A decade of traveling – tips and tantrums

Decade of travel.

So yes, I have been on the road for nearly a decade and it’s been quite a ride. There are so many pros and cons with travel, there is an opportunity to see and learn but at the same time it can be a treadmill of 5am starts and long days, seeing only the inside of office buildings and the odd restaurant. I have always believed that if you take a leadership role at a global or regional level then you cant do that job unless you go see your teams, get to know your teams one at a time. You cannot moan about it, you cant let people know you are exhausted, you have to be on your game, every time.

Well why don’t we start by summing up the last few years according to British Airways. 

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I am often asked about travel, it’s synonymous with me, often an opening question when I see people. I find that interesting because the majority of it is not in my conscious, what I mean by that, is I don’t think about it all the time, it just is what I do. If I fly to Germany and back in a day that’s just like a commute to the office so to me it’s just another day, but to those following you it seems like a thing. I think that’s my overriding impression between business travellers and non – it’s a topic to discuss to an extent but changes from a question of interest with someone who does not do a lot of travel, to a more factual discussion on schedule. 

One thing that you do when traveling a lot for work is both form habits and observe others, as well as become very ingrained in your ways of wanting to operate, just ask Ashley my assistant! So I thought I would highlight some tips, maybe some observations and a bit of myth busting and then some differences between regular and non regular travellers. Please add yours in the comments!

In no particular order!

  1. Depending on where you live, drive to airport and park in short term, it costs less than taxis and they do loads of deals, it is convenient and close!
  2. Early flights mean having everything down to your keys ready the night before, especially important if you oversleep.
  3. If you drive yourself you can speed to make up time! Another advantage over taxis.
  4. Always take lifts in Heathrow, not escalators, all the pros take the lifts, faster
  5. Seat etiquette – big topic! Short haul, window, no exit rows – reason? You can lean against window for sleep. Who gets up in a 2hr flight? Well not me but some annoying person will choose to clamber over you if you do sit aisle. Never exit as the bag with your work life has to go up in locker! Long haul economy is aisle so you can get up and down easily, if business it’s window on BA but if you are on some of the old shit American flights with seats side by side then back to aisle. On long haul business on BA try and go upstairs on 747, quieter, better experience all around. 
  6. Tumi washbag which unzips at the centre and has clear plastic insides which in most cases you can do instead of plastic bags etc! I have one happy follower in Alex Altman on that tip.
  7. Long haul day flights, sleep enough to keep you up when you land to go out but not so much you can’t sleep in the evening. 
  8. Don’t talk to anyone. If someone speaks to you very early on a flight, answer, smile, put headphones on. 
  9. If you are BA business – don’t be shy to put the screen up, the person next to you will be happy you did it too! 
  10. Whatever happens don’t end up in the middle two seats on BA business, like getting into a double bed with a stranger in a suit.
  11. Don’t check bags! Holy jeez, if you are travelling with colleagues and you checked, you are truly the devil. I find it is mostly the young, trendy and non seasoned that check bags as they don’t have the simple business travel outfits and pack like they are on holiday. Some serious offenders out there.
  12. Don’t drink alcohol on flights – otherwise it’s like going to the pub every day. It also makes you feel like shit. Maybe one before a long haul.
  13. Use all those air miles for car hire on holiday rather than a small discount on a flight
  14. Walk straight into first class lounge in JFK if you travel business but are not Gold, they never check!

Jet lag? What jet lag?

I think the biggest thing that comes up is jet lag and it definitely gets harder every year but this is the fundamental difference between travellers and non travellers. Jet lag is 50% physical and 50% mental and in fact for infrequent travellers I think it is part of the fun of instagramming that you are wide awake in the middle of the night and talking about it a lot. You will notice regular travellers never talk about it because it is just part of the game and you have to ignore it or you would never get anything done. I am a big fan of doing exercise when you land and add that extra layer of tiredness which then helps you sleep, clears the head etc. Also use the fact you woke up earlier and get out for a run when going West. Jet lag at work Just needs some extra coffee and a busy schedule to get through. 

