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Please join us in congratulating the following members, who have been nominated to run for positions on the GBTA Board of Directors. Candidate platform statements will be sent to all GBTA Members in the coming weeks. The Board consists of thirteen (13) Members comprised of the President, Vice President, Immediate Past President/Chairman of the Board, President of the Chapter Presidents' Council, President and Vice President of the Allied Leadership Council, five (5) Direct Members elected at large, and two (2) Allied Members elected at large. The Executive Director & COO also serves as an ex officio Member of the Board. Below, please find a brief description of each position and, for each position, the corresponding list of nominated members:
President (1) – The President will preside at all meetings of the Board. This person exercises general supervisory control over the affairs of the Association. The President serves a term of two (2) years to begin at the close of GBTA Convention 2017 through the close of GBTA Convention 2019. All GBTA Direct Members may vote for these candidates.
The nominees for President are:
Christle Johnson, Vice President, Travel & Business Services, Johnson Downie LLC
Mark Ziegler, Senior Travel Manager, Global Travel Services, NetApp, Inc.
Vice President (1) - The Vice President presides at meetings of the Board of Directors and related committees if and when the President is not available. The Vice President is also a member of GBTA’s Finance and Budget Committee. Like the President, the Vice President serves a two-year term that begins at the close of GBTA Convention 2017 and runs through the close of GBTA Convention 2019. All GBTA Direct Members may vote for these candidates.
The nominees for Vice President are:
Rita Visser, Director, Global Travel Sourcing and GPO, Oracle
Allied Member at Large (1) – Allied Members at Large exercise the General Powers of the Association, as those powers are set forth in the Association’s Bylaws. Allied Members at Large serve a term of two years to begin at the close of GBTA Convention 2017 through the close of GBTA Convention 2019. All GBTA Allied Members may vote for these candidates.
The nominees for Allied Member at large are:
William (Billy) Bos, Associate Director of Worldwide Sales, Best Western Hotels & Resorts
Paul Tilstone, Managing Partner, Festive Road
Elections will be held Monday through Tuesday, July 17-18, 2017, at GBTA Convention 2017 in Boston. Absentee ballots will be available on June 2. The deadline to request an absentee ballot is June 16. All absentee ballots are due to Election Services Corp. (ESC) by July 11. Further instructions will be sent on how to request an absentee ballot in the coming weeks. Please also note, the deadline to register for Convention if you are planning to vote onsite is July 6.
The following blog post was sent out as an email to all Members earlier this afternoon.
It is my pleasure to write to you today in my new role as Chairperson and Past President. It has been an honor serving with all of you in an effort to strengthen our Association and our industry. I look forward to continuing the conversation in my new role.
As you know, we did not receive a quorum during the Annual Election at GBTA Convention in Orlando and therefore held a Special Election to elect new Board Members and vote on a proposed Bylaw amendment. We worked with a third-party election firm to develop a process that I believe worked extremely well and lessons from this will be applied to future elections. In the weeks leading up to the Special Election numerous communications went out via email, social media and the GBTA website to make sure every Member was aware of the upcoming election and understood the process. Online voting was open for 10 days to give each of you ample time to cast your vote and make your voice heard. This model helped generate a very strong turnout.
Without further ado, here are the results for the 2015 GBTA Special Election:
President Christle Johnson, CCTE, GLP, GTP, Vice President, Travel & Business Services, Johnson Downie LLC
Vice President Mark Ziegler, CCTE, GLP, GTP, Senior Travel Manager Americas, NetApp
Direct Member Directors at Large Bhart Sarin, CPSM, GTP, C.P.M., Global Procurement, Ingredion Incorporated Cindy Shumate, GTP, Travel Program Manager, Princeton University Karin Thompson, CCTE, GLP, Senior Global Travel Manager, ViaSat, Inc.
Allied Member Director at Large Billy Bos, Associate Director of Group, Worldwide Sales, Best Western International
Bylaw Proposal The proposed amendment to the GBTA Bylaws passed.
Thank you for your participation. GBTA is a member-driven organization and I greatly appreciate your continued support.
