Yes, a travel bag. I know it may sound a little crazy, but here’s the thing. Part of living the consulting lifestyle means there is some travel, for many that travel may be up to 80%. Some people love business travel and some people want to keep their business travel to a minimum. Regardless of which side of the business travel dichotomy you fall into, there is always a shared struggle about the luggage used. [Read more…]
I’m going to let you in on a little secret, one which flies in the face of the core of being a management consultant.
Flying really isn’t my thing.
Yes, I do it every week but I don’t enjoy it, especially when you’re talking international flights of 7+ hours. Yet, I still deal with it – it’s one of those necessary evil kind of things. If I had to drive everywhere I needed to go, not a whole lot would ever get done, so I travel and get through it the best that I can.
A big part of how I get through the travel is having a routine. Mine was I get on the plane in this tiny seat and fall asleep until I arrive at my destination. Lots of other people seemed to have to deal with a similar commute and something about knowing that made my nook of a seat just a bit more bearable.
A couple of funny things happened though. First, I was having a conversation with one of the partners I worked with who happened to be an Irishmen. Somehow the topic of travel outside the U.S. came up and I ended up sharing that not only had I not been anywhere that required a passport, but I didn’t even have one. It never seemed worth the time to get it since I had no plans of leaving U.S. soil. When he explained how I could potentially miss a great career opportunity or conference abroad because of not having a passport, it was clear I had to get one.
Not more than 3 months later I was on a project where I was going to Paris, France every month. The second trip back from France is when it happened, the moment when my traveling life would change forever. After I hand my boarding pass for usual nook of a seat to the flight attendant, she reaches under the counter for something…another boarding pass, and tells me I’ve been upgraded to business class. It didn’t seem like that big of a deal at the time since I didn’t know what I didn’t know, but that was about to change in a hurry.
The term business class doesn’t do this thing justice – people should call it “luxury class” or “business elite” as +Delta uses on its official menu shown above. Anything you could want or need is available to you there and it’s so absurd you might actually forget you’re on a plane. Let me break it down some of the amenities for you:
- 3-course meal
- fully reclining seat
- full sized pillow
- real blanket
- excessive amounts of legroom
- wines, spirits, mimosas, etc. to your heart’s desired
- noise cancelling headphones
When you talk to people that work in client service type of jobs, they will always tell you travel is part of the job and if you don’t like to travel, you should choose a different career. I agree with that for the most part, but there’s such a thing as traveling too much. If you find yourself nodding your head to any of the below symptoms, you can safely say you travel WAY too much for work:
- The dry cleaner guy in a city you don’t even live meets you at your car with your clothes: I don’t know of any drive thru dry cleaning service but this was pretty close. I was riding into the client site with one of my colleagues and we pulled up to the dry cleaners to pick up his shirts for the week. As soon as we pulled up, the guy comes out with shirts in hand, which is even more impressive because it’s not like we drive the same car every week. Now that’s what I call customer service.
- The rental car shuttle driver knows your schedule a bit too well: I had a stretch where I traveled to Boston so much that if I skipped a week, the rental car shuttle driver would make a comment like “we missed you last week. Getting to know the people that work at the rental car lot isn’t a bad idea either when you’re looking for a different car which may not be on the menu.
- The airport parking shuttle driver asks if you’re parked in your usual spot: This happens just about every week. My wife got a chance to see this in action and couldn’t stop laughing. First on the way out one shuttle driver says “Oh, this must be a personal travel this week. You have your family with you.” On the way back another shuttle driver asks, “The usual spot, sir?” Yup…usual spot. Always the same spot.
- You’re on a first name basis with ALL of the hotel staff: Getting to know the hotel staff is always smart – they can help you get rooms when the reservation system says no or help you get your company’s rate when technically all of the rooms for that rate are already sold out. Not having to show your ID and credit card every time you check in adds a nice touch as well. I have to admit I still miss my friends from my favorite hotel in Waltham, MA that I stayed at for 2 years! But we all have to move on sometimes.
- You only have a barber in the city where you work: I used to have a barber shop in the town where I live and then they all split up and I figured why bother. I never went there anyway because I was always on the road and the little time I had at home I didn’t want to spend getting a haircut.
