How to create an international business travel destination file

31 08 2006

The international business traveller has a lot of work to do before each trip. The preparation of the journey can be complicated and usually requires quite a bit of time in order to finalize visas, appointments, hotels, transportation, and tickets and connections.

I highly recommend an international travel destination file be created and maintained for the countries and business destinations that you or your organization travels to.

This should be updated each time someone visits the destination. This important accumulated business travel information will save time, money, trouble and aggravation for everyone required to travel in the future.

Notes should be written during the trip and a final executive summary presented and filed at most 5 days after your return. This is not a personal travel diary, and should be focused on providing practical useful information for the next person who is required to visit the destination on business.

The file should contain the following information and observations:

  • Is a visa required?  Contact information for the embassy or consulate, required information that must be submitted and the time required for the process from start to finish.
  • Travel agency and airlines used. Comments and observations about flights, connections, and prices.
  • Information about hotels that you have stayed in, names, addresses, telephone and fax numbers, email. Comments about the cost, distance to clients, pros and cons. security and other observations.
  • Alternative hotels to consider for the next trip and contact information.
  • Airports, names and airport 3 digit code. What services are available at the airport, money changing, auto rental, taxis, airport taxes upon arrival or departure, how far from the city or hotel, other comments.
  • Restaurants, recommendations, places to avoid, addresses and contact information.
  • Information and comments about business manners; the way people dress, gift giving, what NOT to do, other observations.
  • Cultural tips and observations. What and when do people eat. Tipping, what is correct. What to do or where to go in your off time.
  • Weather and climate. Recommendations for how to dress and what to pack.
  • Information about average costs, hotels, meals, transportation, and other related business costs
  • Other observations: What would you do differently and why? What would make the trip better or more efficient the next time? Recommendations for the next traveller from your organization.

The institutionalization of this information will result in more efficient planning and execution of travel plans, better administration of costs and time, and more satisfaction for the international road warriors in your organization. They can dedicate their time to getting work done, and not about travel worries.

Related Links

International business traveller -ambassador, explorer, map-maker

16 Essential Questions – International Business Traveller’s Quiz

7 Tips for doing business internationally

International Business Trip Planning, Part 6

International Business Trip Planning, Part 5

International Business Trip Planning, Part 4





International business traveller – ambassador, explorer, map-maker

21 08 2006

The critical roles played by international business travellers.

International business travellers play an incredibly important role as ambassadors, explorers and “map-makers” inside their organizations and with their overseas contacts.

Ambassadors, Explorers, and “Map-Makers”

Ambassador of your country and culture. During your trip your actions and reactions are being watched by others. They are trying to confirm, deny or create stereotypes of your country. Everything including your inter-personal skills, business negotiation skills and manners, the way you dress and eat, your choice of hotels, table manners, social skills, and the ability to make small-talk and conversation will be watched, examined and commented upon after you leave. Keep this idea clear at all time during your trip, it is important.

Ambassador of your company. Prepare and bring all materials required for the negotiations and business interactions. Project an aura of professionalism, a willingness to learn and share, and honesty. Create relationships with a long-term vision. You may be promoted or leave the organization some day, but your international contacts will continue to do business with your company.

Ambassador of you. International business is all about relationships, and your behaviour and attitudes are critically important as the liaison and trusted representative. Make promises you can keep, follow-through on the projects and projects. Project honesty and a concern for doing business and maintaining relationships. Your actions should focus on creating a climate of trust and open communication. Don’t try to be someone you are not.

Explorer. The international business traveller, technicians, and sales and business development executives have the added responsibility of verifying existing information, establishing new contacts that will be beneficial in the future, and discovering new ideas and opportunities. It requires an inquisitive character, a bit of courage and a spirit of adventure.

Map-Maker. Often neglected by organizations is the cultural, political and personal information gathered by international business people. This information (or data), should be gathered, filtered and consolidated, and available to the organization after every overseas trip. “Maps” should be made for future consultation and reference. The map-making role requires the separation of the facts from interpretation, personal anecdotes and opinions. This information becomes the foundation for all future strategic and operating decisions.