GBTA Chairperson and Past President
*The following blog post also went out as an email from the GBTA President and CEO to all GBTA members at 4 p.m. ET on August 7, 2015.*
Dear GBTA Member,
Thank you, as always, for your time and participation in GBTA. As promised, I want to update you on the next steps as we move forward with a Special Meeting and Special Election. As I said in my note last Friday, we did not meet the quorum requirement in the election at Convention. As a result, we need to hold a Special Meeting of the Direct Members and a Special Election to move the business of the Association forward and to elect a new Board of Directors as soon as possible.
Your comments, suggestions and messages of support for GBTA were greatly appreciated over the last week as we go through this process. We hear you and we know you care. It is extremely important that we all take the time to vote during the Special Election. Your voice is heard best by voting for the leaders that will represent you on important GBTA matters.
After much discussion this week among current GBTA leaders and with legal counsel, the Board of Directors met today to review next steps. The Board has approved a process to move forward with a Special Election to begin on September 15, 2015 with voting to conclude on the 24th of September. This extended 10-day window for voting will ensure that every Member around the globe has sufficient time to cast his or her vote.
Next week, you will receive an official notice regarding the upcoming Special Meeting and Special Election that will include voting instructions. Leading up to the Special Election, GBTA will also resend candidate platform statements as well as information on the proposal to amend the Bylaws.
As you may already know, since 2013, we have worked with a third-party election services firm, Election Services Corporation, on GBTA election matters. ESC will facilitate and validate this Special Election as well.
Your vote will help determine the future leadership and direction of the Association. The success of our Association is driven by you, our Members, and we need and appreciate your continued support. I strongly encourage you to participate.
*This post originally appeared as an op-ed in Global Business Travel magazine volume three, issue two.*
That's the name of the game at July's GBTA Convention 2015.
This year's Convention, July 25-29, is in Orlando, Florida, the home of Walt Disney World. Branding itself the "happiest place on Earth," Disney World is a place predicated on the concept of sharing. Its staff members work diligently to share happiness with all park guests. Epcot Center shares the cultures of multiple countries with park visitors. Tomorrowland, one of the areas within the Magic Kingdom, shares a vision of the technological possibilities in our future. The nearby MGM Grand Studios, with its Harry Potter-themed rides, shares a story that has captured the imaginations of millions throughout the world.
As befitting our location, the theme of this year's Convention is sharing - more specifically, #Sharing. We are structuring Convention to maximize the ability of business travel professionals the world over to share their experiences and successes in dealing with changes affecting our industry.
Like this issue of the magazine, Convention will address ways of adapting to disruption and the reconfiguring of paradigms. Because corporate and technological disruptors do not arrive on a set schedule, the work of a business travel professional is always dynamic. We must be ready to adapt or revamp our strategies in anticipation of or response to events. In the past few years, we have had to adapt to corporate disruptors such as Uber and Airbnb. Convention offers educational and networking opportunities to help all of us understand and respond with new, innovative approaches to programs and trade.
While GBTA's creative and talented staff members are still finalizing the details of this year's Convention, plans are already in place to build upon last year's innovations. To maximize the sharing of information and insights, we have made it easier to navigate the Convention through format and technological enhancements. The GBTA Expo will feature more than 400 companies from all over the world. Attendees can meet all their existing and potential suppliers in a single business trip - a tremendous saving of time and money.
Convention will offer a wide range of formal and informal educational opportunities. Beginning with Convention Kick-Start on July 25, Convention will feature more than 75 educational sessions. Attendees will be able to sit for the Global Travel Professional (GTP) certification exam. Those wishing to advance their careers further can participate in sessions that prepare them for designation as a Global Leadership Professional (GLP). Each day, some of the most creative and talented individuals in the business travel industry and related fields will speak at the Center and Arena stages.
I am particularly excited about a panel on the Future of Distribution, to be moderated by Dorothy Dowling, Best Western's Senior Vice President for marketing and sales. Dorothy is a veteran of the hotel industry whose responsibilities include overseeing Best Western's loyalty program, consumer and field marketing activities, advertising, public relations, and e-commerce. The panelists - Doug Anderson of CWT, Dave Pavelko of Google, and Scott Gutz of Amadeus North America - will address upcoming changes in the structure and business model of travel distribution.
