MONDAY EXPORT CLASS
GODWIN OYEFESO (SUCCESSEDGE EXPORTERS NETWORK)
Topic: International Business Travel and Security Tips (Part 1)
As a fearless exporter, you must be prepared to boldly go where you have never gone before! At the beginning of your export venture, and to help save money, you might use e-mail, Skype, Google+, or Apple’s FaceTime for conversations with your international customers. But at some point, a face-to-face meeting with them is absolutely essential to cement a quality business relationship. The practical aspects of international business travel can make or break your trip. Use this chapter as a checklist of the details you’ll want to attend to in order to have a safe, comfortable, and productive journey.
Sweating the Details Comes with the Global Territory
Before we get to the checklist, I want to share the following experience with you. This story proves the importance of having an open mind, remaining flexible, and being adaptable as you navigate through an uncharted export marketplace.
The first time I had to travel from my hotel in Tokyo to a customer’s office a few miles away, I got a little more of an adventure than I bargained for. Clutching the phone in my four-by-four–foot hotel room, I listened as my customer gave me directions for getting from my hotel to his office via Japan’s intricate subway system. I didn’t have the heart to tell him I couldn’t follow his rapid-fire Japanese English to save my life. Besides, my customer seemed to have such a flattering confidence in my ability to conduct myself like an old pro that I was unwilling to give him cause to change his opinion, and so I didn’t ask him to repeat himself. In this situation, a normal person would have just jumped in a cab, given the driver the address, and felt assured of getting there cool, collected, and on time. But when I travel, I always keep two central objectives firmly in mind: (a) growing as a person and (b) saving money, and not necessarily in that order. So, I decided to take a chance on the subway. I figured the worst thing that could happen was that I might go a bit astray and have to flag down a cab after all. So I closed the conversation by saying brightly, “I understand, no problem! I’ll see you at 3 p.m.!”
Then, I flew straight down to the concierge’s desk, showed her my customer’s address, and asked her to tell me in English how to get there via the subway system. She carefully mapped out the directions and patiently reviewed them with me, and once I thought I understood what she was explaining, I asked her to write it all down again in Japanese. That way, if I got lost and had to ask someone for help, I could just show him the piece of paper.
Well, it worked. I arrived at my customer’s subway stop just in time—only to find that I was by no means done sweating the details. It was a hot and humid day. I got up to the street level, already rather worn and rumpled from the trip, and instantly felt beads of sweat begin to crawl down my neck. Before long, I could feel thick strands of my hair sticking to my damp face. Just exactly the sort of first impression every businessperson wants to make! I looked around for my customer, and lo and behold, there he was standing next to his sporty little motor scooter that had enough room, just barely, for another person. He greeted me with a firm handshake and a broad smile, gestured to his bike and asked, “Do you mind?”
“Of course not!” I said, smiling just as broadly, and hopped on, skirt, pumps, and all. What else was there to do?
Welcome to the world of international business travel. If there’s one thing you can expect, it’s the unexpected. The more prepared you are for the predictable demands, stresses, and pitfalls of travel beyond your borders, the more grounded and confident you’ll feel when the unexpected happens.
The trip I just described took place in the 1990s, when traveling felt far safer. Since September 11, 2001, however, our world of domestic and international travel has changed. Terrorism and other criminal activities are a fact of life in our interconnected world. To combat threats, one must become knowledgeable of what’s going on in the world, have a heightened awareness of her surroundings, and develop a personal-security competence sufficient to dissuade potential assailants. Crime can affect anyone, almost anywhere. The prevention starts with creating protective strategies to ensure that your international travel is safe, comfortable, and productive .
Scouting Out the Territory Before You Leave
An excellent way to start planning your overseas trip is to surf the Internet, preferably well in advance of your departure date. The Internet is an incredibly useful tool for finding out everything from the weather to the local currency exchange rate in the country you are about to visit. Three particularly handy sites you’ll want to check out are:
- State.Gov : (https://travel.state.gov/content / passports/en/alertswarnings.html ). A service of the Bureau of Consular Affairs, Travel.State.Gov’s Travel Alerts are issued by the US Department of State to publicize conditions that make a country dangerous or unstable. They are what are used by the State Department to recommend that Americans avoid or consider the risk of travel to a certain country. The site also provides tips on traveling abroad and information on passports and visas to help make your travel more enjoyable and profitable.
- Foreign & Commonwealth Office : (http://www.fco.gov. uk/en/ ). Featured on the GOV.uk site, the FCO is an organization that sponsors an international network of embassies and consulates. Its site offsets the conservatism of Travel.State.Gov by giving you a balanced picture of what’s really happening in a country. The FCO provides useful information for countries throughout the world (https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advic e ). For example, you can find a country by clicking on its region on a map or by using an A–Z country name selection process.
- Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) :(https://step. gov/step/ ). STEP is a free service to allow U.S. citizens and nationals traveling abroad to enroll their trip with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. It also then sends out travel and security updates about your destination.
For help you can’t get online, cover the following checklist:
- Go over all the logistics of your trip with your travel agent.
These include ticketing, hotels, arrival and departure times, ground transportation, baggage handling, currency adjustments, health precautions, and possible language barriers. Discuss whether you need to get any insurance coverage before you depart. If your US health care plan does not cover you overseas, consider buying supplemental insurance to cover medical costs and emergency evacuation. Ask for a map of the town center or urban area where you will be staying. If your agent doesn’t have one, you can ask your hotel concierge upon arrival or check the local phone directory or tourist guide in your room if there is one.
- Share your itinerary. It is always prudent to share your itinerary with family, friends, and co-workers. It is good for people to know where you are in case you have an emergency or they do. And don’t forget to stay in touch throughout your trip.
3 . Learn the local culture. Spend some time brushing up on local culture and customs. You never know when being up on news might be helpful in your conversations and travels. 4. Call yourbank’s international departmentand ask for a short lesson, or perhaps a brochure, on your country of destination’s currency and how the various bills and coins relate to one another .
- Ask the US Department of State about passport, visa, and immunization requirements. Allow at least eight weeks for processing the documents, especially if you are going to be traveling during a peak tourist season. Immunizations can cause some lingering pain and discomfort, so if several immunizations are required, allow time for them to be administered in stages rather than all at once.
- Check with theUS Embassy(http://www.usembassy. gov/) on the holiday schedule and regular business hours for the country you are about to visit . This will affect your access to stores, services, and public transportation.
- . Find out about the usualclimateof the country you are about to visit as well as the weather forecast for the time of your trip by consulting your travel agent or an international newspaper.
Take these things into consideration when packing.
- . Contact your local Chamber of Commerce for a directory of your country’s government offices throughout the world . If the directory is pocketable, bring it along, or, if it is available online, bookmark it for later use. Many US government offices have more than one branch in each country. For example, the Department of State has five different office locations in Japan (refer to http://www.state.gov/p/ eap/ci/ja/c3122.htm) . You could end up visiting all of them online! This is because, in the United States, there is a separate directory of the key officers at foreign-service posts American business executives would most likely need to contact. The directory lists all embassies, missions, consulates general, and consulates. Each of their commercial officers will probably arrange appointments with local businesses and government officers and also identify potential importers, buyers, agents, distributors, and cross-border partners for your business. It may also be worthwhile to pay a visit to administrative officers who are responsible for normal business operations and agricultural officers who promote the export of US agricultural products. You should contact these offices in advance to schedule a visit. Explain the purpose of your visit so they can set you up with the appropriate officer.
- Prepare for the time and weather change. Take note of the time change and what time you will arrive. Once you know, try adjusting your sleep patterns slightly to accommodate your new arrival time. Determine what the weather will be upon arrival and dress accordingly.
- Install on your mobile phone your destination maps, local guides, and transportation apps. These will come in handy when you hit the ground running in your new locale.
- Finally, sit down with pen and paper and review your itinerary yourself . Envision yourself going through each day of your trip. Whom will you meet? Where will you need to be each day and at what times? How will you get there? What will you need to wear? What will you need to bring to each appointment? How much money will you need for your daily expenses? Then, based on this activity schedule, list all the items you think are important enough to bring. If no one, such as a bell captain, taxi driver, or limo attendant, will be available to assist you upon arrival in a remote part of the world, will you be able to handle the amount of luggage you will have? This consideration will encourage you to pack what you need—and only what you need.
I wish someone would have intervened and set me straight when I planned my first business trip overseas. Because I was going so far from home, my natural impulse was to bring everything I could possibly imagine needing, so naturally I ended up with much, much more stuff than I could possibly use. This excess baggage burdened me both physically and mentally throughout the trip.
I remember literally dragging my overstuffed garment bag, hard overnight case, and cumbersome attaché case (yes, we had attaché cases back then), dreading the thought of the next hotel move—the third within a week—when I would have to pack up and haul everything all over again. I came close to ditching possessions that proved useless, except I knew I’d need them when I got home. I vowed not to make the same mistake again.
The next section contains some essentials for a one-week business trip, including wardrobe, accessories, and documents. Needed items will naturally vary according to the type of trip you are making and the activities to which you’ve committed yourself. If it seems highly unlikely that you’ll be partaking in any given activity, for example, athletic recreation or formal evening outings, don’t bother to pack garments appropriate for that activity “just in case.” And don’t make the opposite mistake of omitting essential items, such as business attire, on the presumption that you’ll be able to buy whatever you need when you arrive. You are on a business trip, not a shopping spree—and you might find that you don’t have time. Equip yourself so you arrive ready to conduct business.
