The MacNair Travel Leadership Blog

Designing the Right Team to Manage Your Travel Program

Posted by Mike MacNair on Nov 19, 2015 2:22:13 PM

Designing the Right Team to Manage Your Travel Program

Inherent in business success is the variety of personalities and talent that are brought together to create a service or a product – work isn’t “work” when the right people are mobilized for a purpose. Everyone needs “big thinkers,” to contribute to the brainstorming session; the “worker bees” can be counted on to be sure the list is made and followed. Everyone in business brings their strengths and weaknesses, and together they make a solid team.

With all of the great people that you have in your organization, the question is…who should be leading your travel management program? We’ve found that in organizations where travel is essential, but not organized, the administrative assistant or office manager is tasked with this job – along with the hundreds of other duties that require his or her expertise. Understandably, travel is managed on an “as needed” basis, and travel anarchy ensues, wasting valuable time and money for your organization.

Through our years of experience in the travel management industry, we’ve learned a thing or two about travel leadership. In order to manage this significant line item, a couple of things need to happen. First, a travel manager should be appointed to lead the organization and implementation of the travel policy and program. Secondly, and this is equally as important, a travel squad needs to be gathered who can assess, communicate and provide feedback regarding a business’ travel policies. This group should include people from all parts of the business - operations, human resources, and sales to name a few. When a leader can manage and lead, and have the support of the squad, travel becomes a benefit - not a curse - for your business.

So, how do you assemble this team of people to move from travel anarchy to travel leadership?

Empower the Travel Manager

This person is critical to the success of the program. They are responsible for gathering travel data, assessing strengths and weaknesses in the current program, and aligning the travel goals with the goals of your business. Ideally, this person should be able to extract big picture data and equate that with the travel and expense budget. They understand the overall strategic direction of the company and are able to effectively communicate travel goals that are critical to company-wide success. He or she is able to work closely with all departments, gather the necessary information.

They are invaluable to launch and evolve the program, knowing the critical success factors of the company and aligning them with the management of this sizeable business expense.

Assemble your travel squad

The travel squad provides input regarding the objectives of the travel program – different points of view are important to include in this group.

Include the Big Thinkers. These are the people who are always looking at the big picture, and tend to inspire their co-workers to do bigger and better things within the business. These people are usually in a leadership position and have a “say” in what strategically happens in your organization. He or she is well-respected and has a direct line to the CEO – which is critical when discussing travel goals and objectives.

An essential member of the squad should include the Worker Bee. He or she is someone who can be counted on to “get things done.” This person is always professional, always on time with assignments, and has a “to do” list where items are actually crossed off. The most important quality to have with the Worker Bee is the ability for this person to think logistically about your business’ travel management program. Everything from how and when to book flights to tracking unused airline tickets, the Worker Bee will ensure that travel policies are being followed without error. This person looks at each and every transaction that happens within your business’ travel program and is certain that it’s being done efficiently and saving time and money for the organization.

Watch What Happens Next

You’ve hired an effective and confident travel manager; your travel squad is assembled and includes thinkers and workers from throughout your organization. The pertinent departments such as finance, human resources, legal and sales are represented. This group is ready to roll, and when they get together, the following happens:

  • Travel options and best practices are discussed.
  • Preferred suppliers are talked about and agreed upon.
  • Travel and expense policies are vetted and made in the best interests of the travelers AND the business.
  • New ideas are discussed and approved/ignored at that moment.
  • The business’ value proposition is taken into account and applied with regard to travel.
  • Notes are taken, responsibilities are assigned.

Stuff Gets Done.

Precious time is saved and policies and procedures are improved. The travel management program evolves from something that is necessary in the organization, to something that actually benefits the overall business strategy by increasing productivity, providing traveler support and decreasing travel and entertainment expense. Now, does this group need to weigh in on each and every decision that comes forth after an initial travel program launch? No - but with the leadership of the travel manager, the travel squad can then spread knowledge about the program, collect valuable feedback and information from co-workers and road warriors, and most importantly ensure program commitment across a much wider audience.

In addition, your travel manager has the opportunity to enlist the help and expertise of a travel management company (TMC). A great TMC will offer best practices, expert advice and ask the right questions; but there has to be someone within the business who is empowered to get all the questions answered and achieve maximum results; the best being a significant decrease in your travel and expense line item, the 2nd largest controllable cost in an organization.

Driving Results Through Travel Management

We’ve found that this organizational scenario produces the best result when working through the details of travel management. I’ve witnessed travel squads where the members have been intentionally placed on that committee because of their commitment to the business and their overall strategic contribution to the team, and great things happen. I’ve also been in meetings that go absolutely nowhere, because the wrong people are involved, wasting valuable time and resources.

When your travel manager has strategic direction and support from management plus the tactical, hands-on dedication from support staff (or your TMC), and the input of an effectively organized travel squad, success is imminent. This situation makes procuring and managing travel an efficient, successful and essential piece in your business.