Dorothy Dowling of Best Western International
Of course, Convention is also an opportunity to meet and network with colleagues in a more relaxed setting. The GBTA Foundation will be sponsoring its 9th Annual Golf Classic and Spa Day. We are working with James Beard Award-winning chefs to ensure fantastic lunches prior to the Center Stage speakers.
On top of all this, we will be taking GBTA LIVE! to the next level to enhance attendees' experiences. Look for more streaming options and more viewing stations. The entire Convention will be accessible via your mobile device. The My Convention Planner tool will enable participants to set up meetings with suppliers, navigate the Expo floor, search for exhibitors, and read about the many new products being showcased at Convention and yes, #Sharing.
GBTA Convention is the one place where key members of the entire business travel industry gather under one roof. Convention connects people who can provide services, and it provides an excellent forum for the sharing of important information. As one who has been in the business travel industry for 35 years, I view Convention as one of the most important investments in education, development, and networking.
I look forward to seeing (and #Sharing with) all of you in Orlando!
2014 has been quite a productive year for GBTA. Below are a few highlights of the many successes. As we wrap up the holiday season and approach 2015, I extend my personal thank you to GBTA members for your membership and engagement making all of these experiences possible. I would also like to send a special note of thanks to each and every member who has volunteered their time to advance our programming and our industry.
*This blog post was originally sent as an email to all GBTA members.*
It was great seeing and networking with so many of you in one place, under one roof. Nearly 7,000 attendees turned out and more than 400 companies showcased the latest in business travel on the expo floor. I continue to be amazed by the depth and breadth of the education we offer at Academy Hall. We heard from an impressive speaker line-up that included Jeff Smisek from United, Richard Anderson from Delta and Doug Parker with American Airlines. I was honored to be part of such an exemplary group of women on the executive leadership panel discussion lead by Mick Lee. We heard from other industry insiders too like Amex’s Bill Glenn, Concur’s Steve Singh, Google’s Dave Pavelko. And of course, I loved listening to Kevin Spacey and taking a selfie with him! I was inspired by Biz Stone and laughed (and held my breath) with Jason Alexander. It was thrilling to be part of the trailer launch for The Invisible Highway, scheduled to be released in 2015. Convention is truly the Business Travel Event of the Year!
We had so many wonderful events this year that I couldn’t possibly list them all here. Here are some of the highlights.The 10th Annual Legislative Symposium saw more than 100 GBTA members march on Capitol Hill to lobby Congress in opposition to a potential increase of taxes on the air traveler.The Europe Conference, held this month in Berlin, was sold out with more than 850 attendees from more than 22 countries around the globe. GBTA’s America Latina activities during 2014 excelled, resulting in increased attendance and solid revenue performances with events in México City and Rio in March, Sao Paulo in June, Medellin in August and Buenos Aires this past October. GBTA Canada also set attendance records. Our Energy, Resources and Marine Travel Symposium expanded and remains yet another important event for GBTA.
Committees & Chapters
In North America, the Chapter Presidents Council finalized the Chapter Charter and Affiliate Agreements earlier this year. This is such a huge milestone in GBTA’s history and one in which I am truly proud to have been a part of. These agreements mark the beginning of a journey for the Association and one which will benefit all of us. The work of the GBTA Committees continues to amaze and impress me. I have said this numerous times but the Committees are the jet engine behind GBTA. They continue to highlight emerging business travel trends that help to educate our membership on what is best to further our profession and the Association. The Committees have extended their leadership to the Chapters and vice versa in order to make sure that all resources are accessible, transferable and optimized to their fullest. At the end of the day, that is what GBTA is about: working together for the greater good of each other and the industry.
The House of Representatives unanimously agreed to GBTA’s argument and voted to stop TSA from removing the cap on charges related to the 9/11 Aviation Security Fee. The fight has now moved to the Senate where we will continue to advocate on your behalf. GBTA will continue to advocate against allowing voice calls on airplanes, increased charges on Passenger Facility Fees and airline consumer protections. Remember, advocacy is not a destination, but an endless journey.
