Archive for the ‘Business Travel’ Category

Amtrak Train Crash Near Philadelphia

Sunday, April 3rd, 2016

By a stroke of luck, I have twice missed being on Amtrak trains between New York City and Washington DC that crashed near Philadelphia. Early today, a southbound train operating at high speed struck a backhoe on the track, killing two track workers and injuring more than thirty passengers. Last year, a train en route to New York derailed, killing eight people and causing injury to more than two hundred. The tragedy of these disasters is that they are entirely avoidable and appear to arise from human error. This should prompt inquiry into Amtrak’s operating practices.

I took away some lessons about disaster communications after hearing the account of a passenger on the train, Steve Forbes. He was scheduled to be at the Washington DC studio of CSPAN to appear on the “Book TV” program to discuss his latest book, Money: How the Destruction of the Dollar Threatens the Global Economy and What You Can Do About It. Fate intervened as Forbes was a passenger on Amtrak Train 89 southbound from New York. Fortunately, he was not injured and returned home to do a shorter interview with CSPAN by telephone. CSPAN then filled the air time with a taped recording of a talk Forbes had given about his book at Politics & Prose, an independent bookstore in Washington DC.

I had scheduled the DVR to record the CSPAN program as I am a huge Steve Forbes fan.  The first time I met him was in the green room of Fox Business News when we were both guests on Alexis Glick’s show Money for Breakfast. Mr. Forbes was on an earlier segment of the program and when I met him I expressed regret that I had known he was scheduled to appear, I would have brought my copy of  Power Ambition Glory: The Stunning Parallels Between Great Leaders of the Ancient World and Today…and the Lessons You Can Learn for him to sign. Ever the gentleman, Forbes surprised me by sending over an inscribed copy of the book later in the day.

Over the course of his call-in CSPAN interview, Forbes addressed the issue of the condition of American infrastructure, calling for more private-public partnerships, and remarked on the disparity between the condition of our freight trains (which are among the best in the world) and our commuter trains; the former being in good shape as private owners are motivated to invest in maintenance, the latter being in poor condition for poor public management. He also addressed the issue of disaster communications; the passengers on Train 89 knew that it was too hazardous to exit the train and step onto electrified rail, but more than twenty minutes passed before any Amtrak crew informed them of what had happened. Forbes himself was on his cell phone to the CSPAN producer to arrange to phone in his interview given that he was not going to arrive in Washington DC that day.

Forbes touched on the themes of his book which addresses how abandoning the Bretton Woods system, in which the U.S. dollar was pegged to gold, completely undermined money as a store of value. I look forward to when his in-studio interview at CSPAN is re-scheduled as I am eager to hear his analysis of how our monetary policy has undermined small business access to credit. Meanwhile, Forbes’ experience on Amtrak provides a compelling lesson on disaster communications. Employees need to be trained to provide timely information to customers when service is disrupted and kudos to Forbes for his calm response in what must have been a frustrating situation.

Emerging Health Risk – Zika Virus

Saturday, January 30th, 2016
Be Well

Be Well

The Centers for Disease Control are working to educate the public about the risks arising from Zika fever, a disease caused by infection with the Zika virus, that is transmitted to people by mosquito bites. The most common symptoms of infection are fever, rash, joint pain and red eyes. A vaccine or cure for Zike does not yet exist. Treatment for infected patients focuses on relieving symptoms and including rest, re-hydration and medications  for fever and pain. The Zika virus first came to the attention of officials charged with public health responsibilities last May when the Pan American Health Organization issued an alert regarding the first confirmed Zika virus infection in Brazil.

The outbreak in Brazil led to reports of Guillain-Barré syndrome and pregnant women giving birth to babies with birth defects. Having worked in parts of the world where preventive measures were not entirely successful in helping me to avoid mosquito-borne illnesses, I would, out of an abundance of caution, defer traveling to regions where outbreaks have occurred. The CDC has an online map tracking the spread of the virus. If your company engages in international business travel, you can subscribe to free online alerts to health risks across the world. Take advantage of these tools to stay informed and make sure that your employees remain safe. Pay particular attention to the special needs of employees who are pregnant or may be vulnerable for other reasons.