Related Links

7 Tips for International Business

16 Essential Questions – International Business Traveller’s Quiz

How to do Business in Mexico, Parts 1 – 28

International Business Trip Planning, Part 6





Is hard work important, is it still valid?

28 07 2006

Working hard…paying your dues…are these concepts still important and valid in today’s information economy and jobs?

What characteristics do you think of when someone says “she’s a hard worker”?

Is being a “hard worker” a positive or negative trait, something you aspire to?

In the US, the Puritan work ethic still provides a model of how we should work to many people. The Puritans believed that hard work was morally important, physically demanding, difficult or exhausting, required sacrifice and discipline, long hours, and usually referred to physical labor (the dominant labor required at that time). If an activity was pleasant the Puritans were pretty much against it.

Perhaps a better definition of hard work, taking into account the new information economy, is better related to; preparation and research, creating and using your information networks, taking the initiative, follow-through and closure, discipline, focus, efficiency, finding and communicating the solution in a timely manner.

Perhaps hard work is no longer a valid term or concept to apply to information workers.

The time required to do our work has, and is changing. When our principal job was agriculture, long hours were required to plant and harvest. Long hours are no longer required in order to say that someone is working hard in an office, or are they?

As long are workers are hired for an 8 hour day and 40 hour week, employers want to see their employees at their posts, ….doing something. So for many companies working hard still means being in the office for many hours, and extra hours represents hard work.

Long hours in the office could be the result of; research and investigation (good for all), inability to finish your work during the prescribed time (inefficient or fearful employee or workload is too heavy, bad for all), enthusiasm and desire to do more than the norm (good for company and possibly for employee advancement).

“Paying your dues” and sacrifice are also part of our definition of hard work. Paying your dues is part of the initiation into an organization, industry or group. It’s a sacrifice (usually related to long hours) that is part of, or required for, that specific culture. A new employee in many companies might be expected to work extra hours and make personal sacrifices to show they are working hard and paying their dues, trying to become part of the corporate culture.

There is a trade-off for employees between their personal life and business life. In order to succeed and advance in business working in a corporate culture, you must be promoted. To get promoted you have to been seen as possessing profitable skills and be a hard worker and willing to make sacrifices for the good of the company. As our culture becomes more competitive, we are faced with more people willing to work more hours and make more sacrifices, reducing our time with family and friends.

This debate regarding work-life balance is gaining momentum in the US. Workers are evaluating what role work should play in their lives and how many hours they should dedicate to working, and where and who they should “give” their time to.

Our definition of work is changing and evolving, and with it our definition of hard work is also being modified.

At what point do our evaluation and compensation systems take into account new elements that reflect the new realities and definitions of work in the 21st century?





When leadership fails – an example – the Mexican shoe manufacturing industry

24 07 2006

It’s quite interesting to watch certain businesses and industries succeed and fail, and try to identify the factors that lead to these very different outcomes.

For example in Leon, Guanajuato, the shoe-making capital of Mexico, the industry is under severe pressure from imported product, and lower costs from China, Vietnam, Brazil, and other countries.

It’s quite clear to everyone in the industry that there are several solutions to the problem.

  1. Ask the government to create trade barriers and import tariffs. This will only support the inefficiencies in the national industry, postponing the inevitable.
  2. Invest in design and create a brand. Shoes are purchased for two reasons, fashion and protecting your feet. The fashion market has much higher profit margins, but requires constant investment in research and development and marketing.
  3. Invest in technology. If your product is focused on low prices in the market, you must have low costs, and lower costs than your competitors. This might be achieved with new technologies.
  4. Create alliances within the industry. If China production costs are cheaper, but it takes 60 days for the product to reach the US, doesn’t it make perfect sense to create an alliance where the initial production comes from Mexico (5 days to market), followed by the mass production from China?
  5. Purchase the shoes from the overseas competition and close your production facilities.
  6. Create new markets, export to new markets.

Those are the choices, and what do you think is happening?

