Before I make the claim that I've discovered something new in the world of business travel, I want to share some background information — I am a customer advocate, a business manager and can look back over my 25 years within the business travel industry with a smile. More importantly, I love football as I have followed the current English Champions for just over 35 years and I even dare to say out loud, I love them more than my industry. Those of you reading this are either a fellow football fan or the blog title intrigued you enough to read on and see what this is all about.
So, I recently got approached to write a creative and thought-provoking article and what could inspire you more than a good football game. It got me thinking "What do football club owners do to make their club successful?" and found that their skills and actions are actually not that different to yours and mine.
Football clubs live through their fans. They are the glue, the money, the stakeholders - without them football clubs would struggle to exist. As a Travel Manager you have your very own "fans" — your travellers. Would you actually hold the job you've got at the moment without them?
Let me elaborate on this assumption further and point out five key lessons we can all learn from the game I love:
1. Promote your "club" to your "fans"
As managers we often feel everyone should love our work just as much as we do and utilise the tools we give them. Just as a football club gains new fans and loses some, over the years, your company gains new employees who might have to travel. To ensure they become and stay true fans, communicate your travel policy, the key benefits of your chosen TMC, how new starters can gain access to your travel booking platforms and any changes or issues on a regular basis. It often helps to include information on login details, travel booking processes and restrictions in a new employee's onboarding documents and give them access to this information on your intranet or another place they can easily access when needed. Check with your TMC if they can support you with introductory videos, online training or power point slides in the onboarding and retraining phases.
2. Make your "fans" your priority
Whether you have experienced road warriors or young millennials travelling for your company, they need to feel supported wherever they are. If your TMC provides a travel app, get your IT team to upload it to smartphones before they are given to employees. That way they have their itinerary on hand, make bookings on the go and receive relevant travel updates. If your TMC doesn't support your travellers with an app, make sure they receive travel updates through email or social media and ensure they are regularly informed how they can make changes on the go.
3. Review your management style
Man City's owner Sheikh Mansoor has turned around the club's fortunes since arriving in late 2009 by injecting passion and bringing new ideas and methods to a club that had followed the same policies and processes for many years previously. Only three years later Manchester City were crowned English Champions winning their first Premier League trophy. Travel managers need to be agile and open to their travellers' needs. Go out with your TMC and talk to them, find out their needs and wants, their do's and don'ts. Over a casual get-together or a quick survey, the more you understand what your road warriors need, the easier it will be to follow the trends, nurture compliance and keep your travel policy and inventory up to date. Just to give you a quick example, one of our trendier and fashionable clients, recently added a number of boutique hotels to their inventory to ensure their hard-working but fashion and design-conscious travellers stay in hotels that are fitting with the company's brand. Whilst the cost might be a bit higher, they reduced leakage and you have more engaged, happy and compliant travellers.
4. Security comes first
In 1989 security measures were changed in stadiums after the Hillsborough disaster. And it is also not surprising that traveller safety is on everyone's lips considering the increase of geo-political and environmental changes that impact your travellers. You are legally required to ensure your employees well-being, so travel risk management should be at the top of your agenda. TMCs can offer a variety of ways to support your employees, but the most important thing that you can do is to communicate that only through compliance, you are able to help your travellers in need. Ask your TMC to provide a case study or a presentation in person on the topic to emphasis the point.
5. Monitor your spend
Stadium tours, making shares available to fans, corporate sponsorship, and TV deals. Football clubs are run as businesses and have to think out of the box to make money, and so should you when it comes to savings on travel spend. Today we're able to capture more and more data and make educated decisions and negotiations based on facts, not just on ideas. But where to start? No matter the size of the football club or the size of your travel programme you have to be focused on costs. If you are new to the game, establish where leakage happens and implement measures to keep maverick buyers in check. This will help you determine where negotiated fares are possible and you help achieve huge savings. If you are more advanced and have this all figured out, why not go one step further and collect data from other departments like sales. For example, how does travel relate to the deals signed? It might justify an increase or decrease in travel spend and help you make crucial business decisions.
I have kept the most important similarity between football and business travel to the end and would like to quote one of the greatest footballers of all time to finish.
"Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do." (Pele)