While living a fairytale with my beautiful wife Lori, who was five months pregnant, and two lovely daughters in a charming little village located about an hour’s drive outside of Manhattan, our lives changed suddenly when my wife was diagnosed with late-stage breast cancer. Our son was born healthy three months later, but within the year, Lori succumbed to the disease. She was 38.
I traded my pressed shirts and corporate ladder climbing for changing diapers, driving to playgroups, and the title of full-time stay-at-home single father for my two daughters, seven and four years old, respectively, and my son who was just seven months old.
Fast forward ten years; I've decided to return to Corporate America and, as a consequence, I’ve also returned to business travel. On my very first venture out, I realized that I hadn’t missed a beat when it came to regaining status as a road warrior. In fact, my ten years as a single father had more than prepared me for the rigors of business travel:
1)Go to the bathroom before you leave. If long car trips or plane rides when the fasten seat belt sign is illuminated are not enough to have taught parents one thing, it’s use the restroom before you leave and, frankly, whenever you can thereafter.
2)Leave early. One never knows when a jack-knifed tractor trailer on the Interstate or an extra-long line for TSA screening is waiting to sabotage your whole day.
3)Expect the unexpected. Just plan on your flight being delayed, the airline losing your luggage, or client who wants to have just one more, three or four more times, before signing on the dotted line.
4)Bring an extra shirt. An infant may not puke on you, but on the other hand, he might. You can bet, though, turbulence or a clumsy waitress may result in a dollop of coffee or tomato juice finding its way to your shirt. I find pressed, folded, and plastic-wrapped shirts with a cardboard stiffener travel best in my briefcase.
5)Someone will have a tantrum, so plan accordingly. This could be anyone from a road-raging motorist to an unhappy employee to a cranky fellow air traveler to perhaps even your boss; someone will have a meltdown. This reminds me of the adage, “Don’t wrestle with a pig; he’ll love it and you’ll get dirty.” Remain calm and positive. The results will always be better than the alternative.
6)Bring an activity. At the very least, bring your laptop or tablet so you can work when you’re at the hotel or during a layover. It’s all right to unwind a little with a novel or a crossword puzzle once in a while, too.
7)Be ready with a good story. Whether you’re addressing a group of coworkers, a client, or an over-tired toddler, er, I mean overnight hotel desk clerk who lost your reservation, a good story or joke is usually an effective way to put others at ease . . . and on your side.
8)Always say, “Please” and “Thank you.” Everybody wants attention. Everybody wants to be appreciated. Whether you’re entertaining a client, speaking with administrative staff at headquarters, interviewing someone for a job, always say, “Please” when you want something, and always say, “Thank you” when you get it.