Fuelling up for business sustainability

Business sustainability often disguises itself as a grand scheme that requires a wealth of resources to undertake and execute. Thus, many small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) owners and entrepreneurs who are fighting the daily battles in managing their business’ core functions like finance, operations and manpower, are finding it a stretch to integrate sustainability into their overall business strategy. One particular aspect that is increasingly pervasive but commonly neglected by SMEs is the management of their business travel policies.

In today’s globalized business landscape, business travel is inevitable, and even more so for SMEs that commonly deal with overseas supply chains or plan to expand to neighbouring countries. Yet, many are misled to think that the sound management of business travel, such as having a robust business travel policy, is only applicable to multinational corporations (MNCs), where a large number of employees travel on a regular basis.

When it comes to business travel for SMEs, a common scenario we often hear is that they turn to online self-booking websites for their travel and accommodation needs. However, in the hunt for the cheapest deals, travel buyers may overlook the string of conditions that are inherent to these deals. For instance, travellers may find themselves in the lurch when their flight gets postponed or cancelled and may end up spending more to overcome these obstacles. Even travel insurance, a paramount aspect of business travel, is hastily bought off an online vendor that may not be attuned to a business traveller’s specific requirements and needs.

These business travel practices are definitely not sustainable in the long-run. In fact, the management of business travel has become even trickier in the recent years, due to the number of terrorist attacks, natural disasters and aviation incidents, many of which are happening in the centre of the worlds’ key business hubs.

Big value for small businesses

SME business owners and entrepreneurs often take the managing of business travel matters into their own hands. However, this is not only inefficient, but also potentially risky for both employers and employees. Thus, one of the best options that SMEs can turn to, is a reliable travel management partner that beyond the mere management of travel bookings, can also provide business owners with an ease of mind by taking care of a traveller’s needs every step along the way, and to offer their service and expertise in any unforeseen situation that might arise during a trip.

Many have the misconception that engaging a travel partner means they have to pay more for the added service. This may not be true. In fact, a travel partner can help SMEs to negotiate for more competitive prices by leveraging on the bulk buying of tickets and accommodation that are usually only accessible to MNCs. This means that SMEs can, in fact, accrue cost savings by booking through a travel partner, along with enjoying the expertise of a travel consultant. This leads to lower travel costs in the long run and an additional resource at no additional cost to help take care of their business travel needs.

In the event of an emergency, business owners most likely do not have the full extent of the knowledge needed or a concrete contingency plan to efficiently respond to the situation. This could not only lead to the loss of valuable productive hours, but also potentially legal repercussions should it be found that the employer did not carry out the legal obligations or “duty of care” requirements as dictated by the law. With a travel partner, all these safeguards are automatically in place and, along with round-the-clock helplines to respond to any unforeseen circumstances.

Establishing a robust business travel policy and having the support of a travel partner from the onset of a business means that business owners can focus on their core business operations. This is often overlooked as business owners tend to underestimate the amount of resources required to manage business travel, leading to inefficient allocation of man-hours.

The economies of (small) scale

According to the think-tank, Network for Business Sustainability, SMEs are in fact the original sustainable businesses due to their proximity to suppliers, employees and customers. The bottom line is that size is their biggest advantage. With a flatter hierarchical structure, business owners have a greater influence over their employees and can drive change more easily. SME business owners should therefore, leverage on this to build a strong travel management foundation that puts their businesses in a good position to scale up in times to come.

At Flight Centre Travel Group, we are seeing more and more SME business owners and entrepreneurs who are realising the value of a travel management partner, be it a new start-up who are most in need of dedicated travel expertise or more mature SMEs that value an efficient travel experience. When these businesses are empowered with the right tools, expertise and technology to efficiently consolidate their business travel management, they can then focus on building relationships through face to face meetings that are essential to the growth of their businesses without having to worry about a manpower or financial resource-crunch.

By Flight Centre Travel Group