You Are How You Eat

As a long-time world traveler, I’ve been able to learn country customs and observe and practice acceptable local behavioral customs in order to avoid accidentally offending the locals. For example, when traveling overseas, you should never assume you can eat and drink like you do in the U.S.  Some things that we practice here in the U.S. could be negatively misconstrued overseas.

A recent USA Today article on culinary customs was very helpful and truthful.  There are many other resources available--both online and in print--that you can use as a reference before you leave on a business trip or meeting.  It is always helpful and much appreciated, too, when you can share some of these tips with travelers going overseas for business--via your travel management company or intranet portals.

One of the ways to start to change the perception of the culturally insensitive American is to be more sensitive and make an attempt at respecting local cultures and traditions.

It starts with us!

Do you have any tips on how to show respect for other cultures while on business trips? Please share your best practices here.

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Are You Tactically Excellent or a Corporate Strategist? How to Survive a Workforce Reduction

Lanyon's Kevin Iwamoto Offers Tips on Staying Relevant in Today's Travel and Meetings Industry WorkforceI just got off the phone with yet another good, industry friend who's lost their job. It’s very sad to see companies make misguided decisions about the value and worth of their employees. 

One piece of advice that I always offer as counsel to travel buyers, meeting planners and senior managers is this: the times when we were valued for tactical proficiency and for certifications from  various industry associations has changed.  Those valuable certifications mean a lot to the people who have earned them. But let’s be clear, in today's marketplace it’s not a guarantee that the certification stamp of excellence and proficiency is enough to keep your job and position. 

Companies, in an effort to reduce their operating costs, are always looking to outsource or downgrade their employee ranks.  At a former Fortune 50 company where I previously worked, senior management was actually evaluating the true cost of delivering an “A” grade travel program.  Our CFO actually asked for savings numbers about delivering a “B” grade travel program versus the existing “A” grade program! 

While companies are looking to evaluate the outsourcing expertise of travel and meeting functions to save a dime, the one thing they aren’t doing is evaluating those who are viewed as strategic managers.  They will outsource the tactical employees, but they're less ready to cut loose the strategic ones.  It also doesn’t matter what grade level these positions are; in fact, the higher the pay grade, the more vulnerable you are in terms of job scope.  People who have retained their higher level titles and accepted pay raises throughout the years without accepting more scope of responsibilities also tend to be made redundant.  In other words, if you have a high-grade title like Director or Vice President, etc. you need to constantly demonstrate your worth by overseeing more areas in order to justify the pay grade and title.

Speaking of titles, you should seriously consider modifying your titles in order to avoid being pigeon-holed as a one dimensional contributor who can only manage travel or meetings.  Some very creative folks in our business use a title descriptive like “Employee Mobility Manager.”  A good friend of mine who works for a tech company and has a high-level position uses GPO (Global Process Owner) as her title. Use the word "Strategy" in your title; it defines you as a key strategic contributor and not a tactical role that could be outsourced.  Think about what you do and how you want that to be perceived--both internally as well as externally.

The bottom line is that you can’t just work in auto-pilot mode.  Companies are constantly reviewing processes, employee staffing, real estate reduction, and other activities to cut costs and increase EBITDA for shareholders and investors.  Always stay vigilant especially if you’ve held a position or managed a travel and/or meetings department for a long period of time.  Look at ways you can stay visibly relevant and increase your scope of responsibilities.  Doing these things will go a long way in keeping you off the workforce reduction lists. 

Do you have any tips on staying relevant in today's travel and meetings industry? Please share here.

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Are You Thinking Strategically for 2014?

Lanyon's Kevin Iwamoto Urges Corporate Travel Managers to Think StrategicallyIt looks like, despite a record-breaking winter when the polar vortex and back-to-back snowstorms halted travel across much of the U.S., business travel is expected to continue its surge in 2014. The Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) recently increased its forecast for the year, driven in large part by healthy corporate profits, rising management confidence and increased job development – all positive signs for the U.S. economy.

U.S. business travel spending is now expected to rise 7.1% in 2014 to $293.3 billion, a substantial upgrade from the 6.6% growth that GBTA predicted last quarter. Total person-trip volume is expected to increase 2.0% to 464.7 million trips, according to the GBTA BTI™ Outlook – United States 2014 Q1. 

- GBTA’s forecast upgrade will be fueled by strong investment in international outbound travel spending, which is now expected to increase 12.9% to $37.2 billion – up from 12.5% growth forecast in Q4.

- GBTA’s outlook for group travel was also revised to increase 7% in 2014 to $126 billion – up from the 6.5% growth GBTA predicted last quarter.