GBTA's Legislative Symposium
Claire Blades, director of Global Travel and Meetings with Symantec Corporation was awarded the Direct Member of the Year Award. Caitlin Gomez, senior director, Global & Strategic Sales, HRG North America and Krissy Herman, director of program management at KesselRun Corporate Travel Solutions, LLC, were the joint recipients of the Allied Member of the Year Award. We also gave a much deserved Special Recognition Award to Jeremy Gardner, vice president of Business Services at Accent on Indianapolis. Mark Cuschieri, executive director, Global Travel Lead—USB received the GBTA Europe Luoma award. GBTA’s success is driven by its members and these five exceptional individuals have gone above and beyond helping make GBTA a better association.
Climb to the top with the GBTA Ladders program! This year marked the first year of this inspiring new program. The Ladders program connects business travel leaders with industry newcomers to facilitate collaboration and mentorship. I am proud of the overwhelming success of GBTA Ladders. This is a program where everyone wins! Speaking of winning, my peer and GBTA board member, Mick Lee created a non-profit organization called WINiT—WomenInTravel, which is a network of women and men who have come together to support the career development, promotion and visibility of women in the travel industry. WINiT sponsored a panel discussion on industry issues and I was fortunate to be a panelist. Keep your eyes on these two programs as they continue to flourish and make a true mark on our industry and profession.
With nearly 100 research studies conducted in 2014, the GBTA Foundation’s research program keeps producing insightful studies with a wide range of topics, from hotel dynamic pricing, to payment solutions, to business traveler mishaps as well as proprietary partner research and internal GBTA research such as post-event evaluations. In addition to conducting research studies, a dedicated Research Librarian helps members navigate the more than 1,300 resources available in a state-of-the-art digital resource library maintained by the GBTA Foundation which houses articles, reports, studies, webinars and more, all related to the business travel industry. The Foundation has funded more than $1.4 million in research this year alone – a profound investment for the future of business travel management.
On behalf of the GBTA Board of Directors and GBTA staff, we thank you for all of your contributions and your continued support during 2014. One of our many goals for the coming year is to find new and innovative ways to address the needs of our membership and to bring best practices to the forefront of our Association and our industry professions. I wish you all a joyous and peaceful holiday season and a successful 2015.
As the east coast was hit with a Nor'easter and the west coast was hit with a ferocious storm last week, we are reminded that difficulties and obstacles can arise at any time. Our most recent issue of Global Business Travel Magazine highlighted the importance of travel risk management covering everything from kidnapped executives and traveling through danger zones to natural disasters like the ash cloud. In the magazine, I shared my experiences as the Director of Travel Services for Dominion Resources during some historical major storms – Hurricane Isabel and Hurricane Katrina – and talked about what I learned from these when it comes to emergency response and risk management. I would like to share those experiences with you here as well.
A special thanks to the GBTA Risk Committee who also contributed to the Magazine's Risk Issue (check back next week for their expert advice on duty-of-care best practices) and to all Travel Managers who place an emphasis on the safety and security of their workforce in their programs.
*This article originally appeared as an op-ed in Global Business Travel Magazine Volume Two, Issue Five.*
On September 18, 2003, Isabel made landfall in eastern North Carolina as a Category 2 hurricane. It will be remembered not for its intensity but for its size and its broad impact on some of the most populated areas on the East Coast. When it hit land, Isabel was the size of the state of Colorado. At the time, it was one of the costliest, deadliest, and strongest hurricanes ever to hit the United States. It had wind gusts of more than 100 miles an hour, toppled hundreds of thousands of trees, and ultimately caused $5 billion worth of damage throughout the Mid-Atlantic region. I have worked as the Director of Travel Services for Dominion Resources, one of the nation’s leading energy companies, based in Virginia, for more than 27 years. Isabel wasn’t my first hurricane nor would it be my last. The weather service had predicted the storm about a week before it hit land, and people prepared the best they could. Still, more than 1.8 million of Dominion’s 2.2 million electric distribution customers—that’s 82 percent of our electric customers—were left without power. In some rural areas, entire counties were in darkness.
