Business trips can be a stressful experience for both the executive and their assistant. There is a lot of planning that goes into ensuring the success of any business trip. In fact, I believe there are three distinct phases of trip planning, including the pre-trip, trip, and post-trip. From pre-trip preparations to post-trip follow-up, every single phase is absolutely vital to the success of that trip and of future trips. For administrative or executive assistants who are responsible for managing work travel for their executives or managers, it’s important to understand all three phases of business travel in order to ensure everything runs smoothly and each trip is as productive as possible. In an earlier blog, we focused heavily on the pre-trip phase of work travel. In this blog, we will move onto the trip and post-trip phases, focusing in on how to finish strong and ensure every work trip is well-planned, productive, and beneficial.
The Trip Phase
Your leader is out of the office and well on their way to their trip destination. The work is all done, right? WRONG! The trip phase is arguably the most important and stressful part of a business trip. During the pre-trip phase, you planned out as far in advance as possible, including flights, accommodations, critical documents, transportation to and from airports, restaurants/activities (if applicable), and any other items that may need to be taken care of while they are away. That phase hopefully laid the foundation for a seamless and productive trip. However, things can go wrong. During the trip phase, it will be imperative to rely upon your preparation and calmness in times of chaos.
First and foremost, you’ve already established a game plan with your leader regarding how you will communicate while they’re away. International travel can present communication challenges, but the pre-trip phase allows you to research and identify the best mode for staying in touch. Now, make sure you’re available and checking whatever platform you’re using on a regular basis. Haven’t heard from your executive in a while? Reach out to them to ensure everything is okay and going smoothly. Let them know you’re ready to help if they need it. Sometimes that reach out from back home can be very comforting and reassuring to a leader who’s on the road.
Next, be sure you’re paying attention to the geographic area your leader has traveled to. That means watching the weather forecasts and even checking local news in an attempt to anticipate potential issues and stay a few steps ahead. Bad weather can cause major travel headaches, particularly big storms like hurricanes. While you may feel powerless when mother nature unleashes her power, you can at least give your leader a crucial heads-up. Sometimes just being aware of potential problems can minimize frustration. It’s not just the weather that can upend a business trip. Political unrest, major worker strikes, or natural disasters can cause business travel plans to be upset. Again, try to stay ahead of any issues by keeping tabs on the local news and alerting your leader to any potential problems.
Finally, be sure to check in with them at the end of every day. Provide a brief update about the day’s events at the office and any “need to know” information. This connection with the business while a leader is on the road can really serve to minimize their stress levels and make them feel confident that everything is being taken care of. It allows them to focus on the meeting or event to which they’ve traveled. It also really helps to solidify your connection with them and reinforce the idea of being in a true partnership.
The Post-Trip Phase
Your leader has returned home after a successful business trip. You nailed the pre-trip and trip phases, and it’s time to sit back and celebrate, right? WRONG! Your work isn’t done quite yet. Once your leader returns from their trip, it’s time for the post-trip phase. This includes debriefing with your leader about the trip, reconciling expenses and submitting all receipts, organizing business cards collected during the trip, updating contact information in the appropriate programs, distributing materials and resources acquired during the trip, and, if needed, preparing a final report summarizing the entire trip. It’s also important to make sure all documents related to the trip have been properly filed and stored in their appropriate place. Make sure travel confirmations, receipts, boarding passes, passport stamps, etc., are all secure and not easily misplaced.
During the debrief meeting, focus on what went right and what went wrong. Ask specific questions of your leader and push for more details if needed. They’re likely exhausted, and it’s important to acknowledge that. It’s also important, however, to get as much information as you can while it’s still fresh in their mind. So, be considerate and accommodating but understand that time is of the essence.
Too, make sure you thank everybody involved in making the business trip a success. If you worked as part of a team, take time to send out an email thanking everyone for their hard work organizing the trip. Ask your executive if there’s anyone they met on the trip that they want to follow up with, schedule an appointment with, or send a thank you. Make that list and help them check off needed follow-ups. This is an important step that can help show your appreciation and keep relationships strong in the future.
Planning a business trip can be a deceptively tricky task. Too many assistants overlook critical elements and fail to prepare their executive leaders to embark on successful trips. If you’re ready to master every element of business travel planning, Office Dynamics can help. We developed a huge library of resources called the Success Store that focuses on helping executive assistants master all the key functions required in their role, become strategic partners with their leaders, and reach incredible levels of professional success. The Success Store includes a massive library consisting of books, certification courses, eBooks, live virtual training, and on-demand training.
We focus on topics administrative assistants are hungry for. One of our most popular eBooks is Mastering Business Travel Planning: A Vital Resource for Assistants. This insightful and innovative eBook will make you both a better travel planner and a better traveler. By developing a deep understanding of the three phases of business travel—pre-trip planning, taking care of the trip itself, and post-trip follow up—you should be better prepared for managing your leader’s trips in the future. Taking the time to think ahead and plan accordingly can make all the difference when it comes to ensuring everything runs smoothly from start to finish. This eBook will help to alleviate travel and planning pains and represents the culmination of Joan Burge’s years of experience in both planning business trips and traveling extensively herself. Her unique perspective offers assistants the chance to become keenly aware of what life on the road is like, even if you’ve never actually been on a business trip! Learn how to plan awesome business trips that any executive would envy.
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