So what does this mean for travel managers and meetings/events?  It means that you need to revisit annualized budgets and spend forecasting -- in order to not be “surprised” by executive directives to cut travel and meetings due to the increase in spending and costs.  These increases will affect demand as well as continue to enforce the supplier advantaged marketplace.  Negotiations with key suppliers will continue to be challenging and companies who are not practicing solid SMMP disciplines will be further behind the eight ball in terms of spend management and cost containment.

Now is the perfect time to demonstrate to your executives that you are proactively managing your business category(ies) strategically and not reacting to the marketplace.  In these challenging times, in order to survive, those who are strategic and forward-looking will prevail.

How are you thinking and planning strategically in 2014? Please share here.

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GBTA Research Reveals Insight into Hotel Policies and Programs

A new GBTA study, Insight into Hotel Policies and Programs: United States, has found that more than half (58%) of travel managers feel they have more control over their company’s hotel policy than they did a few years ago. When it comes to hotel programs, corporate travel managers view their primary responsibilities as:

- Driving savings / controlling costs (70%)

- Ensuring travelers are using preferred suppliers (54%)

- Motivating travel behavior rather than mandating policy (41%)

- Driving compliance (39%)

A vast majority of corporate travel managers surveyed (91%) indicated their company had a preferred hotel program in place. The average corporate preferred hotel program contains 280 hotel properties that employees can choose from, with individual properties representing 69% of hotel agreements and chain-wide agreements making up 31%.   When corporate travel managers are deciding which hotels to sign as preferred providers, location of hotel (85%) and negotiated discounts (82%) are taken into consideration most often. More than half (53%) of those surveyed also take the safety and security of a property into consideration. 

For us at Lanyon, these results demonstrate the value of using technology like Lanyon’s to manage a very challenging annual sourcing process.  For global clients, the technology provides consistency and data documentation that is defensible and automated, creating a win/win for both buyers and suppliers.

The study is available exclusively to GBTA members, and non-members may purchase the report through the GBTA Foundation by emailing pyachnes@gbtafoundation.org.

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China Business Travel Spend Outpacing Slow Adoption of Travel Management Tech, Process Improvements

I’m just returning from the 2014 GBTA China Conference in Shanghai, and I'm so delighted that Lanyon could partner our RegOnline® technology with GBTA Asia Pacific  to improve registrations and payments for the conference in Chinese (Mandarin).

It was also great to see the GBTA Board, lead by President & CEO, Donna Kelliher, attending the conference in a show of support. 

Based on the excellent sessions and agenda that were especially tailored for the local Chinese corporate marketplace, the show’s numbers are a direct reflection of its success. The Chinese corporate marketplace is exploding, but Chinese travel and meetings managers need to  modernize their ways -- especially with regards to technology utilization, integrations and process refinement.

GBTA BTI™ Outlook – China, is a semi-annual analysis that spotlights unfolding economic events at home and abroad and shows how they impact China's business travel market. The report, sponsored by Visa Inc., includes the GBTA BTI, an index of business travel spending that distills market performance over a period of time. Some highlights of GBTA BTI Outlook – China:

- China's total business travel spend is forecast to grow 16.5% in 2014 – more than double the rate of the country's GDP growth;

- China's recent announcement of 2013Q4 and full year GDP growth of 7.7% paints a picture of slow (by China standards), but steady growth.

What was most interesting to me is the projection that the Chinese will surpass the U.S even sooner than the anticipated 2016 projected time frame, in terms of overall traffic and volume generated for business travel and meetings.  Clearly there’s a lot of work to be done education-wise for the Chinese marketplace, and I have no doubt that GBTA Asia and GBTA Global will lead the way to help the Chinese members and suppliers up their game and modernize their practices and processes. The Chinese are ready and hungry for best-practice sharing and technology!

GBTA members can get free access to the study via the GBTA Foundation web portal, http://hub.gbta.org/resources2/view/profile/id/27828, and non-members can get access to the report for a fee. 

Congratulations to GBTA and their leadership for an excellent conference!

Were you at the show? What were your impressions? Please share here.

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TTG Asia Spotlights Lanyon-ACTIVE Network BSG Merger

If you've been following news and developments about the merger of Lanyon and ACTIVE Network Business Solutions, I've got some more reading for you to do.  Recently, TTG Asia published an article: “Lanyon Creates Next-gen Tools for Corporate Travel and Managers.”

I highly recommend you read the entire piece ... but here's a snippet:

"Last month's merger of ACTIVE Network Business Solutions and Lanyon in the US means corporate travel and strategic meeting management programme (SMMP) managers will have access to next-generation tools that provide a full view of spend and eliminate multiple-point solutions to gather spend data on their hotel and event programmes."

I'm quoted -- among them:

“This consolidation will help corporate buyers and programme managers to become more savvy when it comes to supplier negotiations because it will provide them with a 360-degree view of their spend on everything from small meetings, to Strategic Meetings Management Programmes, to large and complex events."

