Five tips for successful business travel

Frederic Kerrest
- Leadership - Feb 26, 2016

Like many executives, I am often travelling for business. One week I could be attending a conference in Europe, while the next I’m flying across the United States to meet customers in New York, San Francisco and everywhere in between. Since co-founding Okta six years ago and hitting the road many weeks out of the year since, I’ve picked up few tips that allow me to prioritise tasks and keep up with my everyday responsibilities while on the move. Here are my top five:

1. Preparation is key: Before taking off, I work with my teams to prepare for every meeting I have on my schedule. If I'm meeting with a customer, Okta's sales and customer success teams put together detailed docs on the customer's use case and implementation, and they give me clear objectives for the meeting. I'll bring my prep docs along and when a customer asks about them, I gladly show them off. Not only do the briefings help me prepare, but they show the customer we've invested time and energy into making the meeting a valuable and successful one.

2. Make sure everything is in your calendar: One of the most important things I’ve learned is that in order to prioritise your meetings and work, you need to keep your calendar thoroughly up-to-date. I put absolutely everything in my calendar — not just big ticket items like flights and meetings, but also my coffee breaks in between. To keep my energy up on week-long, multi-destination trips I also plan my exercise regimen ahead. Scheduling everything and keeping my calendar diligently up-to-date ensures that I'm on time and prepared for everything.

3. Have an ongoing list of activity in the office:  I also keep a running list of everything going on back at the office while I'm on the road. One of my favourite tools is Evernote and I keep mine constantly updated with priorities and tasks to check in on when I return. Often I'm not the one owning those tasks, but I want to be aware of what our leadership team is working on, and what the teams I work with are dealing with on the home front.

4. Maintain your one-on-one meetings: Traveling may give you an easy excuse to cancel check-ins, but not a good one. It’s important to keep your regularly scheduled one-on-ones. I meet with my executive assistant every Sunday evening or Monday morning to talk through my schedule. We figure out how to make my one-on-ones with other execs and direct reports happen. Sometimes we have to shorten or move them, but I'll jump on the phone at the crack of dawn if it helps me stay connected to what's going on at HQ.

5. Maximise all your time (in the air and on the road): When I’m travelling, I get to things I can’t usually tackle when jumping from meeting to meeting. If I have a six-hour flight, I'll block out time to go through my reports' success metrics and write performance reviews. Sometimes I even have the time to examine financial models in detail, all hidden behind my privacy screen of course. It helps that Wi-Fi is so ubiquitous now, but I always check my flight details before boarding so I can download a local copy of a model or report if I know I’m going to be offline. Taking full advantage all your time is key to successful business travel.

Travel can sometimes be trying and stressful, but it's important to remember that it can also be refreshing. You'll think about things differently after a few days outside of the office. I often do my best brainstorming when on the move. As long as you make the most of your time, having time and space to yourself can be advantageous to both you and your company.

Frederic Kerrest is COO & Co-Founder at Okta

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