Small Businesses and Global Travel

Monday, January 5th, 2015
Meeting at the Globility Board

Meeting at the Globility Board

Reflecting on the accomplishments of the past year, I have to include my service on the Globility Board as one of the highlights. The word “globility” was invented by Francis X. Gallagher, publisher and CEO of Global Traveler, to define the magazine’s mission as that of being open to new cultures and experiences. Gallagher formed the “Globility Board”, an elite group of highly experienced international business travelers, to offer feedback to both the editorial team and to the advertisers as to our preferences for airlines, hotels and other travel experiences. The article announcing the newly-formed board quotes me as saying that “As an entrepreneur, I recognize the importance of face-to-face meetings to build relationships, but I am also attentive to the costs associated with business travel; I seek to maximize value for dollar spent. I am willing to pay for amenities that enhance my travel experience and increase remote productivity, but I want to see the value for the spend. That’s a different approach from across-the-board cost-cutting that is often in place in larger corporations.” I was delighted to learn that more than one-half of my fellow subscribers to Global Traveler are small business owners, so it appears we share the same philosophy. One of my favorite features of the magazine is the series of articles on health and safety measures for business travelers, so we really do share a viewpoint on business travel!

At our first board meeting, we were welcomed to New York City’s Benjamin Hotel, part of the Denihan Hospitality Group. We met one another at a cocktail and dinner at Rothmann’s Steakhouse and then spent the following day reviewing ideas with in sessions with executives from the Denihan Hospitality Group, South African Airways and Lufthansa and then the editorial team responsible for the web and print editions of the magazine. We had our closing dinner at the National Restaurant, housed in the Benjamin Hotel, where we were impressed with the culinary talent of Chef Geoffrey Zakarian and his team. Our second meeting took place at the Westin La Paloma Resort in Arizona. I welcome your feedback on business travel experiences that I can share with my board members. It is a rare occasion when I meet people who have accumulated as many frequent flyer miles for business as I have done. I look forward to our next trip and to giving feedback to leading airlines and hotels as to the preferences of small business owners. I am also pleased that the magazine is the only one of which I am aware that provides safety and health tips for business travelers – as we need to be resilient no matter where we are working.

Managing Travel Delays

Tuesday, May 8th, 2012
View from the gate

The rain is not to blame

File this under the heading “So that is how it works”.  Imagine your flight arrives on time, but you cannot collect your baggage. Frustrated passengers pace back and forth and then you find a helpful airline employee who fills you in on what is going on.  The passengers had been led to believe that the light drizzle of rain (check out the photograph) was responsible for the delay. Actually, the baggage handlers will collect overtime if they can unload your bags just a little bit later. So while you are eager to take your luggage, leave the airport and get on with your life, you are being held hostage to the fine print in their union contract.  But other travelers do get their baggage right away – the elite tiers of the frequent flyers. So we asked and learned – the baggage of the elite tiers of the frequent flyer (platinum, gold, whatever they are called) are unloaded by a private sector company with which the airline has a contract. They are not union workers and they have no incentive to delay unloading the bags. So that is another unadvertised benefit of accruing your miles on a single airline to qualify for the elite tier status.

I will likely be blogging more about business travel issues as they relate to disruptions (minor disasters) and remote productivity. I have just been appointed to the Globility Board, the board of advisers for Global Traveler magazine. I am quoted in the article announcing the new board, saying “As an entrepreneur, I recognize the importance of face-to-face meetings to build relationships, but I am also attentive to the costs associated with business travel; I seek to maximize value for dollar spent. I am willing to pay for the amenities that enhance my travel experience and remote productivity, but I want to see value for the spend. That is a different approach from across-the-board cost-cutting that is often in place in larger corporations.” Please let me know of your travel experiences and feedback that you would like to share with the airlines, hotels and other travel vendors. Small businesses are important customers and we need to be heard.