Getting things back to normal was a huge undertaking. We needed to mobilize all of our own crews and call on mutual aid from other utilities. My team and I initially coordinated the aerial support to assess the extent of the damage. Then we needed to find appropriate lodging space for the more than 12,000 contractors and mutual aid workers involved in post-hurricane cleanup efforts. We booked about 4,500 rooms per night—more than 75,000 room nights over a period of two weeks. Given the intense demand for hotel rooms (FEMA officials, Red Cross workers, and insurance company representatives were also coming to the area), the reality was that many hotels’ power and phone service were out, which made finding rooms extremely difficult. Needing over 3,000 rooms the first weekend, my team had to be resourceful and innovative. We were prepared to use non-traditional shelters, such as schools and armories, and track down the necessary supplies to make people in those facilities as functional and comfortable as possible.
I cannot overstate the importance of having a corporate travel risk plan in place for an event such as Isabel. Our pre-planning allowed us to be nimble and respond quickly and effectively when the magnitude of the storm became apparent. We learned lessons and refined our plans that stand in place today, and we drill them regularly. Our overall success resulted from the relationships we had built with our hoteliers and ground service partners, internal groups, and each other. Dominion’s experience-based travel risk policy and procedures, our staff ’s hard work, and our ability to respond enabled us to turn the company’s greatest natural disaster into one of its greatest success stories.
Our experience with Isabel prepared us to handle an even more devastating storm two years later. Katrina struck the Gulf Coast as a Category 3 hurricane on the morning of August 29, 2005. Dominion E&P’s offshore business was located in the Gulf. Like many residents, our employees were scattered across seven different states, and they desperately needed lodging. I flew to Houston, where for three weeks we worked around the clock to secure housing, furniture, and household items in order to get our displaced employees moved to the area.
Hurricane Katrina - Photo Credit: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
A corporate travel risk policy should be a fluid document, one that gives the travel manager considerable flexibility and latitude to act. In short, the travel manager needs to be able to tell people what they need before they know what they need. For the travel professional, that knowledge comes from first-hand experience as well as ongoing work with appropriate business units to understand their needs and priorities, especially in times of crisis.
Anticipating and planning for various scenarios are critical pieces of the recovery process. Having resources in place and the flexibility to allocate them quickly to the areas where they are most needed can be the difference between success and failure.
Isabel and Katrina were significant and defining events in the course of my career that instilled the importance of a keen focus on emergency response, business continuity, and travel risk management in general. No one wants to think about hurricanes, plane crashes, or terrorist attacks, but we must be prepared for today’s realities and find a seat at the table within our organization’s leadership, providing relevant and lasting results to our core business. We need to be part of the “go” team.
I originally shared this as an email to all GBTA members and wanted to also post it to our blog to recognize these four great individuals.
Among the notable events at this year’s fantastic Convention were four separate award winners. I would like to call special attention to each of them and recognize their hard work and efforts that propelled them to receive these awards.
Claire Blades was this year’s recipient of the Direct Member of the Year Award, which is given to a buyer member who demonstrates unwavering dedication to the Association and to the travel management industry and whose actions have significantly helped to advance both. Claire is the director of global travel and meetings for Symantec Corporation and has served on the GBTA North America Sustainability Committee for the past six years, the last four as chair.
Claire made her mark on the committee and on GBTA by working on the transition and integration of Project ICARUS into the GBTA family. She has devoted countless hours to GBTA and its members and has set the stage for the growth of corporate sustainability initiatives in North America and across the globe.
Claire is a successful professional with a demanding job and a young family, and is a passionate volunteer who still finds time to command leadership roles at GBTA. She is a stunning example of someone who can do it all!
Caitlin Gomez and Krissy Herman were this year’s Allied Member of the Year award winners. Caitlin and Krissy were the brain trust behind the GBTA Ladders Program. Their idea for GBTA Ladders was to develop a program to create an environment that facilitates the exchange of ideas and invigorates interest in the business travel industry among the next generation of professionals.
In its first year, the program put together a highly competitive group of applicants and paired them with an equally impressive list of mentors. Each team had to develop a presentation and present it to a set of experts within the industry. These judges rated each team’s presentation. The three teams with the highest scores gave their presentation to the entire group of Ladders participants, who determined the winner.
GBTA is proud of this innovative program, one that will help develop the passion and skills of new professionals to enable them to solve some of the major challenges facing business travel today and tomorrow. Caitlin and Krissy’s work are great examples of leadership and innovation at its best.