The majority of companies are pointing out the danger and requesting government intervention, but not implementing any other strategies to avoid the “doomsday” scenario.

The few companies (industry leaders) that have invested in branding, design, technology and purchasing from competitors are thriving, earning money and making profits.

Why is avoiding the obvious or inevitable, such common behaviour in most organizations and groups?

I believe it has to do with the failure of the leaders to move out of the Thinking-Identifying stage and into the Planning and Implementation stages.

The cycle of business leadership and management consists of:

  • Thinking-Identifying. Thinking and identifying important internal and external factors and understanding how they interact.
  • Planning. Using the data and information to formulate a plan and strategy
  • Implementing the strategy. Putting the resources and motivation behind the plan and “making it work”.
  • Reaction-Modification. Reacting and modifying the plan as the conditions change.

Many leaders are uncomfortable or unable to identify the major factors that are and will affect their companies. They are unable to create strategies and delay important and critical decisions because they lack data, or have too much of it, or don’t know how to properly analyze it and find conclusions. Without a strategy there is obviously no implementation, and the organization begins to react to situations created by others (crisis management).

This inability to read the market, identify market forces, create strategies and adapt to changing conditions will eliminate those organizations from the market. Creating strategy is not easy, and creating successful strategies is even more difficult. It requires excellent leadership and management decisions.

What are the known problems in your organization and industry?

What strategies are waiting to be created and implemented in order to prepare your business for the future?

Why isn’t it happening now?





More access to information – more mistakes

5 07 2006

We have easy access to mountains of business information, we have computers, data bases, statistics, websites, blogs and 24 hour a day news channels.

Has this made our life and decision-making easier and more accurate? No. According to management-issues in an article entitled Paying the Price for Flawed Data (Link), we are making serious mistakes based on inaccurate or inappropriate data.

A quote from the article:

“A survey of workers in the U.S., Great Britain, France, and Germany carried out for business intelligence solutions provider, Business Objects, claims that the widespread use of faulty business data is a dirty little secret in today’s business world but is going largely unnoticed by businesses.

It found that almost three-quarters of information workers admitted to having made business decisions that later turned out to be wrong due to incorrect, incomplete, or contradictory business data or information.

Compounding this, only about one in 10 information workers said they always have all the information they need to confidently make business decisions.” (Link)

It’s not about collecting mountains of information, it’s about questioning what we wish to know, and then selecting and collecting the information that will help us find the answers.

What do you want to know?

Where can you get the correct information?

How do you know you have the correct data?

Related Links:

How much time do you spend with statistics (Link)

How to set up a beginner’s business intelligence system (Link)

Was Peter Drucker right? Is it all about attitude? (Link)





Downsizing can seriously disrupt your company’s networks

27 06 2006

An article in ManagingTechnology@Wharton from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania has an excellent piece related to your employees and their value in the company in terms of their networks and networking abilities.

Mapping out the communication networks and social networks may be a very valuable tool for your organization. Yet another factor to consider before downsizing or when evaluating the contributions of the people in your organization.

Sometimes it’s not what you know….but who you know that makes you valuable.

Connecting the Corporate Dots: Social Networks Reveal How Employees and Companies Operate

Some quotes from the article:

“Hopefully, you have organized your company the best way to get the job done,” she says. “But mapping out a network will give you a sense of whether actual work flow and communication flow match what you hope to achieve. Maybe there are bottlenecks where one person is managing all interactions. If you expect two groups to work together closely, and you don’t see them doing this, you might want to create liaison roles or other relationships to make information flow better. On the other hand, you may see groups talking to each other too much. When managers see network diagrams, they often realize they need to reconfigure their organizational chart.”

“Network maps may also unearth what are known as “cosmopolitans” — the employees who are most critical to information flow in the company. “The formal organizational structure [in companies] does not necessarily describe who talks to whom,” says Valery Yakubovich, a University of Chicago professor “

“Often you find that people you might not even think of as very valuable turn out to be important links in the structure of the organization.”

