Monday, May 18, 2009

The Value of Business Travel

As I sit in my office after 19 days on the road preparing to leave for another 7 days, I realize the effect of business travel and productivity. Without a doubt, I have been extremely conscious of talking to everyone I meet on the planes, in the airports, hotels and around the meetings at coffee breaks. It is this simple. People need to break away from their normal day to day operations and meet with others to define strategies, action steps and programs to take their organizations into the future.

I truly believe we have hit the bottom and things are moving. I am seeing more travelers out calling on their customers and beginning to entertain them as well. Last week while attending an Oracle Users Group Conference and then a Sage Users Conference, I met more people that spoke to me about how business was rebounding.

Now, I say that but then I also see the business that is still suffering. Let's not play business right now. Let's focus on making it real! Real is about honesty, integrity and follow through. I leave you with this. Who do you need to call to clear up some issues? Who did you forget to follow up with, and what do you need to do to connect with your customers? It is up to you....not me!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Where in The World is Cindy?

So because I travel so much, I realize that I may post a new blog with my thoughts from Jackson Hole, and then a picture of me in Orlando and the next day on Facebook it says I am in NYC. I receive alot of Twitter comments that say "so are you in the mountains or the city?" Well first of all - I love to keep people guessing - I am everywhere, believe it or not. That takes me to my thoughts today.

I am currently on the road for 20 days without going back home to Orange County, CA. Normally, I come back home at least every 4-6 days, re-group and go back out. But now more than ever I need to be out assisting our clients in growing business - after all "Cindy Novotny is the Stimulus Package."

So on to the story. First let me say that I am usually a fan of all airlines - I fly so much that I applaud all airlines for keeping us going safely in the air. But now, I have decided after several flights on Delta that I am no longer a fan of this airline. Granted, I have no status on this airline, nor will I ever because I am no longer going to fly them due to their lack of appreciation for a road warrior who is a 1K on United and a Platinum on American. Northwest on the other hand (the airline that merged with Delta) is a different story. They understand service (no I am not kidding for all of you that call them "northworst." They get and I can prove it.

I flew from Atlanta to Miami on Friday of last week on Northwest. Again, no status on this airline, but when I checked in the the agent at the counter said would you like to purchase an upgrade to first class, since we have open seats and it looks like as a business traveler you may be interested in the $70.00 upgrade. I immediately said yes, bought the upgrade and everyone was happy. Northwest made $70.00 more dollars which is alot in today's market, and I had a great ride and a glass of wine.

Arrived on time in Miami, received my luggage and had a wonderful day of work in Miami on Saturday - yes Saturday - remember now more than ever you do what it takes.

Left Miami Saturday night on Delta - express plane with no first class to Orlando. Great flight, arrived in Orlando for the Oracle Users Group Conference and had a great time with the ducks at The Peabody.

After giving speeches on both Sunday and Monday I had to take a really long flight to Bozman, Montana and drive a 5 hour drive to Jackson Hole, WY in the middle of the night - well, I didn't drive but still had to be awake to see all the bison, wolves, deer and elk that we passed on this beautiful ride under a full moon. I may mention that I flew American out of Orlando and did get upgraded and had a wonderful flight.

So here we go...left Jackson Hole on Delta (express again - no first class) and flew to Salt Lake City, Utah where I had to wait 41/2 hours for a red eye to New York's JFK. So I used my Platinum American Express to get me into the Delta Sky Club (a nice perk of AX) so I could relax and get some work done. Again, the difference in the Delta Club to the Red Carpet Club or the American Airlines Club Lounge - big difference. It was 7:00pm and there were NO snacks except the cookies Delta serves on their coach flights, and pretzels. No cheese, veggies or any food to purchase which you can now get in American and United clubs. Oh whatever....I had 25 cookies and bowls of pretzels for dinner. Big deal.

I went up to the counter at the club and asked if there were any open seats in first class that would be available to purchase upgrades. She said "oh yes, there are 16 seats available on this flight to upgrade." I asked how much and she said $125.00. Oh great I thought and she said I needed to do it at the gate closer to departure time. So with that I went back to my seat and waited until about 11:15pm to leave for the gate.