Happy reading, and please share your thoughts and questions here.

Read the full TTG Asia article!

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Procurement Pros to Focus on Savings, Efficiencies and Compliance in Corporate Travel and Meetings Management

Lanyon VP Kevin Iwamoto Talks About The Value CPOs Are Bringing to Corporate Travel and Meetings TodayOne of the most fascinating trends for me to watch over the last several years has been the growing influence of chief procurement officers (CPOs) in travel and meetings and event management. They’ve brought tremendous improvements to our industry with their focus on:

  • cutting costs
  • maximizing supplier relationships
  • proving return on investment of travel and events
  • mitigating risk

Now, new evidence shows that their influence in travel and events remains strong. And, over the next three years, these professionals will continue to focus on achieving savings, efficiencies and compliance.

Last week, in a webinar, “CPO Rising 2014: Convergence,” Andrew Bartolini, Chief Research Officer at Ardent Partners, unveiled results of a new study of 273 CPOs and other procurement executives from mostly large organizations. Some findings:

  • 57% of CPOs are involved in supply risk management;
  • 52% are involved in managing travel;
  • 24% have converged into managing meetings and events.

Here are CPOs’ top priorities over the next three years:

  • 43% want to focus on increasing savings;
  • 36% will aim for improving processes;
  • 32% will tighten up compliance.

As many of you may know, I've spent many years working in procurement organizations. And I’m personally heartened and encouraged to see that CPOs continue to focus on the last great expense management frontier: unmanaged travel and meetings spend. What a great webinar!

If you haven’t already sought out the expertise from your procurement executives, I encourage you to do so in 2014!  The rewards will be great. And, if you're contemplating who your SMMP executive sponsor should be, a CPO isn't a bad option.

Check out these additional blog posts on procurement in travel and meetings:

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Happy 10th Anniversary GBTA Canada!

I just spoke at GBTA Canada which is celebrating their 10th anniversary!  I can’t believe it since I was one of the original keynote speakers at the very first GBTA Canada, when it was still a small buyer-lead association for Canadian travel managers and suppliers.  The attendee numbers have increased significantly over the years resulting in this year’s sold-out event, with just about 500 attendees. 

The education sessions were very focused on the Canadian corporate marketplace and governmental impacts to buyers and suppliers.  I was pleased to also see that GBTA Canada has changed its governance to match the rest of GBTA Global.  Nancy Tudorache, director of Operations – Canada, who I’ve known for many years, will now be working with a buyer-lead volunteer group. Another long time Canadian friend and ally, Shelly Lewchuk, Manager of Corporate Travel for Canadian Natural Resources Limited, was announced as Volunteer President, along with a stellar group of Canadian buyers and suppliers who will serve on the 2014 GBTA Canada Advisory Board. 

Congratulations to all, and I have every confidence that GBTA Canada can only grow and prosper, given the new leadership structure and focus on membership growth strategy.

So what was I there for?  I was selected as a featured speaker and presented on SMMP for Small-Medium Sized Businesses in Canada.  The room was very full and there was a ton of interest, especially around risk mitigation gaps in current corporate programs, specifically that lack of meetings/events policies and Duty of Care for employees.  That message I delivered was not lost on an audience who was very well aware of the most recent situation of the missing Malaysian Airlines flight 370.  In case you didn’t read my most recent blog post about not having a Meetings/Events policy, the very notion that 20 Freescale Semiconductor APAC based employees were on board and now missing was a sobering dose of reality that anything can happen anywhere in the world.

If your company is global, even in the smallest sense of the word, you are at risk if you don’t have policies, processes and action plans in place.  Judging by the amount of people who came up to me after my session seeking more information, the message delivered was well taken. 

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Missing Plane Dramatizes Need for Corporate Meetings & Events Policy

Lanyon's Kevin Iwamoto says missing Malaysia Airlines flight 370 should spur companies to create meetings and events policiesI’m sure many of you have been watching news reports about the missing Malaysian Airlines 777.  This is a real-life situation that is incredibly tragic, especially for the families anxiously awaiting news about their loved ones on board that flight. Recently, a leading Asian media publication astutely asked me questions about SMMP and how this incident was a perfect example of why companies and senior leaders need to institute an SMMP.  Remember there were many Asian nationals on board that plane, including about 20 Freescale Semiconductor employees, and that immediately exemplifies why having a separate meetings and events policy -- from your corporate travel policy -- is so important. 

Just as corporate travel policies provide guidelines for the maximum number of employees, executives and contractors allowable per flight, guidelines on how many employees and executives can travel on a single flight to attend a conference, trade show or company-wide meeting must also be clearly articulated in a corporate meetings policy.  Losing your precious human capital and senior executives could result in financially catastrophic consequences.  Your company’s future strategies could also be in jeopardy if you lose key senior executives in a single flight.