- When you get home, your daughter says “I’m so glad you came over”: Click here to read the back story to what happened to me but if your child thinks you’re just “coming over” when you get home, you may want to try to spend some more time there…
- Your son imitates you by doing this: this picture speaks for itself…
What do you think? Do you have other ways you know you’ve been on the road too long? Let me know in the comments below.
|Consultants love hotel points and free food|
No, this is not about Cheers. As the job market becomes increasingly competitive, relationship quality is often the key difference in all types of business decisions – vendor selection, buyer selection, employee hiring – you name it. In consulting, that increasing competition directly impacts your ability to find a project internally. You can click here to read about the “airport test” that consultants often refer to when talking about how managers decide who to staff on their projects. That’s a decent start, but it can take a while to get to know people if good airport convo is all you have in your bag of tricks. If you really want everybody to know your name, you need to brush up on your negotiation skills, and I’ll tell you what I mean by that.
The fastest way to get your name out there on a consulting project is to broker a deal…a hotel deal, and I’ll tell you why:
- Your firm loves it because you just did some major community building. Instead of all the battling factions (Marriott, Hilton, SPG) arguing over who has the best perks, all of a sudden everyone is skipping along hand-in-hand headed to the same place after work, which makes further networking much easier to do.
- Project management loves it because you just contributed a tangible financial benefit. Think about this. If you have a team of thirty people that travel each week, you saved the project $20 (room + parking) * 30 people * 3 nights * 4 weeks = $7,200/month. That’s not too shabby if you’re a fresh face trying to get some exposure. I’d also argue that if you really wanted to, you could reduce the number of rental cars based on point number 1 above.
- Your peers love it because you hooked them up with free food, which makes that per diem go just a bit further than usual.
- Consultants love hotel points so whenever you can get double points, it’s a borderline orgasmic experience for everyone involved.
My friend @jondobz inspired this cartoon but I failed to mention the fact that he got us a free movie every week and access to the lounge and internet for everyone (usually reserved for those with platinum status). Jon is a veteran consultant but the beauty of this type of initiative is that anyone at any level can proactively do this. You might be surprised at what you can accomplish just by asking.
Anyone have a deal they made on a project or other networking idea that helped everyone to know your name?
|photo credit: Cult Gigolo via photopin cc|
My wife and I just got back from a weekend in California visiting our old high school (Thacher) for alumni day. This time we went without either of the kids and it was a powerful reminder of what we want to prioritize for our family. We got the chance to re-connect with old friends and further connect with a new friend (+Bruce Sallan). My wife and I left after the weekend feeling refreshed. We missed the kids but this was our first weekend actually going away together since our honeymoon almost seven years ago. We’ve had a few date nights scattered here and there but nothing like this. We squeezed in so much, it felt like we had been gone much longer than we were, the sign of a trip well done.
As we were getting ready to take off, I started to think…taking an adult vacation for mom and dad is a lot like the instructions the flight attendant was giving on use of the oxygen masks. Think about it:
“Secure your mask before helping others”
The whole point behind this guidance is that you’ll be much better equipped to support those around you if you take care of yourself first. The same principle applies to parents taking a break…TOGETHER. Taking some time out to recharge, relax, reconnect with your significant other, or whatever it is that makes you feel like you’re ready to take on the world is priceless, especially if you have children. Happier parents make for happier children and a happier family. So we committed that once a year we’ll take the time to go back to Ojai for a weekend and refocus on the things that are most important in our life. It won’t be the most lavish of vacations but nothing could give a better return on our investment. After all, this is the place where we first met almost sixteen years ago!
How are you making sure you help yourself before trying to help your kids?
|Make no mistake – people can tell if you’re this guy|
One of the perks of being in management consulting is the flexibility that you have when you’re not on site with the client a.k.a. Fridays. The typical consulting model is what they call a “3-4-5” model where you spend 3 nights away, 4 days on site, and the 5th day of each work week at home or the office. This is great for me to be able to pick up my kids on Friday, which I wouldn’t be able to do working an industry job. Friday is also the day when most consultants take care of other errands such as doctor appointments, which is tough to do when you’re on the road. The problem is that many consultants take advantage of working from home and ruin it for everyone else.
Here’s a five ways you shouldn’t work from home to avoid being the person that ruins this perk for your team.
Sending From Your iPhone
Nothing says screwing around on billable time like a day full of messages signed “sent from my iPhone.” The occasional time sensitive response from the phone is fine but over using this technology can give the impression that you didn’t put any thought into the message you were sending because you were busy doing something other than work, despite the fact that Friday is still a work day.
