor, and also give back by mentoring someone else. It doesn’t have to be a huge time commitment. The key is to be involved and engaged—this is the most important factor in a successful mentor relationship. And enjoy the unexpected benefits. Many teachers say they become better at their jobs by teaching others.

Focus on the long-term, not the short-term.

In work and life, stop focusing on the immediate bottom line and reward and look toward long-term success and sustainability.

When you focus on the long term, you shift your focus to making proper investments in your time, money, and goals. Think forest from the trees. You might not see immediate returns at first, but going about your days with long-term goals in mind will help you stay on track with what you ultimately want from your career and life, and help avoid spending endless hours putting out fires or regretting short-term decisions.

Take time to meditate.

The research and evidence on the benefits of mediation is truly extensive, and top CEOs are taking note. Meditation increases immune function, mental focus, positive emotions, empathy, increases social connections and much more, according to Psychology Today. The best part is it’s free and doesn’t take much time at all each day.

Source: Inc.com

How Technology is Changing Business Travel

Our world has undergone seismic changes over the past few decades due to technology, and the way we travel and do business has also evolved as a result.

To help you make the most of your business travel, here’s a look at the latest business travel trends, courtesy of American Express Global Business Travel.

Business travelers are using their mobile devices

The first business travel trend is not new or surprising, but it is continually evolving. Business travelers are increasingly using and dependent on their mobile devices and travel-related apps.

In 2015, the number of global mobile users surpassed the number of computer desktop users. Since then, mobile usage has also increased over desktop usage as the most used medium for daily digital consumption, according to a study by venture capital firm KPCB.

The increase in mobile usage has naturally changed the way people plan and travel for business and other reasons. Where computers were once just used for research and browsing, travelers of all kinds are now confidently and securely booking their travel via mobile devices.  According to estimates from eMarketer, mobile booking from smart phones and tablets will account for the majority of digital travel bookings during 2017.

Interestingly, millennials are at the forefront of mobile usage for travel. According to research from the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA), conducted in partnership with American Express Global Business Travel, 72 percent of millennials use mobile devices to check itineraries at least once per day during business trips.

Millennials also lead all business travelers in using their mobile phones to track their expenses. This should come as no surprise, as 2015 research found that more than twice as many millennial business travelers were interested in using their mobile device to keep track of expenses when compared to travelers over the age of 55.

Home-sharing sites changing where we stay

Just as mobile technology is driving the business travel trends, it’s also had a huge influence on changes in travel accommodations. Home-sharing services like AirBnB™ and HomeAway™ saw a 56-percent growth in use between Q1 2015 and Q1 2016, according to data from Concur.

AirBnB, the most popular of the home-sharing sites, has an estimated 2 million listings worldwide, with revenue of about $2.4 billion in the U.S. last year. The business has been valued at $24 billion, higher than the $21-billion valuation of hotel giant Marriott International, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Nationwide, AirBnB lists about 173,000 units, equal to about 3.5 percent of the more than 5 million rooms rented out by traditional hotels, according to a study by CBRE’s hotel research arm. The study goes on to say that AirBnB properties have started to pressure hotels to keep rates low in a handful of cities where home-sharing units are plentiful, including Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York.

Increased competition increasing hotel perks

Another benefit of increasing competition in the hotel industry is that we’re seeing a continued increase in the free services offered by hotels. For example, many hotels are offering free Wi-Fi in order to attract more business travelers. According to the latest GBTA research, 75 percent of business travelers said that Wi-Fi is vital to their productivity. Additionally, 25 percent of respondents said that a lack of reliable Wi-Fi access is the most frustrating part of their travels—even more so than the travel itself.

Source: American Express Global Business Travel

Preparing Your Speech on the Road

When you travel for work, do you make presentations to colleagues or clients? Do you interview or train people? Whatever the reason, communicating well is critically important to career success. Here are tips on how to prepare and hone your communication skills, even when you’re on the road.

Take advantage of travel time. The upside of air travel is downtime. This is a great opportunity to think about your speech and what you want to communicate. Use time waiting for your plane and/or flying to think it through and write down notes.

Who is your audience and what’s the best way to communicate with them? Is it a casual Q&A format or a more scripted talk? Write an outline of the key points you should get across, and start rehearsing them in your head. Since most people have a smartphone on them, consider recording your thoughts into the phone, then writing them down more clearly later when you’re alone at the hotel.

Keep it simple. The K.I.S.S. principle, “Keep it simple, stupid,” is a simple but wise adage. When you cram too much information into a talk, your speech will suffer and leave your audience confused, if not resentful that you’re wasting their time. Instead, keep it succinct and focus on two or three main points you want the audience to understand and retain. For example: Here is the challenge, this is what we propose and here’s why it will work.

Rehearsing pays off.  One area where many presenters fail is not rehearsing their speech enough. Know how much time you have, write out your presentation and practice it until you know it by heart. If you’re traveling with a colleague, ask him or her to stand in as your audience. Otherwise, stand in front of a mirror in the hotel room and go through the speech as if you’re presenting.

Some people think that too much rehearsal removes the spontaneity from their speech. The opposite is true when you know what you want to say without cue cards, you’ll be more confident, your talk will flow better and your personality will shine through. Don’t forget to leave time at the end for a question and answer session.

Whether you’re practicing alone or with people, stay aware of your body language. Make and keep good eye contact throughout your speech. If you’re nervous, look for a few key people with positive energy who support you. Smile when appropriate and use hand gestures to put an exclamation point on important points. Stand up straight and don’t be afraid to walk around and engage the audience. Your confidence will breed respect from them. Think of it more as a warm conversation than a speech.

Speak clearly and loudly. Another common trap of presenters is speaking too fast and/or not loudly enough. Don’t be monotone and bore your audience to death—let your voice reflect the words and emotion you are conveying.

When rehearsing, record yourself on your phone and listen back. Are you easy to understand or are you speaking too quickly? It may feel uncomfortable to hear your voice at first, but this is priceless feedback that will help you hone your speech and public speaking ability.

Open strong with “The Rule of Three.” Great orators know the importance of opening a speech strong and drawing the audience in quickly. For example, instead of using the standard, “Today, I’m going to talk to you about childhood obesity,” use the “Rule of Three” instead. “Children. (Long pause.) Obesity. (Long pause.) Epidemic. (Long pause.) This approach creates dramatic impact and will demand the listener’s attention from the start. Then continue strong.

Water and a paperclip. If you find yourself nervous, keep a small object in your pocket such as a paperclip that you can hold and focus on. It will give your nervous energy somewhere to go. Whether it’s a favorite crystal or small toy your child gave you it doesn’t matter what it is as long as it helps you calm down and stay focused. Also, keep a bottle of water close by in case you get a “frog in your throat.” A strategic sip will also allow you a moment to collect your thoughts.