Travel has traditionally been a common activity for busy executives to delegate.
Unfortunately, many executives (especially younger and more tech-savvy managers) think that booking and managing travel arrangements are tasks they can and should handle on their own. They handle it themselves in an effort to reduce head count, cut costs, and flatten organizational structures.
But this effort backfires, since the highly paid executives are spending their expensive hourly rate fiddling with non-revenue generating tasks that could be easily accomplished by an inexpensive virtual assistant.
Although it is true that online travel booking sites like Orbitz and Expedia allow execs at all levels to operate with a greater degree of self-sufficiency, booking your own travel and dealing with all the travel minutia is still an activity that steals valuable work time.
Make no mistake: not only SHOULD you delegate travel booking, but also some of the strategic execution.
Below, you will find out why even tech savvy executives should delegate travel booking to a virtual assistant.
We'll also provide three tips for delegating successfully.
Why bother when I can do it myself?
First understand that there are two main reasons that executives fail to delegate travel: there is the impression today that travel services like Kayak or Trip Advisor have eliminated difficult travel planning.
Many executives feel there can’t be much value in delegating to a virtual administrative assistant since they can make all the arrangements in a few clicks, and they know their own preferences better than any assistant ever will!
This leads to the second main reason, which has nothing to do with the new technology landscape. It is a management question that is as timeless as business itself: do I spend more time today to train my assistant (on my preferences) so that I can save time tomorrow?
Less experienced managers tend to delegate less because they don’t trust the ability of others to learn and grow quickly enough so that the net-present-value of their time saved minus their time invested to save is positive.
Strategic Travel Arrangements
There is no question that the technologies available to make tactical travel arrangements are extremely robust, and they are getting better all the time. But tactical is the operative word.
When asked, Kayak on your iPhone will tell you what the cheapest non-stop flights are between San Francisco and New York this Wednesday morning more quickly than a call to your assistant. Once you've made the reservation, it or its affiliates will show you the available seats so that it can easily unlock your seat preference.
This is all well and good for a straight forward flight but what if the questions are considerably more complicated?
- What if you are willing to take an even cheaper, non-direct flight when the stopover is in Chicago because you can then fit in a meeting with a client there?
- What if you normally like an aisle seat so that you can easily get up to walk around? But if a 4 PM return flight gets delayed an hour-and-half, you prefer to get moved to a window so that you can lean against the wall of the airplane for sleep?
Smart phone and tablet apps can be built to take even these granular preferences into account, but only if you take the time to input them with painful specificity. Your assistant on the other hand, can make all your arrangements by using what she knows about you to anticipate your preferences.
A virtual executive assistant can also be strategic about your trip. When you ask her to arrange that trip to New York to meet with a specific client, she can suggest that you might also meet with three other clients who you've not yet seen in person this year. If you agree, she can reach out to them to see if they are available.
No app or service can anticipate a business trip's additional possibilities, but your assistant can.
A year from now you won't remember if you sat in a window or aisle seat, or if you ate the chicken or pasta. But if you delegated your travel planning to an assistant, and that extra time meant you had more time to polish your presentation, which lead to a successful trip, then you'll appreciate your business growth and remember the benefits of using your virtual administrative assistant.
3 tips for delegating travel booking successfully
Make sure you are dealing with an experienced assistant
What makes a great virtual assistant? A phenomenal virtual assistant will ask you questions: what time you like to fly, what are the cost constraints, what are your meal preferences, etc? Your assistant should not only ask you these questions, she should also observe, learn, and anticipate.
Just get there: don’t let preferences matter to you too much
The point of business travel is to secure new business or drive current business forward. If delegating travel arrangements frees just a bit more of your time for this, you should be satisfied. Of course, it is great if your assistant gets your preferences right every time. But 80% of the time is enough. Being less tolerant than that means that you are more focused on the accoutrements of business travel than on its purpose. You may be more comfortable doing the travel yourself, but you’ll be further behind in your business goals.
Empower your assistant to be strategic about booking your travel arrangements
If your virtual executive assistant is fearful of making mistakes on your travel preferences, this is where he or she will stall out and spend most of their time. Give your assistant what he or she needs and run with it. For instance, your assistant should know that it is important that she handle as much of your travel arrangements as possible so that you can have more time preparing to meet with current clients and potentially growing your business.