If you still don’t have a meetings and events policy, you are behind the eight ball; don’t procrastinate any further.  Let the search for MH370 be a reminder that time is ticking and you want to be prepared and ready for a tragic event like this, not scrambling to figure out what to do.  For more on Risk Mitigation, Duty of Care and other best practices, read these additional blog posts:

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ACTIVE Network, Business Solutions + Lanyon = Lanyon

ACTIVE Network, Business Solutions Teams Up With Lanyon

On Feb. 20th, ACTIVE Network made an announcement that the Business Solutions Group of which I am part of would be split off from the rest of ACTIVE and merged with another Vista Equity company, Lanyon. The new combined group will be known as Lanyon. Since that announcement, the industry has been abuzz with chatter via social media, e-mails, news articles, etc.

The overall reaction has been overwhelmingly positive, most notably by leading industry analysts including my good friend Christopher J. Dwyer, research director at Ardent Partners, a leading supply management research and advisory firm. He went on record to say: “To capture, control, and manage meetings, events and transient hotel spend, the contemporary enterprise requires a series of end-to-end processes that address hotel and venue sourcing, analytics, reporting, spend management, and compliance. Once combined, the ‘new’ Lanyon offering can help procurement and sourcing teams gain a holistic, enterprise-level view of their events-management programs.”

But what does this really mean to the many entities that comprise the eco-system of our industry and marketplace?  I thought I would share with you my views as to how this will impact each key player in the eco-system.

C Level:  The new Lanyon for the near term will be the only true enterprise technology platform where senior executives will be able to receive and view their enterprise spend data not just for corporate travel expenses, but also for the first time, their meetings/events spend. Today, based on the maturity of the business travel marketplace and corporate programs, they are receiving tons of big data around their business travel spend, even boiling it down to what is known as “Total Cost of Trip”.  Today for the meetings and events industry, with decentralization prevalent at most corporations, with numerous point solution suppliers and disparate data gathering formats and integrations, it is very challenging to get close to a “Total Cost of Attendee” figure. The new Lanyon will be the only true enterprise cloud solution that will be able to provide that level of big data to the marketplace.

Travel & Meeting Buyers: The new Lanyon Smart Cloud technology will be scalable for your respective programs; your program maturity can incorporate functionalities and features as you need them.  You will be able to have smarter and more meaningful negotiations with your suppliers as you will be able to leverage your enterprise spend for not just your transient spend but also for your meetings/events spend.  In this day and age where the demand is outpacing the supply and the hotel and venue suppliers hold the cards when it comes to rate and amenity negotiations, Lanyon clients will have a significant advantage over other companies because their spend intelligence will give them better information to negotiate with their program suppliers.

Suppliers:  Lanyon customers will have better data and information to conduct more productive negotiations with you.  Intelligent clients who truly know and understand their buying patterns can focus on being more strategic in terms of relationship development with you.  Prioritization of responses to Lanyon driven eRFPs will result in better market share and revenue performance for your corporate agreements.

Procurement/Finance:  Lanyon’s technology will allow for optimal supplier rationalization especially for strategic sourcing initiatives.  Companies can easily eliminate 3-4 current point solution technologies servicing niche areas of  transient, meetings & events business with a singular enterprise technology cloud that is exclusive to only Lanyon. The cost savings and program management becomes less costly and difficult to manage resulting in a more meaningful and productive preferred supplier relationship.

Intermediaries:  The combined customer base for Lanyon is unparalleled and is the envy of the industry.  Working with Lanyon and our enterprise solutions will require little to no change management for your clients as the majority of them currently use Lanyon technology via their transient programs and/or via their meetings/events SMMP.

In closing I have to share a story with you. Five to six years ago, after leaving the corporate world to join StarCite, I recommended to our then CEO that we should look into purchasing or merging with Lanyon in order to produce a truly enterprise technology that could provide comprehensive spend data and functionality to corporate buyers as well as to the meetings/event buyers and planners.  Unfortunately by the time he looked into that possibility, Lanyon was purchased by Vista Equity.

Now fast forward to present day. Vista Equity also owns ACTIVE Network | StarCite via ACTIVE Network.  It is indeed a small world where the right things go full circle.  I am excited to be part of this historic merger as I believed in it many years ago.  I believe in the marketplace power of the newly combined Lanyon.  I am privileged and excited to be a part of the executive team that will transform this marketplace and drive the much needed convergence of players.  Please continue to watch this space as we prove to everyone that our strategy and roadmap for the industry is not just the best path forward; it’s the right path.

Resources:

Read more about the ACTIVE Network, Business Solutions merger with Lanyon!

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