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Is Your Business Trip Really Necessary?

By: Chris Hogan MSc - Updated: 26 Dec 2012 | comments*Discuss
Is Your Business Trip Really Necessary?

Many companies are asking if their business trips are really necessary and there's no shortage of reasons for questioning them. But at the same time there is pressure on companies to become global in spread and reach, and that's impossible without flying people around the world almost on a whim.

Pressure to Reduce Business Travel

The increase in global terrorism, which frequently targets public transport, the increasing pressure on the price of fuel and raw materials, and concerns about the environment have all come together to put the pressure on business people to conduct their business from their office or, increasingly, their home.

Technological developments have helped this process, making collaboration across distances easier with every passing year, using telephones and the internet in new ways to make communication cheaper and more effective. These are covered in more detail in our article 'Communication as an Alternative to Business Travel' in this section.

Psychological Reasons for Business Trips

No matter how good the internet and telephone systems get, there's no substitute for personal contact to build business relationships. It's often said, with significant business purchases, that buyers don't buy products, they buy into the person selling them. So a business trip to effect personal contact is inevitable at some point in a big deal, but what can be done to cut down the impact of these trips?

To some extent companies that are trying to cut down on the number of business trips are hinder by the 'jolly' concept. In many companies business trips are seen as a perk and managers and executives can feel hard done by if their trips begin to diminish, particularly if they are to places where there are opportunities to buy items cheaply or fit in a few day's holiday. The change in culture that fewer 'jollies' would have on a company needs to be recognised and properly managed by companies or they could lose disgruntled employees.

One way to change the financial impact of a business trip is to opt for cheaper hotels, flights and the like. The rise of the low-cost airlines throughout the 1990s would not have been possible had businesses not recognised the savings to be had over scheduled airlines. Many companies now also opt for economy class rather than business on long-haul flights and first class rail travel is often restricted to upper management, but again all these measures can cause dissent in valued employees.

Agencies and Distributors Can Cut Business Trips

Entering into distribution deals and agencies arrangements is one way of cutting out business trips to a large extent. Of course, there will be trips to the relevant country or territories in the first place to make sure the deal is the right one, but once the partnership is in place, the travelling around can be done by the local company.

This can be treated as a precursor to opening a remote office in a territory. Using a distributor or agent to make the initial running is a low risk way for a company to find out whether or not there is a big enough market for their products or services. Once that's established they can take the more expensive and riskier step of opening a branch.

Change Has to Come From Within

But in the long run the changes are likely to come from the individual business traveller themselves. If they look at their trips dispassionately and examine how much was actually achieved on each one and whether or not they could have achieved the same result by another method that meant staying at home, only then will fewer business trips will be made.

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