Offline on Office Communicator (or whatever Instant Messaging service your team uses)
If everyone knows you’re always online when you’re working onsite and for some you reason you’re mysteriously unavailable every Friday, this isn’t a good look. Similarly, if you consistently sign on late when you’re not on site, your credibility with other suffers. You give the impression that you’re unreliable and people will treat you accordingly.
Taking Conference Calls Away From your Computer
How much value can you possibly add to a meeting to review a document when the only thing you have on you is your bathing suit and your smartphone. People that do this make themselves look foolish. It doesn’t take long for it to catch up with you either when your boss is looking for the changes you were supposed to be making and you’ve missed more than a few because you were focused more on getting your tan right than you were on capturing the notes from your conversation.
Going Radio Silent
When people don’t hear from you when you’re working remotely, the unfortunate truth is that you’re guilty until proven innocent. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been sitting in front of your computer the whole day. You’re only as good as the output you produce. As such, you need to continue providing the same frequency of updates as you normally would in the office to your client and your manager. Just because you’re working from home doesn’t mean expectations for your work product have changed.
Failing to Communicate
Sometimes things come up while you’re at home that your require your attention. These things may vary from something as serious as taking your child to the ER to the less serious but equally time-consuming appointment with your cable provider. Either way if you’re going to be missing action for a while, let someone know and, if possible, get someone to field questions in your absence…not so different than when you’re out of the office on vacation.
Working from is a privilege not a right, so be sure not to give your boss a reason to cut back on all of that flexibility that you’ve been enjoying so much. If you have other ways people you’ve seen people lose their work from home privileges, share them in the comments.
photo courtesy of images_of_money via flickr creative commons
I’ve been working at a large consulting firm for almost three years now. You probably can infer quite a few things from that but one thing is for certain, I have a passion for upgrades. In case you were unaware, that happens to be one of the fundamentals of consulting. What I failed to mention is there is one instance where the upgrade can come back to bite you – the rental car… Read the entire post here…
You ever met a management consultant or some other crazy person who travels 300+ days per year? It kind of makes you wonder how they have time to have a life. Yes, some of us do have lives outside of the job. The thing you have to get comfortable with if you’re going into a job which requires this time of travel is “having a life” has to look a little different than the life what your friends working industry jobs experience. When you have a family where one of the parents is on the road four days every week, it’s no easy task for anyone involved. There are some things, though, that make the time apart a bit more bearable. I’ll give you five quick tips now in no particular order.
The Parent Who Isn’t a Consultant Stays Home Full-time
This may not always be realistic, but when you have young children as I do, it significantly reduces stress to know that your other half is the one looking after your kids. There are some good daycare programs out there and probably some better nannies, but nobody loves your babies like you do. When your mind isn’t stressed about home, you’re also more productive at work. Win-win. Additionally, if you are in a profession where your assignments are project-based with small, gaps of downtime during the year, it allows the family to take advantage of impromptu vacations. If you roll off of a project unexpectedly, you can have a mini vacation or “staycation” if you’d rather spend your time off getting reacquainted with your bed.
The Parent Who is The Consultant Takes the Kids to School and Picks Them Up on Fridays
If you’re able to work from home on Fridays, do whatever you can to drop the kids off at school or pick them up. It doesn’t take much effort and it means the world to them. You’ll also find that it means the world to you. There’s nothing like having your precious little one running to you with open arms. It never gets old.
Video Chat With The Family as Much as Possible
Even if it’s just for 15 min in the morning or 15 min before bed, I promise you this will make your whole day. In fact, it will make EVERYONE’s day. It gives you that recharge you need to feel like you can withstand (almost) anything work can throw at you. If I had to order this list, this one would probably be at the top.
Take Turns With Your Other Half Doing Your Own Things for Fun
The parent responsible for the day-to-day care of the children most likely is taxed from the week and feels like he/she needs a bit of a reprieve when you get home…give it to him/her. It doesn’t need to be an all day event, just an hour or two will provide plenty of relief. It’s an unwritten rule at my house that bedtime and first line of defense from the kids in the mornings are my job. That gives my wife at least another hour buffer to get rest somewhat peacefully. You can also offer to watch the kids while your significant other decompresses with a workout or something else where they don’t have to listen to 3-foot dictators barking orders at the top of their lungs. Just making the offer goes a long way in boosting morale. While you need to look out for your other half, taking care of yourself is equally important. Being on the road for work has some perks, but it’s still work. Make sure you take some time to read, go to the gym, hit a few golf balls, or whatever is you do to unwind. It’ll help keep you balanced.