I am ruthless about going in and out for travel, no sightseeing, extra days, weekend stays, when you have a family you don’t have that luxury and if you are on the road a lot then you have to do that, at least if you want to hold down any relationship. So no travelling is not always great. 75% of trips start at 5am, flight, taxi to office, and then either team dinner, or taxi back and home.  No wondering around the ancient ruins, a day of pool time. If you then throw in delays, cancellations and extra nights stays, it gets boring fast. That said, I love it. I love it because it’s still a chance to see and feel a little bit of culture and learn something new. I learn about country behaviours and culture even in a meeting room. So a bit like jet lag I don’t moan about the bad bits and focus on the good stuff!

Working on the road is a bitch

Working on the road is something that you get used to, but again people who don’t travel, put their out of office on and go incognito for the length of their trip. Whereas those who travel a lot are constantly on, desperately trying to keep up with relentless inbound emails and at all times of day. I am always trying not to do lots of scrappy work and occasionally finding time to sit down and actually write something or at least think about it. It is the hardest thing to get right, avoid getting behind but not doing everything in a half manner. Emails definitely get shorter but better that than silence for days. There is nothing better than a full week at your desk..There are moments though when the silence on the plane, the quiet moments in a hotel can help, try and find time to think.

Things that always disappoint and annoy:

  1. When pilot says that we are early into Heathrow and isn’t that wonderful except that everyone knows that Heathrow does not do early so by the time they found a free slot, managed to get the steps over, found a bus, circled London, you are very rarely early.
  2. Buses. Shoot me now. The buses are the great leveller, First, business whatever, jump on that bus! I hate buses from flights it’s these small things that kill you when travelling
  3. Passport machines that don’t recognise my passport – at least 50% of the time 
  4. People who JUMP up when seat belt sign goes off!! Sit down and wait one second!! It’s not like we are calling a free for all to grab each others bags, the Hunger games of the airplane cabin, each grabbing for the best looking business bag! Just relax.
  5. People making and taking calls a lot. Just be normal and message / text them!
  6. Eurostar Wifi – horrendous
  7. Eurostar seats – come on! Headrests that are not actually headrests, sorry can’t bare it. I need to lean my head!!
  8. All my devices dying all of the time – so bad is it, I bought a suitcase with a charger as a last resource back up, but it’s so annoying because it always happens at once and always when you have to make a call.
  9. Airlines that hand out headphones and then want them collected back in, not sure why that annoys me but Just does. It’s the assumption they may get stolen, which in business should not be an assumption in my view!
  10. NUMBER 1. Irritant. US colleagues who don’t put their International dial code on numbers. HELLO??? When you are pulling a suitcase, carrying a bag, phone, maybe a coffee and you have a call, you just want to click on number and have it call – what you don’t want to do is copy and paste into contacts or dial pad, edit, add +1 because you happen to live in ‘rest of world’ work with us guys?
  11. No irons in room. No free WiFi in hotels. That kills me.
  12. Room inadequacies is massive! I want one switch, by the bed that switches EVERYTHING off, closes everything, you name it. I am amazed that almost all hotels think it amusing to have you hunt around trying to work out every light and every switch to every light and best of all not put them near the bed. Please, let me switch everything off in one go!! I have found about two places that do it!
  13. Never any healthy options in hotel room fridges, just sweets, chocolates etc
  14. Business flights with no power sockets – yes that’s you BA and your old planes!! How about buying just a couple maybe?

Well that’s my sum up to date, I would particularly love to hear any of your tips – tell me how to make life better! I am all ears!

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Bertozzi bytesize: 20yrs of agency, 20K minutes of sales – what have I learned?

I could have waited a month, six months, a year to write this but the biggest impact of jumping in cold water comes immediately, not after a few minutes, so I thought I would try to sum up my feelings about the change from agency to sales two weeks in.

This is not a blog about better or worse, it’s about difference. I am old enough and wise enough now to know that everyone goes to work every day and takes what they need out of work, you can only hope that you find a role that fulfils you, we spend a lot of time at work and being happy there, whatever the role is important. What I will be finding out I guess is whether I should have been doing sales all along, as many have told me, or whether I had it right first time. I feel like timing and choice of company will also impact that decision and I will come back to that shortly.