Jeremy Gardner received a special recognition award. We don’t often give out a special recognition award but as I told Convention attendees, we don’t often have members like Jeremy. Jeremy’s reputation for hard work and valuable insights are widely known throughout the association. My fellow GBTA board member and co-chair of the Chapter TaskForce, Doug Payne, highly recommended Jeremy to serve on the Task Force. It wasn’t long before we tapped his many talents.
The Chapter Task Force set lofty goals, ones that challenged all of us for the better part of two years. Through Jeremy’s dedication, determination and diligence, those lofty goals were met. The Chapter Task Force succeeded only with the full engagement of the Chapter Presidents Council, Chapters and Affiliates throughout North America and yes, Jeremy! He was the architect of the financial modeling and the chief change agent and spokesperson for all key shareholders.
He dedicated countless hours as a volunteer while balancing his family business and his personal commitments. He holds no punches; he is direct and strives for what is best for everyone. Jeremy is a great example to us all!
Congratulations to these four exceptional GBTA Members, and I want to express my deep appreciation for all GBTA volunteers who deliver excellence in leadership every day.
I’m excited to announce that today GBTA unveiled an important new networking resource for the industry – The Global Leaders Directory 2014. The Directory is the very first of its kind for the business travel industry!
This new resource will enable you to connect with key leaders in our industry: directors, corporate officers and members of various committees, task forces, and advisory boards around the world. The Directory contains contact information for hundreds of travel professionals as well as LinkedIn profiles for you to access.
When we started compiling the “Who’s Who” list of our global volunteer leadership network, it struck us just how global GBTA has become and just how many people are helping to drive our vision. The leaders included in this directory promote the sharing of ideas and information needed to support the on-going growth of our organization, as well as the continued expansion of the global business travel industry.
On behalf of all of our members, I want to thank all those that have worked tirelessly in taking this project from a really good idea to a really great resource. Volunteers are the life blood of this organization. Without their contributions, GBTA and the business travel industry would not be where we are today. So, as well as acting as an effective resource for our members to maximize their global network, this directory also acts as a celebration of our volunteer community.
We hope this resource proves a valuable tool that serves as an additional connection to an extended and vibrant global network of travel professionals. Members can find it on the GBTA Hub and nonmembers may access it at gbta.org.
Here is our third blog post in our series from the finalists from the GBTA Ladders Program.
Every few weeks, I find myself boarding an airplane. Like so many of you, I’m sure, it’s a ritual of sorts. You’ve done it so many times…arriving at the airport, parking your car, navigating the shortest TSA lines, making your way to the gate and onto the plane…that I doubt you give it much thought. Those flights are usually early in the morning or late at night and those business trips are something most of can’t live without.
I think a lot about trips. I run sales and marketing for a product called TripCase. In fact, we refer to our product as the place where trips live. The trip we take when we board an airplane and soar across the country or world is habit-forming and somewhat addictive. As frequent business travelers, we love to travel, to plan our next trip and navigate the airline frequent flyer programs. It’s the reason so many of us have been in the travel business for so many years. Just imagine being tethered to a desk…escaping only for an annual family vacation? Aghhh! I was asked to write this blog about anything I’d like. The timing was ironic. I had just returned from a Sabre airline conference in Vancouver and it was my first time visiting that beautiful city. The conference was a good one, but upon returning to Texas where I live, I found out my grandmother had passed away. She was a wonderful woman who lived a very long life. Her passing was expected, as her health had deteriorated over the last several years.
As a result, I found myself this week planning a trip for which there was no airplane, no meetings, no excursions, no colleagues, and no agenda other than to celebrate the life of someone my family dearly loved. I was traveling home, to a place that I grew up. I was slowing down for two days and taking a trip for which there was no airplane and no routine.
As a business traveler, I feel like I’m always in a rush. I’m hurrying to the gate, to the meeting, to get home, to beat traffic and to see my children before they go to bed. Often when I board a plane, I don’t so much as glance at the people around me. I don’t know whether they are going home, going away or coming back to a place they called home or haven’t seen in years. This self-imposed sense of urgency is what makes business travel stressful, at least for me. It’s why I suspect people blow up at the flight attendants or anyone else that stands in front of them and the destination for which they are headed.
