WORKING AWAY FROM HOME
As I sit in my hotel room in Boston after an intense days training (in the hotel next to the one I am staying in) it got me thinking about the perception of people who travel a lot for work. It's not uncommon for me to spend time working away from home and travelling across the country (ies) to see different customers.
I think that non-salespeople can think that we lead an incredibly exciting, sociable work life - full of free meals, free days out, and free travel. That we get to go to all sorts of interesting places, staying in amazing hotels, wining and dining all sorts of people in fancy restaurants… and if you put it like that, it sounds pretty awesome!
The reality however, is slightly less glamorous.
You miss your home life/ partner/ kids/ creature comforts, and it can actually be quite lonely. When you're staying away, or travelling a long time in one day, you tend to spend a lot of it on your own - eating breakfast in a hotel room, or lunch in a motorway services (which also makes it very difficult to keep eating healthily!)
Work socialising is not the same as normal socialising. When you entertain at home, it's fun and relaxing; you have a good time with your friends and family. Entertaining customers and prospects is completely different - for a start, they aren't your friends. They are business acquaintances, not people you can chat to as you would someone you socialise with, and you have to maintain your professional image, keeping conversation light, impersonal and appropriate. It can really be quite draining!
You end up living out of a suitcase. As you rarely stay in one particular place for more than a day or two, there is little point in unpacking properly and making yourself at home - in reality (even if you do get to stay in some decent places sometimes!) your own bed will always win hands down.
When it comes to hotels, you win some and you lose some. I've managed to stay in some lovely places for work… but my god have I stayed in some hovels. I'm not even kidding when I say one night, after flying home from Milan in a particularly cold January, despite landing to snow, the hotel I was supposed to stay in was so vile that I actually refused to stay there. I got in my car, at 2/3 in the morning, and made the treacherous journey across to Sheffield (those of you that have done the journey from Manchester to Sheffield in the snow will know what I mean!)
All that being said, I still love my job, and luckily I actually travel a lot less now than I was used to before I had Frank. I absolutely love helping my customers and providing solutions to their problems and challenges. I do enjoy some alone time, it gives me the chance to recharge and refocus my discipline to do what I need to do, and keep motivated to do my job every single day (not just when I feel like it!) to keep me successful. Sales is a great way of basically writing your own payslip - you get out what you put in. I've earned every single penny I've ever made, less when I lacked focussed, and more since kicking it up a gear.
Selling in the IT world is very competitive, and you can invest a lot of time and effort into prospects that don't end up buying from you which can be disheartening if you let it… but that feeling you get when you close a deal that you've been working on for months is something that only sales people will understand.
I've really tried to make the most of my time here this week, so it's not yet another trip to another country where I rarely see more than the walls of my hotel room, or meeting rooms. I've managed to see a tiny bit of Boston in the very small window of downtime that I've had which I will share with you next week when I'm back home, and recharged!
In the meantime, here are a few tips for travelling with work that I've learned over the years -
1 - Plan your packing
This can really make a difference to your travel… I went to Las Vegas on a work trip a couple of years ago, and as it was due to be late 30's every day, I only packed light, summer work wear… forgetting that 95% of my time I would be in an air conditioned meeting area where the temperature was nearer 3 degrees than 30. I was bloody freezing all week. Moral of the story - make sure you take the right clothes.
Regardless of the time of year, remember that office spaces tend to be really quite cold so allow for that. I now always pack a spare jumper/ blazer/ scarf or two. Remember that your plans might change quickly so take a couple of appropriate outfits for evenings when you may end up having to socialise with your colleagues or customers, otherwise you could end up having to buy something new if all you have is your comfies!
Basically, plan ahead to pack everything you need, but don’t over pack as you will probably end up having to carry it around a lot as well!!
2 - Do your research
Even if it's only for one night, it's always a good idea to check out the local area on google maps… if you're driving, is there parking available, if not where is the nearest car park. Are you near a supermarket if you are going to need anything, or restaurants if you don’t want to eat in your hotel?
If you're there for longer, it's good to find out if there are any local attractions you can check out if you're going to get any downtime (and if that's the case, it will also help with planning your packing!)
3 - Try and plan some downtime
Following on from above… depending on where you are staying, have an idea in advance of things you might like to do and see if you get some time alone. For me, if it's just one night, a good book and crap TV is a must, along with an early night and an early start to hit the gym or go running (I try and pick hotels that have a gym.). For longer trips, I have a look at the local area to find out what there is for me to see if I get a few spare minutes, or at the least I try and plan a run route outdoors to take in the sights.
I'll also double check if the hotel has a spa or pool which can always be a nice treat and by knowing in advance it means you can take a swimming costume with you!
4 - See friends and family
One of the things I did love about going down to London when I used to spend most of my time there, was that I could catch up with people that I would normally never get to see! I managed to reconnect with one of my cousins, and other friends that would have otherwise probably just been another name on the Christmas card list.
5 - Find a home from home
If you are going to be based somewhere frequently, or for blocks of time, then get out of the hotel. Get to know what is around you and find a second office rather than just constantly working out of your room. You can rent office space in the likes of Regus, use their hotspots if you have an account with them… or just head out to starbucks (free wifi!) or use one of your companies/ partners remote sites.
So there you have it, my much tried and tested methodology for staying sane while spending lots of time on the road and living out of a bag! I'd love to hear from you if you travel for work and your suggestions on making the most of it!