Finding new ways to cut costs is a constant challenge for many businesses, so in a series of posts we’re going to explore a few areas where you might be able to make some savings. To start with, we wanted to focus on business travel.
Business travel has been an accepted expense for so long because, until recently, the alternatives have simply not been good enough. Those of us who are old enough to remember the archaic video conferences of the early 1980s can probably recall many frustrating experiences marred by blurry faces and poor quality audio. Even when they did work as intended, video conferences often didn’t present a particularly efficient method of collaboration. While you could have a conversation with the person on screen, making tangible joint progress on a project was not much better than with a regular phone call, and poor quality video made attempts to read body language rather futile.
As a result, businesses were often left no choice but to travel to meetings, meaning additional expenses on travel and unproductive time spent in transit. Travelling by car or train to a meeting across town or even to the next city is one thing, but in many cases people still make expensive and timely international trips just for the sake of a two hour meeting. In an increasingly globalised, yet economically fragile world, these expenses can soon add up.
But it doesn’t necessarily need to be like this anymore. A whole range of tools now exist and are worth exploring if you want to reduce your spend.
If you want a face-to-face catch up with a contact, Skype can provide a way of accessing free video calls to anywhere in the world. Many larger organisations take this concept to the next level with high definition ‘Telepresence’ systems that make it seem like you’re just sitting across the boardroom table, even if you’re dealing with someone on the other side of the world. Collaboration on, or presentation of projects can also be moved online – services such as WebEx or Citrix allow you to share and edit documents in real-time, or give PowerPoint presentations to a global audience simultaneously.
The options vary in complexity and cost, from simple yet effective free tools, to fully featured collaboration suites. If you spend a lot on travel, the benefits could be worth exploring – and the technology isn’t just for large enterprises, SMEs can gain too. A great example is iSpot, a small business advisory service based in Scotland. With only six employees, growth was being restricted by the amount of time spent travelling to meet clients. By switching meetings to an online tool, employees have more time to focus on prospects and significant cost savings have been made – approaching £25,000 in saved travel costs on one project alone.
Each business operates in its own way, so replacing all business travel won’t always be possible. Indeed, human nature means that a degree of face-to-face communication will probably always be crucial to forging and maintaining business relationships. But for those times when travel isn’t necessary, you can make significant cost savings while increasing productivity.
If you’ve had any particularly good or bad experiences, or have other tips on how to reduce business travel costs, please do share your thoughts in the comments below!