Travelling for business is sometimes a perk and often a bind. Mostly people enjoy it. Business travel can take you all over the UK, from the very north of Scotland to Cornwall in the South-West of England. Overseas travel might take you to Europe and the USA. Wherever you go, you can try to make some time to get out of the hotel and explore your surroundings, although this sometimes leads to unforeseen complications.
Why businesses use international networks
Working with business clients, it is impressive how much they use international professional services, like an audit network in accountancy, advertising agency network or international legal advice. It makes sense for companies which operate internationally. They get a predictable and consistent quality of service across the world whether they’re managing their accounts, promoting their brand or protecting their legal concerns.
International networks and the business traveller
The same is true for the business traveller. Using an international hotel chain is a pretty safe bet, even though the actual hotel may be owned and managed locally. The same can be said for renting a car from the local agent of your usual car hire firm. What you get is a predictable level of service and the feeling that you are in safe and familiar hands. But what other services could benefit from a bit of international networking?
How far can you take international collaboration?
Let’s start at the airport. Wouldn’t it be great to see a line of cabs networked with the same firm you use at home? You get in, use your existing business account and as a valued client you don’t worry about getting taken, literally, for a ride. Restaurants would be another boon. You call up and book with your business account and suddenly you’re a regular and valued customer, rather than a clueless tourist. Forget the table by the loos and dismissive service, you now have some clout. And what about public transport? Why shouldn’t your London Oyster Card work on the Paris Metro or the New York City subway?
What about the local colour?
Is there a trade off? Would this kind of international collaboration dull the local colour? The cabbie taking you into Manhattan will still be a surly New Yorker. The restaurant will still be serving its own specials and working out its own menu and prices. This is not about globalisation or creating a drab, uniform world. Members of such networks are independent; they get to keep everything that makes them special, unique and local. What they collaborate on is the boring, back office stuff, like bookings and credit accounts. So play a game on your next business trip. How many businesses do you encounter that could use a bit of international networking.
Peter Hamilton is a business consultant writing on behalf of Russell Bedford