All the data I’ve seen indicates that the very definition of a business trip is changing. The lines are blurring. No business trip is strictly business and vacations are often interrupted with work. So this past trip, full of family and people I hadn’t seen in years, was an opportunity to reflect on the way I travel for business. I’m going to slow down a bit on my next business trip and I’d encourage you to do the same. Arrive at the airport early, don’t sweat the traffic, see something you’ve never seen, try a restaurant that you’ve been recommended, and speak to the people around you. Remember that trips are business…but travel is personal. In short, love not only the trips you take, but the journey you’ve been given.
Will Pinnell is the Director of Mobile at Sabre.
As promised, here is the second blog post in our series from the finalists from the GBTA Ladders Program. Great Advice! Thank you, Damar!
I’m sure you figured out from the title that I have been part of the corporate travel industry for almost eight years now. I had the privilege of spending the first seven with GDSX and the last year with Concur by way of acquisition. Over time I’ve had the opportunity to consider lessons learned and would like to share that guidance with you.
Go to Our “Super Bowl”
This is really not an exaggeration — the annual GBTA convention is the pivotal event for the corporate travel industry every year. Every major and minor player is in attendance, and you can guarantee that some of the richest information is shared over the convention’s four-day run. Whether through press releases, education sessions, in-depth exhibition floor discussions, or late-night chats in hotel bars, you can gain a wealth of knowledge. Add to that your ability to network and rekindle past friendships, and the convention is well worth the cost. The downside: It’s a massive event. Plan your time carefully. Figure out whom to see and make an appointment. Strategically choose the parties you will attend and be sure to thank the hosts. But most of all — have fun! (Caution: If you are working a booth on the exhibition floor you may need to limit your “fun” a bit more than those who are not. Discussing the benefits of your product offering may not be as impactful if you are exhausted and functioning on too little sleep.)
Who You Know Is as Important as What You Know
If I had a dollar for every time someone said, “This is an incestuous industry. . . .”
However, it is true. I have seen that once you go through the experience of learning the intricacies of corporate travel — as an agent, automation expert, ops manager, etc. — you have a valuable skill set. Most people are smart enough to stick around and offer their assets to another company that could benefit from them rather than start over in a new industry.
Knowing that, you have to be darn sure you manage your reputation. Don’t burn any bridges! We are so interconnected that it is standard procedure for someone to call up their old friend — and your previous coworker — and ask what type of employee you were. The former competitor that you were locked in a bitter rivalry with may someday be your colleague! (Shout out to my new friends from TRX.)
Network at every opportunity and make sure you add your new contacts to LinkedIn — it will help you connect the dots to others you need to know. Always, always, always know who you are talking to; it is no fun to find out the lady you just offended by your off-color joke is the one who will make the buying decision on your software.
Free Your Mind and the Rest Will Follow
Learn as much as you can as fast as you can. Go to your local Business Travel Association chapter meetings. Keep up with industry news, attend webinars, and check into industry certifications such as the CMM or GLP. Take the opportunity to pick the brain of the person down the hall who’s been around the block a couple times. . But don’t stop with what the present state of the industry is; figure out how to shape its future. Even if you don’t agree with them, follow the blogs or posts of those people who like to stir the pot: Craig Fichtelberg, Scott Gillespie, and Miriam Moscovici, to name a few. They will get you thinking in new and different directions.
Pay attention to the startups in the industry. It is fascinating to know that industry veteran Steve Reynolds and a relative newcomer like Evan Konwiser both have made significant contributions to our industry over the past few years. Realize that niche opportunities exist and are waiting for savvy businesspeople to seize them.
Take every chance to recruit people from outside the corporate travel ecosystem. Fresh blood means fresh ideas; our industry will benefit from the diversified experiences. Our success and ability to adapt is directly proportional to the diversity of our people.
Be True to Yourself
I want to leave you with one last bit of advice. Find your purpose and never compromise your core values. At the end of the day that will determine your peace and happiness, and our whole industry will be better for it.
Damar Christopher is a Director of Client Services for Concur | TMC Services