3 Questions Featured

7:00pm EDT November 25, 2008

Jerry Kathman is president and CEO of LPK, a large international design agency, and travels monthly to Germany, Switzerland, China or England, where the branding company has additional locations and clients. For Kathman and a number of the company’s 400 employees, travel is the norm and cannot be cut when the cost of travel rises.

Q. What are some tools your company uses to maximize your travel budget?

Use technology. Teleconferencing and videoconferencing is a win-win situation. There’s no travel, minimizes time used and pays for itself quickly. The current economic backdrop exacerbates the topic. If you have 10 meetings in which you would meet a client traveling by plane, reduce the trips to two and do the rest by teleconference. Businesses and clients are seeing more and more that doing everything at the local level isn’t always the best decision. They want innovation, and that may mean going outside of the state. This means either travel or technology will lead the business relationship. You have to be prepared equally to adapt to either need.

Q. Does your company have a travel manager — or team?

We have a person who arranges all of our travel in-house. For companies that need to be places fast, they need to have someone capable of taking care of travel needs immediately. When you have a staffer taking care of your travel needs, you can take advantage of the best rates at any time with any provider without being restricted by contracts.

Q. For a company that doesn’t have the option of reducing travel in its budget, what can it do to better manage its existing budget?

The scarcity of options is a concern and should be figured into the travel policy and budget. The unreliability of air travel has to be considered as part of the travel budget and consideration given to investing on technology. There are 25 percent fewer flights today as there were just a few years ago. If a company isn’t located near a hub, that makes the problem even more complex as getting flights you want when you want them (is) increasingly difficult. Airfare is at its highest cost ever, and the lack of careful management will wreak havoc on a disorganized budget.