Just because you’re on the road doesn’t mean your business back home should come to a grinding halt. Here are five tips to keep your company going — and growing — while you’re out of the office.
1. Synchronize your devices and backup your files.
Some advance preparation can keep you connected while you’re traveling, so that ongoing projects and business deals don’t stall or fall by the wayside. To stay productive, make sure your mobile devices are completely synchronized with your office-based computer system. It’s crucial to maintain a steady transfer of information (email, memos, and calendar updates) between home base and your PDA, smartphone, and laptop. Important files stored on any devices should be fully backed up before your trip.
2. Stay connected, but set boundaries.
A common complaint of business travelers is coming back to the office after a few days away and finding themselves deluged with emails — so they spend their entire trip obsessively checking messages. Although it’s vital to keep your tablet or smartphone with you during business hours, don’t get sucked into responding to messages that can wait until later. Set aside a half hour to an hour each evening to scan the correspondence you received that day. Use this time to stay connected with your business and to respond to any news that may affect your travel plans.
3. Hone your interpersonal skills.
Most likely, you’re on the road to meet new or important clients. It’s critical that you stay focused during these meetings. Be present, in every sense of the word: Listen closely to what people are saying and be ready to pick up on subjects that matter to them. Be prepared to provide helpful solutions to their problems, which also presents an opportunity for you to let them know about additional products or services you offer. Make each client feel as though they’re your most important customer; this will reaffirm your partnership and open the door to new business in the future.
Another tip: When possible, schedule business meetings in the early afternoon or evening. Then you can comfortably invite clients to join you for a drink or dinner as part of your time together, further strengthening your long-term relationships.
4. Meet new people.
Your clients, as well as other small-business owners, face many of the same challenges you do. It’s OK to talk about common challenges and/or solutions as a way of deepening relationships or building new ones. If you’re attending a trade show or industry event, introduce yourself and turn on the charm. Hand out business cards to everyone you meet and accept theirs in return. (If you feel overwhelmed when facing a large group of people, single out two or three people in the crowd who might benefit you and your business.) Any new acquaintance has the potential to bring you new business in the weeks and months to come.
5. Schedule time for yourself.
It can be tough to find productive downtime when you’re on the road, but being in a different environment can give you a fresh perspective on issues you’re grappling with back home. Seek out a spot in your hotel or a nearby coffee shop where you can sit quietly and think about what lies ahead for your business. Record your thoughts on paper or on your mobile device. Spending even 15 or 20 minutes alone during the course of a day can generate some invaluable kernels of wisdom.