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2009
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Travel Smart

Posted by CommunityTeam Jun 5, 2009
Travel Smart
Ten tips for travelers on a budget

By Max Berry

Travel can be hard on a small business owner's budget, especially now that airlines are charging fees for once-complimentary services like checking a bag. But with a little forethought and a willingness to root out the best deals, your next business trip could take you through friendlier-not to mention more cost-effective-skies than your ever imagined. Here are ten tips for business travelers on a budget.

 

1. Appoint a travel guru
Assign someone in your office the task of compiling a bookmark folder of Internet travel tools and discount sites. Sites like Priceline.com and Hotwire.com come in handy for discounted airfare and hotel rates, while Hopstop.com maps public transit routes and offers taxi fare estimates for America's largest cities. When the need to travel arises, save yourself some time by letting your travel guru hunt for the cheapest fares and discounts. Once they've narrowed the options, you can select the itinerary that works best for you.

 


2. Research your destination

 

Base your travel budget on realistic destination costs rather than an arbitrary per diem. If you maintain a set budget for every trip you take, you may find yourself running out of money fast. Likewise, if you bring a Manhattan-sized roll of bills to Tulsa, you may find yourself with far more than you need. Do some research on the city you'll be traveling to; how extensive is its public transportation system? What constitutes eating on the cheap in your destination city? Sites like Yelp.com and Citysearch.com will help you gauge just how much your stay will cost you.

 


3. Negotiate

 

Priceline's name-your-own-price option is a valuable tool for budget travelers, but many hotel managers will negotiate rates directly with customers. Most innkeepers won't advertise this fact, but if you'll be staying with them for a prolonged period of time, you can use that as leverage to get a better price. Angle for your own "corporate rate" by telling the manager that the slight discount you're seeking may make the difference between staying with them or going to another property nearby.

 


4. Take advantage of special offers

 

Frequent flyer programs and credit cards that award points for hotel stays and airfare are smart moves for any frequent traveler. Also consider signing up for a mailing list or two. Sites like Orbitz.com send regular e-mails detailing featured discounts on airfare while most major hotel chains offer special deals to frequent customers. Not every offer will be of use to you, but if it gets you a deal on your next business trip, it will be well worth sorting through the bulk mail.

 


5. Plot a course

 

If you are flying to your destination and will need to take a car from the airport, check the likely cab fare ahead of time (Hopstop.com is good for this). You may also want to use Mapquest or Google to familiarize yourself with the most direct route. Some cabbies will take a more circuitous path in order to drive up the fare if they sense you don't know your way around.

 


6. Pack light

 

This is sage advice now more than ever. Many airlines are charging $15 and up to check even one bag on domestic flights. If you can squeeze everything you need into a carry-on, consider foregoing baggage check altogether. Or, if possible, fly one of the discount airlines (like Southwest or JetBlue) that still allow you to check a bag for free.

 


7. Car rental tips

 

A general rule of thumb for saving money when renting a car is to reserve the smallest model at the lowest price. If the agency runs out of compact cars, they will be required to rent you a larger model at no added cost. You may also opt to waive the insurance. While the added precaution couldn't hurt, chances are you won't need it. Plus, you may already be covered through your own auto insurance or the credit card you used to book the car.

 


8. For short notice

 

When traveling on short notice, check airlines' special offers pages first. If your schedule is flexible and you are open to the idea of odd departure and arrival times, you may be able to snag a last minute deal. This is especially true for flights in the middle of the week. Some discount airlines also offer walk-up fares that are considerably cheaper than those of their large competitors.

 


9. Exercise some discipline

 

It may seem obvious, but resisting temptations like the mini-bar, room service, and in-flight cocktails will add up to big savings. Just as little expenses you'd barely even factored into your budget account for much of your day-to-day spending, small services like these are designed to turn a profit on travelers who are tired, unfamiliar with their surroundings, and lack a better option. Don't fall for them.

