If you’re reading this in the springtime of your working life, fresh-faced and trying to place a foot on to the executive escalator, I want to share with you the dirty secret about corporate life;
Business travel is a tedious pain the arse.
Sure, you see the business folk in the CattleClass Plus (or better) seats, sipping their one complimentary drink before take-off, stretching out in the extra 2 inches of seat pitch. Or perhaps you’ve envied them as they drag their Mont Blanc laptop wheely overnight bag to “the lounge”, thinking they were George Clooney in “Up in the Air”?
Well here’s the stinky truth about getting on a plane for work; it’s fucking bollocks.
Seriously, unless you’re an absolute first class bludger, there’s never any time to actually see the place you’re visiting, the employer will expect you to start and end the journey during a weekend, regardless of which end of the plane you are sitting it’s still a stinkload of time being bored while your arse goes numb, 99% of the hotels you stay at are crap and miles away from the fun part of town, you’ll be too tired and bloated to really enjoy any of the expensive food you’re given and you’ll end up drinking loads more than you ought to simply to relieve the tedium.
Some of us learned this very early in our career and developed an entire toolset to counter most suggestions that we should go and visit the client or remote office. Back in London, my colleagues were generally of the same mindset; “if I absolutely have to go there, I will, but I’m postponing it for as long as possible”. Plus, it was almost an admission that something had fucked up if you were always having to go and physically spend time with your remote interlocutors. Far more mature an approach to work on outcomes and delegated trust.
And that all worked very nicely until I got to Australia……..
Back during gig #2 in Australia, I was dragged up to BrisBogan on far too regular a basis, often for what turned out to be completely unproductive days (just one example, stick “Brisbane” into the search box for more). The boss, Mr. Sounds Good, ate his own dogfood on this too and rarely spent an entire working week at his base location. He clearly has a different attitude to me on how to maintain a healthy marriage.
However, I’m continuing my entertainment here by taking a surgically-sharpened scalpel to unnecessary costs and it would seem some of our colleagues are not so frugal with the corporate travel account.
I recently asked to see two reports;
First, the corporate travel profile, which cities did people fly between, frequency and cost.
Second, the usage statistics for the video-conference units installed in all offices.
One of my monkeys is still crunching the figures and transposing one onto the other but here’s some mildly-amusing highlights;
- Domestic airfares = roughly $2m per quarter
- International = roughly $1m per quarter
- Sydney to/from Melbourne = 15% of domestic travel
- Adelaide to/from Sydney/Melbourne = 17% of domestic travel
- Auckland to/from Sydney/Melbourne = 15% of international travel (yes, NZ is another country, apparently. For the moment).
- Total global video conference costs = $0.5m p.a. and we get charged a flat rate regardless of use
- The least used video-conference facilities are in Adelaide and Auckland. Least used as in “less than 2 hours a month”.
So based on the evidence of two gigs and today’s analysis, I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that the Australian business culture still hasn’t learned the lesson I just offered for free at the top of the page to pimply young execs. I’ll also suggest that, despite all the recent soul-searching, austerity measures, redundancies and cutbacks in this particular company, those with their hands on travel budgets are still spending like it’s 2007.
I maintain my earlier sentiment. What this country needs is a bloody good recession.
UPDATE: corrected the spend period from annual to quarterly for airfares.