Do Family Errands
Time is precious so once you’ve had your fun, do the family errands together. It may take a little longer to get done, but what else you were going to do? You’ve already done something fun for yourself and you shouldn’t be working, so there’s really no excuse, right? I realize you might not always want to chase the little monsters up and down the aisles of Costco on a Sunday morning, but they’re yours and you love them, and they miss you, so make it happen.
Even if it’s one of these kind of days…
|My favorite app folder|
Pretty much everyone I know has the iPhone, and I assume anyone reading this probably has it as well since the user adoption seems to be growing with every iPhone release. I don’t know if the Droid phones have this same functionality I’m about to discuss, but if not I’m sure Droid users reading this can pretend and play along.
To be honest, the frequency with which these things come up in conversations borders on the ridiculous.
You would think that after a few years doing this that people would find something else to talk about, but that is not the case. If you are lucky enough to standout in one of these areas, you will definitely earn the respect of your peers.
1. Computer Bags
One of the first things I learned after getting into this job where travel is the rule rather than the exception is that nobody EVER uses the firm-issued computer bag. That may be a bit of an exaggeration, but I’ve met a lot of people on this job and I can remember only one person that was still using the bag they were given at orientation.
While not using the default bag as your mobile office is of the highest importance, it is a not decision that should be rushed and taken lightly. Judgements inevitably will be made based on the bag that you choose. For example, the first manager I worked for in consulting opted for the Swiss Army backpack. This says “function over style” to everyone with whom he comes into contact. Basic yet durable. And if I had to choose a colleague that I thought would give me the best chance to live in a “survival situation” it would be that guy simple because of the bag he choose. In my mind Swiss Army = Eagle Scout = most likely to know what to do stranded on a deserted island. To quote Charles Barkley, “I may be wrong, but I doubt it.”
On the other hand, you have the type that goes with the brown leather briefcase that must be carried by hand. This says, “I want people to look at this bag and know how professional I am.” The brown color seems to be just to draw attention but to be fair, this may be what’s fashionable these days. As for the briefcase style, when you’re on the move this much, why else would you choose a big requiring you to have a hand occupied at all times. Not practical at all and results if you asking people if they can help hold or carry things way more often than you should… You can make your own conclusions.
I personally chose the Briggs & Riley bag below. The backpack design allows me to be hands-free, and distributes weight across more of the body, which must be good for the back. I haven’t seen the research on this, but I’m sure it’s out there… This particular bag is TSA friendly (quick-release butterfly flap so that I don’t have to remove my laptop from the bag for the x-ray), which is a big win when you’re going through airport security twice a week. So if the “very professional” guy wants to claim this is juvenile, I’m ok with that, because I’m not the one that will be paying outlandish chiropractor bills down the road.
|After (a few trips across the pond later…)|
|3000 SPG Points in one shot is nothing to sneeze at|
Most people don’t stay in hotels often enough to even notice the hotel points you accumulate and the various offers that hotels make in order to improve their position in a highly competitive market. That being said, believe me when I tell you that consultants take their hotel points very seriously. This is how are able to go on vacation at a reasonable cost and somewhat rationalize being away from our families an absurd amount of time.
To give you an idea of how real this is, I worked with a guy who would check-out of his hotel every night and check into another hotel within the same group of hotels to accrue more “stays” and accelerate his progress to the highest hotel status.
There’s not much worse than the feeling I get when I find there is a double points promotion that I missed, while my colleagues are basking in the glory of double or triple rewards points.
Luckily, I know how to play the game much better now, which basically just means I have to read every single email that comes through from SPG, but it’s worth it.
3. Frequent Flyer Miles
Consultants love frequent flyer miles almost as much as they love hotel points. The thing with frequent flyer miles it that airlines don’t negotiate, and depending on where you live, you don’t have much say which airline you’re flying on in the first place. Still, will I throw it out there that I just got 3 tickets to LA for nothing and still have more miles left than I can do anything with at the moment or how I got upgraded to first class this morning? Absolutely.
Frequent flyer miles are battle scars for consultants – I worked with a Senior Manager that had over 1 million miles remaining. That’s what I call battle tested.
4. The Holy Grail
Anyone who travels knows that the worst part of the travel is getting through security. This little gem is a new development in airline security and essentially allows you to walk right through the airport because you’re the man (or woman).
TSA Pre can be found right now in only 16 airports, and even then it is only with select participating airlines. Once you have this on your resume, you can officially say you’ve “made it” as a consultant.