 


10. When in Rome...

 

Once you arrive at your destination, try to take some cues from the locals. There will be no better authority on how to eat, shop, and get around cheaply. If the people you are doing business with live in your destination city, ask them for some advice. If the city you're visiting has them, local blogs and Internet message boards-not to mention Yelp-are excellent sources for advice on how to do as the Romans do.
How to keep your family business alive, prospering and-most importantly-in the family

By Christopher Freeburn

Entrepreneurs who have invested years of time, dedication, and resources into building a business often want to see that enterprise live on as a family asset even after they step aside from the actual operation of the company. Many hope to see their new business become something that each new generation of their family can inherit, passing the business from themselves to the children and grand children and beyond.

 

Unfortunately for these ambitions, the track record of family businesses is not good. "Keeping a family business alive is perhaps the toughest management job on Earth," says John L. Ward, author of Keeping the Family Business Healthy: How to Plan for Continuing Growth, Profitability and Family Leadership. "Only thirteen percent of successful family businesses last through the third generation. Less than two thirds survive the second generation," he adds, noting*, "Only five percent of all businesses ever started actually become family businesses through the appointment of a successor from the next generation."*

 


Many family business fail to remain under the control of the originating family because of changing market conditions, financial difficulties, or disinterest by succeeding generations. Most, however, fail to pass from one generation to another simply because the original business owner failed to plan for the smooth transition of ownership and management to successive generations.

 


The Necessity of Planning
The first step toward making sure that your business stays in your family after you step down is to develop a clear, well-considered succession plan that clearly defines who owns the company and who will run it once you leave. In fact, you should have a succession plan in place long before you consider stepping aside. Without planning, the business and family can be thrown into confusion or rancorous dispute in the event of a sudden and unexpected change in company leadership.

One reason many small business owners neglect succession planning is the emotional issues that such planning raises. Making succession decisions requires the business owner to choose who should get control or ownership of the business in the future. This requires taking a levelheaded view of the available family members to determine who among them has the requisite skills and temperament to manage the business, and who does not. Difficult questions have to be raised and answered: Who will run the business? How will the ownership of the business be distributed? Which family members will not be included in the business's management and ownership? The answers to these questions are sure to provoke some measure of hurt feelings among family members, since not every one can be the CEO.

Further complicating the planning process are the divergent interests of various family members. Not every family member may be interested in joining the business. "The natural desire of a child to steer a course independent of his or her parents can also nip succession plans in the bud," says Ward. A family business can also magnify family issues because the separation between family life and the workplace is thin or non-existent. "Human emotions such as pride or jealousy may become enlarged when work and home are intertwined," warns Ward. There may be disagreement among family members about the distribution of ownership or responsibility in the company. "These are emotionally trying issues for all concerned. As a result, many families abandon the effort at succession because they fear it will destroy the family," Ward says.

Nevertheless, proper planning is the only way a family can assure that a business remains in its hands over the long term. The sooner such planning is undertaken, the better. Succession planning should incorporate a variety of scenarios including potentially disinterested heirs, or a lack of viable family managers in succeeding generations. Putting together a plan in advance will help family members confront these issues as they arise in future years.

In order to increase the chances of your family retaining control of the business, your succession plan should incorporate things that combine family and business activities. For instance, creating a business-training program that offers young family members internship-like positions at the business during their school-age years is a good way to orient them toward participating in the business as they mature.

 


Family problems
"Many family businesses find that the family itself becomes a stumbling block," says Ward. "In later years, the family's growing financial demands tempt the owners to harvest the company's profits rather than reinvest them in additional growth." Over time, a family can come to see a business as merely an asset, rather than a place where they wish to continue working. In such cases, succeeding generations are often tempted to sell the business for an immediate profit to a non-related third party. This is the fate of many family-owned businesses.

 


Running a business can often exacerbate interpersonal pressures that already exist within the family.

 

"The rigors of business also sharpen such typical family problems as sibling rivalry or competition between generations," says Ward. Hurt feelings and ruined relationships can result from decisions made in the business, especially those involving which family members have what responsibilities at the firm. To some extent, there is almost no way to completely mitigate the fallout among family members from business decisions, since there is rarely a way to please everyone.

 


In the end, constructing a clearly defined succession plan as well as management structures and policies that have been spelled out beforehand will go a long way to reducing the natural friction that running a family business can generate.

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