1.Clarity of focus

So 20,000 minutes later, the first thing that really strikes me is the clarity of focus. I used to describe that as ‘does it not feel repetitive talking about only one thing?’ But now I am in it, there is something liberating about having a clear focus on what your role in life is, it helps being in a brand as strong as Spotify admittedly, but nevertheless. Agencies have a lot of ground to cover and they have to be experts in many things which is hard and they do a great job of it. When I think of a planning director in an agency, they have to be strategic, understand everything from content to programmatic, keep the client service ticking over and that is not easy. That range of services and opportunities needs to be communicated to clients and so meetings have to cover so much and sometimes without the time to really go deep.  When I hear people say ‘I can never get hold of someone’ I suspect it is because they have shifted their time to their clients and not meeting everyone and their dog from the outside. What appears to be a negative, is likely a positive.

On the media owner side, dark side, partner or publisher side you are there for one reason. Everyone knows you are there to talk about your brand and your proposition, the challenge for us is that we have to do a good job of that, since that is all you have to do. As an agency executive I would expect sales people to know their product inside out, ideally know what’s happening in my business and with my clients and deliver a clear and persuasive argument as to why I should spend money with you. The clarity of that purpose is quite liberating. I was in a meeting with a large global client and for me the first thing was that the relationship of our two brands was a no brainer – our audiences complimented each other perfectly. That is something as a publisher, if you have that you should be confident of it, how you then connect the two brands is just a collaboration using all the assets we have available to a brand.

2. Pace of work generates energy

I expected the pace to be different for sure, agency life runs on a different, longer term timetable, different objectives and I expected to find that on the sales side, but there is a stark difference. Of course things are shorter term, but pleasingly mixed with longer term strategies running in parallel. On top of the pace of things though comes the energy which is generated – the communication is fast and frequent, the team support each other and there is a great energy, again connected with clarity of purpose. I think that is something that 20K minutes in, I am enjoying the most. The team has great energy and I love seeing them getting behind each other, both in country and across countries.

The time in CES which I was lucky enough to enjoy with some of my European band members and some of the US as well was a joy in terms of spending time with people who are all excited and pulling for each other. The Spotify space in Vegas was real quality and I felt proud to be part of the company and especially when combined with the great people I met who all welcomed me in. I am going to spend the next week with them in NY as well, which I am thoroughly looking forward to.

3. Numbers

Yes. Numbers are everywhere, this is a company built on understanding our business regardless of your level, sounds obvious? Well I think sales people who move to agencies may be surprised how relatively cosseted the equivalent levels in agency are from the business metrics behind what they do. At a certain level of course there is more exposure but there is so much to make sure you are on top of in a shorter term revenue business to make sure that targets are met than you would find in agency. At a large Google conference that I go to every year they split it into buy and sell side. This year it fell right on the change in my role and so I asked if I could swap and join the sales side tracks even though I was invited as buyside. It was interesting to me that on the buyside everything focused on what could we target, how could we use the data more, how can we join up channels etc. On the buyside it was far more commercial. How do we drive revenue for our valuable and scarce quality audience?

So you want to join the dark side? Well I am afraid I think it will depend on who and when you join. I wrote down the kind of company I wanted to join, and Spotify came top and I was lucky enough to get in the door. I feel comfortable in this environment because I can be passionate about a brand that is in the hand of the most sort after audiences for 2+hrs a day. I feel passionate about a brand that people love and that makes my job so much easier. The clarity of purpose suits me, the brand suits me, and the team is great so it works, albeit 20K minutes in! Agencies provide a powerful view of the landscape, you get to see everything, that variety is intoxicating so if you move to media owner side I would suggest go somewhere you care about and has a great offering, that more than makes up for the slightly more focused narrative. That said, I have enjoyed meeting some of the agency contacts I have been mates with for 20 years, that gives a whole new perspective on  things. I look forward to working with all those agency friends, I just happen to be sitting on the other side of the desk.