“Improvise, Adapt, and Overcome” is an unofficial mantra of the U.S. Marine Corps. Leaders in the Corps use the phrase often to emphasize the importance of reacting in an efficient manner to rapidly changing and unexpected situations, something we all face in business travel at some time or another.
One of Clint Eastwood’s many memorable roles was that of a grizzled, tough Marine Gunnery Sergeant in the classic film “ Heartbreak Ridge.” Clint Eastwood’s Marine gunnery sergeant character uses the “Improvise, Adapt, and Overcome” phrase throughout the movie to encourage (in a typically vigorous Marine Corps style) his young squad members to develop a mindset comfortable with uncertainty and able to be flexible and spontaneous in a dangerous combat situation.
Entrepreneurs can use this same concept in business travel. The best laid business plans can go awry in the blink of an eye.
Weather, political situations, and transportation issues are just a few of the unforeseen and unplanned for problems that can render travel plans useless. Just last month, there were more than 14,000 flights canceled, mostly due to a weather phenomenon called the “Polar Vortex” which brought brutal winter storms all across the country. In fact, this winter saw more grounded flights than any previous winter going back to 1987, which is when the Department of Transportation began collecting this data.
Travel problems can become opportunities by using the U.S. Marines mantra to overcome what others see as roadblocks and dead-ends. Here are a few “tactical” ideas:
1. Alternative Plans. Many travelers use their smartphone or tablet plus specialized apps to help solve travel dilemmas. You can use an app to search for Wi-Fi spots, find where things are in the airport you’re marooned in, re-organize your itinerary, check for alternative flights and track your own flight delays.
An app can help you reschedule your flight or choose another form of transportation. If you decide to spend the night, choose your hotel online and make reservations. Better yet, if you have a corporate travel agent, call them. Most are available 24 hours a day and can often find rooms when today’s modern apps can’t.
Depending on the weather and time available, check out nearby area attractions or restaurants. Pull up a map on your smart device and check out what’s close by. You might even enjoy your longer airport stay.
2. Stay Connected. When travel plans become travel hopes, most business travelers grab their phone to call the office and reschedule meetings. Your phone, tablet, or laptop can provide much more than that.
With the many cloud-based storage services and remote work tools and apps available, you can get the jump on work waiting for you back at the office. Look at layovers as an opportunity to shorten the “to-do” pile awaiting your return. Before leaving, take a few pending assignments along with your luggage in case an opportunity arises.
Checking your company e-mail and accessing various data and info via the various cloud-based applications helps you to keep abreast of all your various projects other projects and even let you feel less disconnected. Use Skype or virtual messaging to keep up with the latest at the office while you’re waiting.
3. Business Opportunities. If you have the time to make a visit or two, check the availability of business contacts or prospects in the area (which you have access to via mobile device). You may gain the opportunity to visit a long-time contact or new prospect face to face, which can boost your business. LinkedIn allows you to sort your contacts by location, which can really help discover these friends and colleagues.
If your layover is after a conference or seminar, you may see attendees cooling their heels as well. This can be a good time for networking—going beyond the conference topics and making solid connections for future needs such as market information and even employment.
If you see another attendee who is a potential client, make sure you show him your product or service presentation or wirelessly transfer it to his electronic device. Sir Richard Branson recommends you talk to everyone you meet because you never know who might be the next big deal.
Be prepared to wirelessly exchange business cards with seminar attendees or someone you engage in conversation during the wait. They will have your information at the ready in the future, rather than looking through a stack of cards to find you. Of course, don’t forget to tote along the old-fashioned kind...just in case.
4. Sleeping (Comfortably) at the Airport. Some people can sleep anywhere in any situation. However, you may prefer not to sleep close to strangers, in an uncomfortable chair. Some airports have sleeping rooms available for a fee. Check availability electronically and reserve one if you need some rest.
If you’re a member of an airport club, some have sleeping areas available or just more space to stretch out. Even if you don’t belong to a club, you can enter for a fee that ranges from $50 to $100, which may be a welcome respite from staring at a dog-eared paperback on the concourse. The advantages of a comfortable chair for snoozing or desk for checking email are worth the fee if the delay is long.
The typical business-traveling entrepreneur need not enlist in the Marines in order to take on the “improvise, adapt and overcome” mindset to solve business travel roadblocks. Instead, take these simple steps to avoid stress by preparing mentally for the challenges that are part of modern business travel.