The main office for Tubular is in London but we also have a satellite office in Bosnia where we work closely with a local university to support technology education and develop career paths for their students. I travel to our satellite office at least every four to six weeks which means that I have had ample time to perfect the art of business travel.
It is tempting to view travel time as a break from the office; as an opportunity to sit back in your airline seat and page through a magazine, read a novel or simply catch a snooze. The problem with this approach is that the business day does not stop simply because you are travelling – when you land there is sure to be a host of unanswered emails and messages demanding your attention.
Our team is highly-collaborative, we are constantly communicating with one another – whether we are in the same room, the same country or divided by an ocean – the flow of communication remains constant.
The Right Tool at the Right Time. After some trial and error, we have landed on the right mix of tools to keep our team synched and to support a continuous flow of communication and productivity.
Slack is a robust team communication app; we use it almost exclusively for all internal communication. After implementing Slack, our email traffic was reduced by nearly 70%. Not only does this make our inboxes much less foreboding, it also gives us more time to focus on the emails we do receive, which are now primarily from customers and potential customers instead of the guy across the room.
Staying on top of social media posts is a challenge even when I’m not travelling but mix in several hours of zero connectivity and maintaining our social media presence was nearly impossible – until I found Buffer. I load all of our social media content for the day while I am waiting to board my flight; then Buffer posts all of it according to the schedule I established. Tubular’s social media activity is seamless, even when I am offline.
I’ve talked before about Intercom before in an earlier Blog. We use Intercom for both internal and external communication and it is fantastic. Anyone with the application installed can communicate with a member of our team in real-time. If a team member needs to be offline, there is a simple delegation option that ensures messages do not go unanswered. Our team has even turned reacting to support requests into a contest because of Intercom – each one vying to be the first to address an open ticket.
The Tubular team is a huge fan of Basecamp and its founder Jason Fried; we have used it for at least five years to manage all of our project planning. I read Getting Real – The Smarter, Faster, Easier Way to Build a Successful Web Application, written by Basecamp’s founder, and it truly shaped the way I developed our companies. I followed it like the Bible and it became my inspiration for joining the SaaS world.
As a tool, Basecamp is amazing. It ensures that everyone is aware of what everyone else is working on all the time. It completely eliminates the need for status meetings and maintains team momentum even when one of us is offline while travelling.
Planning to Work – A Mindset of Productivity
I never stop working simply because I am offline or away from the office – I continuing working on planes and while in cars. Treating a travel day as a business day has some unexpected benefits; rarely do I have several hours of uninterrupted time to focus on a project and I take full-advantage of those opportunities while I am traveling.
Inevitably, emergencies will arise when you are least equipped to address them so developing a plan for those that are connected to address those issues is essential. There is no worse feeling than reconnecting after a long flight only to find that you have 18 messages from a customer that is experiencing a tech support issue.
Never Play Catch-Up
With the amount of travelling I do, it would be nearly impossible to do anything other than play catch-up if I did not maintain a consistent level of work on travel days. With all of the cloud-based applications available, there is no need to wait until you are “in the office” to work – the office is anywhere you have a connection.
Our own experiences traveling for business inspired the development of Tubular – we built our application to be just as supportive outside the office as it is inside the office. The native application ensures that users always have access to customer data enabling them to quickly make decisions and update the team on status changes.
The emphasis is on usability because we learned from our own needs – the more barriers to communication that exists; the less the team will communicate.
In a globally focused business environment, travel is inevitable. However, working with the constant stress of snowballing tasks does not have to be – use the right mix of tools and strategies to maximize travel days and never get stuck on the catch-up wheel.
All photos are taken from my Instagram Account