Once I got to the gate, I realized there were only about 40 people milling around for our red eye to NYC. So I approached the gate agent (who by the way - gate agents on any airline can ruin your life - just ask the pilots and flight attendants), I asked the agent about upgrading. He said, yes this is available. He asked for my ticket and then when he saw my ticket he gave me the look.

"Oh you have a U fare." I replied with, "what does that mean?" "This is a cheap fare that doesn't qualify." Now just remember that I know something about yield management and revenue. I understand that a free upgrade may not apply, and that if there were people that wanted to upgrade with a higher fare ticket, they get first chance. But not with Delta. I waited while the gate agent announced the upgrade special - which by the way brings in money that goes right to the bottom line because on this flight there is no food and everyone is sleeping. After he made his announcement, I waited to see the rush of people go up to the counter to take him up on his offer of $125.00 for first class upgrade if you had a ticket that was "B", "F", "E", and any letter but "U."

No one, and I mean no one went up to the counter to take advantage of this. So you guessed it, I did. I went back up to the same gentleman and said "since no one else wants to give you $125.00, can you take my money and let me upgrade." The answer was the same. "It is our policy that we can't upgrade this fare." I looked around and said - "I have the money, I want the upgrade so I can sleep better because I have to land and go right to work." "NO!"

So let me get this straight. They charge $15.00 per bag to help offset fuel costs, you have to buy your food, buy your headsets, but they don't want to take $125.00 from me when no one else wants to give them their money.

So Delta....good luck! Policies today were made for yesterday. It is time to change your thinking, your approach and everything that goes along those lines. This is a reminder to all of us. What policies are in place in your company that are not in the best interest of the customer? What do you need to change to be more flexible with your clients and employees. How can you change for the market conditions right now. You can always go back to the "old policies" when the business is flooding through the gates.

Enjoy your weekend, and remember - everyone has a voice, a vote and the ability to decide who they do or do not do business with.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Bus Stops, Ducks and Thrill Rides

It is a beautiful beginning of May. I started out in Atlanta, hiked through some local parks - well a leisurely walk is more like it with friends from Atlanta, had a great dinner and lots of laughs. Then off to Orlando for the Oracle Users Conference where I gave 3 keynote speeches. It is amazing how we can go from calm to high anxiety in just one day.

In Orlando, I decided we needed to get out and get some vitamin D and walk a bit around International Drive - well remember this is Orlando and it was the first hot day of spring 90 degrees and also no one walks in Orlando. I convinced Shelley who was with me to walk to Sea World - you now get it. Hot, tired, and when we finally made it to Sea World we were at the employee entrance. The general admission entrance was still one mile around the corner. We sat at a bus stop with the locals - waiting for bus 8 to take us back to the Peabody and engaged in conversation with the local bus riders - that made the trip. We spoke to one gentleman from Haiti who worked in F & B from Sea World, one retired golf caddy who was leaving for Missouri to caddy for a seniors tour, and one local Florida man who was riding the bus downtown for dinner. It was refreshing, fun and so out of character for people like us who fly to great destinations, get picked up in town cars and never leave the hotel.

Although we were very hot, I just kept thinking - you gotta love this life! Made it back to the Peabody, watched the ducks and then when the sun went down, we went back to Sea World and rode the new rollercoaster - Manta! Not even open to the public yet, but we were with some people who had passes for the press party. We played with the Manta Rays, wathed the dolphin shows, and learned about the sharks.

When I think about my travel schedule right now - on the road for 17 days without going home - dealing with business and the economy, the "flu", and the flight issues, I could sink into a "pity pool." But this is what I do - I enjoy the moment - I enjoy the city, I enjoy the thrill of this life that I chose. So today when you read this - remember, it is only as good as you make it.

You may be going through lay offs at work, salary reductions, family problems, illness and an array of issues. This is life and we have to accept the drama that comes with it.

My hats off to all of us that are holding our heads up high in spite of everything and continuing to look for the positive. Tough times don't last - tough people do!
Have a great week.