The High Life
Business travel etiquette: 7 rules to thrive — and survive — on the road withyour colleague
I typically travel solo—but observing a lawyer with a client at the airport last week made me realize there should be an etiquette guide for business travel with your manager or a client. Though I’ve written Road Warrior blogs, I’m certainly no Miss Manners of the road, but the following seem obvious.
The primary rule is to adapt your behavior to that of your manager or client. Do not be high maintenance. This can play out in several specific ways:
If you’re only going for a two-day business trip, ditch the steamer trunk. Rid yourself of any thoughts of checking luggage; it is rude and inconsiderate for others to wait a half hour for your 50-lb. roller bag to come off the luggage carousel.
A corollary to this rule is not to bring so many clothes that your client/manager thinks that you are auditioning for the next season of The Bachelor or The Bachelorette. This is, after all, a business trip.
While traveling with others, you may not be in control of what you eat, when you eat, or if you eat at all. Several years ago, I was traveling with a young associate. As I sat in our rental car in the 120-degree Phoenix heat, motor idling, my colleague was busy inside eating pecan waffles. Exasperated, I went in looking for her and she responded, “I always have to have a big breakfast.” That was the last time we traveled together.
Similarly, if your companion orders a Diet Coke for dinner, don’t ask for the wine list. If your client/manager orders wine, permit yourself a glass of wine, but do not make a big deal of tasting several wines, sending them back, or behave in any way that calls attention to yourself. Your goal is to blend in and to be low maintenance.
3. Be organized
Your travel companion should not have to deal with you forgetting the location of your credit card, car key, boarding pass, or parking ticket. I remember traveling with my business partner (who will be furious at me for recounting this story) who tends to be a little absent minded. We had a meeting at 9 a.m. and at 8:55, she called in a panic and I had to go to her room to help her find the keys to our rental car, which she had somehow misplaced in the depths of her suitcase. Really, you don’t want your business partner going through your suitcase looking for lost car keys.
4. Be punctual
If your client/manager likes to get to the airport two hours early for a shoeshine or a visit to the President’s Club, accommodate him or her. Give up your habit of streaking down the gang way as the plane doors are closing, which will only cause anxiety for your travel companion. I have seen several occasions where a traveler in a group did not make the flight. Believe me, it did not make a good impression.
5. Keep your personal life separate
Limit calls home to times that you are in your room. Do not call the family while you are in route to the next meeting in the rental car or taxi with your boss/client. Your client/manager doesn’t want to hear that Fido had yet another accident in the family room or worse yet, that you and your spouse are fighting about where to go for the Holidays.
6. Be prepared
Do your homework on where you are going and any logistical challenges. Check the weather forecast of your destination and note if a jacket or umbrella is required. Don’t assume I packed a golf umbrella to cover both of us.
7. Cash is King
The corollary to No. 6 is nothing spends better than cash. Do you really want to pass up six taxis because they don’t accept plastic? You never can tell when an emergency will arise or credit cards aren’t accepted and you want to be the person with the solution, not the problem and there’s nothing that solves a problem like cash.
Have I left anything out? If so, let me know.
As managing director of The Alexander Group, an executive search firm with offices in Houston, San Francisco, San Diego, New York and Park City, John C. Lamar is a real road warrior. He files periodic reports about his travels for CultureMap.