“If a firm is contemplating downsizing, for example, it had better be prepared for serious disruption in the workplace if it lets such important people go. Indeed, maps of social networks often show that the people with the most impressive titles are not as vital to an organization as their position would indicate.”

ManagingTechnology@Wharton, Connecting the Corporate Dots: Social Networks Reveal How Employees and Companies Operate (Article)





How to Set-Up a Beginner’s “Business Intelligence” System

8 06 2006

While the ethical, economic and creative merits of gathering intelligence, spying and watching the competition can be debated, there is no doubt that this “inside” or “privileged” information collected is considered strategic, and in some cases critical, for decision-making. This entire process is being labelled as “Business Intelligence”.

What can you do to create and oversee your very own Business Intelligence network? Read on intrepid reader, and discover an introduction to the world of intelligence gathering.

Beginner’s guide to setting up a simple Business Intelligence system

Who will do it, and why?

  • Determine specifically what information you want to collect or whom you want to monitor. Examples include: industry trends and developments, a specific competitor, customers or suppliers, specific corporate executives or sales persons, and specific products. Why do you want this specific information?
  • Determine who will have access to this information, who is going to accumulate it, who is going to process or analyze it, and who are the decision-makers responsible for setting policies or taking actions based upon the information and analysis.
  • Determine where and how you are going to accumulate, store and share the information and the analysis of the information. Examples include notebooks, electronic archives, corporate networks and intranets, a “war room”, a monthly presentation. You must “institutionalize” this information, and make it accessible by those who could benefit from it in the future.

Build your system

  1. Make a written list of specific industry terms, company names, product or brand names, executive’s or salesperson’s names, etc. These are your Key Search Terms
  2. Set up Google Alerts and Yahoo Alerts with these specific Key Search Terms.
  3. Do a search on-line, using your Key Search Terms with a Meta-Search engine. Recommended meta-search engines include Clusty, Dogpile, Surfwax, or Copernic. This meta-search activity should be scheduled at least once or twice a month. Important found web pages, documents, blogs, files, etc. should be bookmarked, shared (possibly printed and stored in your files) and reviewed on a regular schedule.
  4. For corporate searches and financial information, use Hoovers or Google Finance or Yahoo Finance
  5. Get a copy of the companies latest annual report, it will list top corporate executives names, and many times summaries of strategies and comments about the past year.
  6. Find, store and monitor your competitor’s, supplier’s, or customer’s website on a regular basis.
  7. Monitor the web log community. Use Google Blog Search, Bloglines, and Feedster to search for your blogs containing Many companies, current employees, ex or disgruntled employees, consumers, trend spotters, and industry watchers are using blogs to report and comment of items of interest to you.
  8. Industry association magazines, web pages, and newsletters. Subscribe to them, make sure they are read, and all pertinent news and articles clipped, marked, analyzed and stored.
  9. Trade-shows. Trade-show attendees should write a brief (1 page or less) list or summary of the event that highlights or mentions any interesting or exciting trends, level of enthusiasm, employee movements, rumours, and other items of interest.

Periodic Review of the system, what works, what doesn’t?

  1. Review your Google and Yahoo alerts, are you getting the information you want? Can the terms be refined, expanded, modified or added to?
  2. Make certain you are regularly reviewing and doing the searches. Program one type of search per week, don’t try to do it all at once. An example would be; Week 1 – blog searchs, Week 2 – Meta-search engines, Week 3 – financial search, Week 4 – industry and association information.
  3. Store it and share it if it’s important. Keep a list of important websites written down. Create a system that will work if you are not there. If you had to leave on vacation for 4 weeks, could someone else run the system and searches easily?
  4. Make certain that the information is gathered, analyzed, and some action taken. Even if the action is to do nothing. Design an accountability system so that decision-makers acknowledge the receipt or analysis of the information. This will insure feedback (too much raw data, not enough analysis, not focused enough, too focused) in order to modify the information gathering.

Warnings

  • Do not gather information that you do not need.
  • If you do not organize or analyze the information, the system is worthless.