Small Business editor of the NZ Herald

Small Business: Travel - Suzi McAlpine

This week, small business editor Caitlin Sykes talks to business owners about travel.
Suzi McAlpine is an executive coach, workshop facilitator, professional speaker and author of international leadership blog, The Leader's Digest.
Suzi McAlpine is an executive coach, workshop facilitator, professional speaker and author of international leadership blog, The Leader's Digest.

Suzi McAlpine is an executive coach, workshop facilitator, professional speaker and author of international leadership blog, The Leader's Digest.

What kind of travel is involved in your work?

I'm based in Nelson - lucky me! - and I travel at least once a week to Wellington and Auckland, so that's three to four days every month in each of those cities. Most of my clients are corporates, so the main centres are where the work is. A week that I don't jump on a plane to somewhere in New Zealand is a rare one.

What challenges does that level of travel present?

The biggest challenges are around coordinating mine and my clients' itineraries. My clients are pretty busy senior executives who travel a lot themselves, so managing that can be a balancing act. Luckily I have a wonderful executive assistant who manages my diary - she's the queen of calendar management.

The other big challenge lies on the home front. My husband has a demanding senior executive role and we have three children. He's wonderfully supportive and hands-on, but when we're both out of town at the same time, things can get a bit cray-cray.

What are some strategies you've adopted to make you more productive and effective as a business owner who frequently travels?

Delegate the things you're not good at - and that you don't enjoy- which would be better suited to someone else. It took a while for me to pluck up the courage to employ an EA, but I'm so glad I did. She's a heck of a lot better at managing my calendar than I was and this frees me up to do what I'm good at, which is coaching.

Get super-freaking-over-the-top-organised at home. My husband and I have some practices we religiously adhere to, like sending each other invitations on our work calendars for when one of us is out of town and the other one is on pick-up-from-after-school-care-duty. It avoids panicked 'who's picking up the kids?' conversations on the day of travel, which ain't great for marital wellbeing, let alone the stress levels of the business traveller.

We also have a giant whiteboard that the whole family uses to write down everything they have on in the upcoming week. It's boring process stuff, but it saves a world of worry and calamity. My seven-year-old takes the most enjoyment in filling out her column - complete with flowers and love hearts.

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Other things I've found helpful have been joining Koru club, and choosing fully flexible airfares. At first those flights seem way more expensive, but I've found it can actually save you money in the long run. Getting skilled at using online tools like Basecamp, Google Docs and Skype or FaceTime also help me stay connected on the road.

Last of all, I have designated days of the week that are travel-free. As a general rule I don't travel on Mondays and Tuesdays; this helps fill up my tank, do administrative tasks and it's just generally better logistically.

On the other hand, what are some things you have to avoid to keep everything on track with your business when you're travelling often?

Travelling frequently takes it out of you, so I've found keeping up exercise and healthy eating is important. Too many 'on the go' unhealthy meals and alcoholic drinks can take their toll.

I don't have a huge amount staff, but I coach a lot of leaders with big teams who travel extensively, and to be effective they find they need to get skilled at delegating to their team. I think the 'micromanager-frequent-traveller-leader' is a creature you want to avoid becoming - for your sake and your staff's.

Also, if at all possible I avoid leaving travel plans to the last minute. Not only do you save money on travel costs, it helps all stakeholders when it comes to planning. My EA and I are typically planning my trips a month or two in advance.

And last of all I avoid getting taxis if I'm travelling to Auckland via air. It's heaps cheaper to hire a car for the day than to get a taxi to and from Auckland airport to the city. That's an obvious one, but I didn't wake up to this for a while.

- NZ Herald

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