You've got a hot product, you've hired a couple of sales superstars and they're ready to hit the road. But wait! Before they head to the airport, you need to spell out how you want them to travel and how much they're authorized to spend.
Think a written travel policy is an unnecessary exercise? Better to do it when your business is small than to wrestle an 800-pound gorilla later. A brief, well-crafted travel policy can help:
- Make it clear to your traveling staff how, when and why you want them to travel
- Build vendor loyalties that can earn discounts from airlines, hotel chains and car rental companies
- Get a handle on travel expenditures early on.
Understand what goes in to a travel policy.You want your travel program to reflect your corporate culture, but how do you go about that? Seek out examples of existing policies from other companies, your travel agency, or other members of your professional organizations.
Check tax and government guidelines for allowable travel expenses.Use this information as a guideline when developing your policy.
Publication 463. The U.S. General Services Administration lists guidelines for domestic and foreign per diems (scroll down to access rates chart. This information is also available in an Excel format at this website.)
You decide: Book with a traditional travel agency.Choose a "bricks and mortar" agency that specializes in business travel and has the technology to monitor and report on travel patterns.
You decide: Book on the internet.Flexibility and convenience are a plus. It can be fast but there can be a downside: if there's a problem or you need to make a change, it might be difficult or impossible.
Put the policy pieces together.You've considered the pros and cons. You're ready to write the policy, monitor your travel budget and evaluate efficiencies.
- Avoid policy-making by committee. Assign the task to a senior staff member who is knowledgeable about business travel but who has no personal agenda.
- Solicit input from travelers, travel arrangers, the finance department and senior management.
- Spell out the approval process for trips.
- The policy MUST: 1) be distributed to all current and new employees, 2) be endorsed 100% by senior management, and 3) be regularly monitored for compliance.
- If travel schedule changes are common, think twice about booking on the internet. It could be costly – or impossible to rebook.
- Pick the credit card that maximizes free-and-discounted benefits.
- Look into airline "soft dollar" programs for businesses, hotel frequency discounts, and business-friendly car rental programs.