One-Week Packing Checklist
Here are my suggestions on what you should pack for a weeklong business trip:
- Your passport and visa, if required, plus additional photo identification in case these items are lost or stolen: I always make a copy of my passport and place it in a different piece of luggage or even in my bra—depending on whether the country I am going to is a known trouble spot.
- Three good suits: For men, basic business wear solids—in charcoal or navy blue—are generally preferred within the worldwide business culture. Women should also choose clearly coordinated suits (pants or slightly below-the knee skirts) in these subdued shades, with more feminine tailoring. I don’t recommend pinstripes for women, as many international businessmen think they look too masculine; rather you should go with a leaner, meaner power suit with slimmer sleeves and more flattering lines. Keep your shoes on the conservative side, too. Men should wear shoes with laces—loafers look too casual. Women should wear low-heeled pumps with a closed toe.
- Eight shirts or blouses: Men should stick to white or light blue shirts, while women can add off-white and other pastel colors as well. Tapered cuts and button-down collars are acceptable for men; women can wear soft suit shells and blouses in richer textures like satin or silk. You should stay away from thin and see-through materials. The shells and blouses should complement or add some color under your suit. Avoid low necklines at all costs— they are distracting and simply not businesslike.
- For women, a good supply of stockings : International sizes and textures of stockings can vary greatly from what you’re used to buying back home, and you may find them neither comfortable nor attractive. You won’t want to waste valuable business time finding acceptable fit by trial and error.
- One complete outfit of “play clothes” if you and your associates are booked for sightseeing or other outdoor recreation:
Such clothes consist of casual slacks (never jeans!), a short- or long-sleeved collared shirt, and good walking shoes. This attire will be suitable for all but extremely hot climates; if you happen to be going to one, tailored walking shorts and a thin short-sleeved cotton shirt with a collar along with good-quality sandals would be considered acceptable.
- A super-compact umbrella and a classic lightweight rain or all-weather coat: A good coat is suitable for damp, cool, or variable climates. (Burberry’s coats are the most commonplace in international business circles.)
- Business essentials : These consist of a smart phone with international service, a tablet, a laptop, a computer adapter for any presentation that requires a projector connection (commonly needed for Apple computers),
an international charger, a portable travel lock for hotel doors, plenty of business cards (put them in several different locations in case you lose a bag), courtesy gifts, sales and marketing information, and any other items that might be required in your specific situation.
- Health-related items : Such items include aspirin, cough drops, eye drops, flu remedies, stomach aides, antihistamines, tea bags, vitamin pills (if you usually take them), and any other medicine you need to maintain good health. • Incidentals(keep them to a minimum): These might be a portable electric converter, a USB flash drive, a standalone digital camera, a high-security money belt, and a bilingual dictionary (it can’t hurt!).
Making Your Hotel Work for You
Good accommodations are worth shopping around for. You want your stay to be comfortable as well as efficient from a business standpoint. Here are some things to consider when choosing a hotel:
- Location: Map out your appointments and activities and find a hotel from which you can access them all without too much difficulty. You’ll also want easy access to public transportation, shopping, restaurants, and entertainment. But be careful not to position yourself in a very “happening” area where it’s crowded, overly expensive, and hard to get around. Make business your priority—that’s why you’re there—and plan accordingly.
- Business travelers’ rooms and suites : The accommodations in the hotel room where you choose to stay should be as precisely worked on as the work you will do there, providing a peaceful r efuge but also allowing you to keep in touch with associates, family, and world news. Reserve a room that offers at least enough table or desk space to spread out your papers and hold your digital equipment, electrical outlets that are placed conveniently and will accept your converter, and sufficient lighting to enable you to go over paperwork and attend to your appearance. Any reputable hotel will have a television with a variety of cable offerings so that you can relax and sample local mass culture. The newest and best hotels offer guest suites that include a separate room furnished with a large console table and mobile writing desk, with power outlets and a modem jack easily accessible in the console top, a movable task light, and an adjustable, ergonomically designed upholstered chair. Some even offer a kitchen area for those who want all the conveniences of home, so that they needn’t interrupt their business by having to get food outside.
- Business centers: Absolutely essential for the savvy business traveler, many hotels offer business centers on the premises that are equipped with computers, fax machines, voicemail systems, and copiers, and are staffed by multilingual receptionists. Most have e-mail capabilities, video conferencing, and daily business papers available for reading and keeping abreast of what is going in the world. Many of the individual features can be rented by the hour, day, or month, or even indefinitely. These business center services are offered in addition to Wi-Fi capabilities in every room (whether complimentary or for a flat, perday rate).
- Miscellaneous conveniences: The bigger hotels offer coffee shops, restaurants, and bars on-site. You may prefer to eat at outside restaurants, especially if you’re going to a city known for its fine dining, but for impromptu business meetings, the hotel’s facilities often have admirable appearances and can serve as convenient, comfortable sites.
TO BE CONTINUED……
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Till then, you will succeed