Has the pandemic changed how the value of travel purchases is perceived in your organization?
I think it’s more strategic now. Everyone cut travel first, and now they’re trying to resume travel. Your partners who have been there many times fail, they don’t have the capability at this point, a war with Ukraine, fuel prices, lack of pilots, whatever. Where in the past you were shopping around for prices and availability – most of these car rental companies are in the same airport you are going to – now you have to stop and say, who really is the right one [supplier] that’s not going to leave my people stranded.
Has there been a change in the way travel itself is viewed?
In the past, travel was just there. Everyone was trying to rack up points and find an excuse to go to Florida in the winter. Now, we consider it costs us money, and why travel when we can do these conference calls or whatever? There is value in travel. Personally, I like that face-to-face interaction if I’m negotiating a deal or a contract. I think it has a lot of value. To keep it valued, we have to show the company that not only do we provide this service, but it’s an affordable service when you start comparing it to what it looked like two or three years ago.
Are there any other roles you’ve taken on in the past two years?
It may not be so much in travel as in the way we process expense reports, it takes a closer look. We want to get our hands on what this expense report is really costing us, how much are we paying for food, cars, those frequent types of gas that don’t fill up. It’s a cost to the business, and it’s not managed, so we want to get that under control.
What have you done on the data side to achieve this?
We are doing a lot of new data projects. We’re moving to the cloud on our ERP systems, we’re also tackling the value added taxes that our travelers spend. There’s a lot of stuff in that data to get us money back in the organization, so we’re doing a lot of those things now.
In what ways have you become a greater resource for your business?
Certainly on the side of contracts and cost savings. These relationships from before our spin-off were never really revisited – once you’re a supplier, you’re still a supplier – so I took a look at those relationships, and some of them definitely need a change. Our goal on the supply side of the house is to save this organization as much money as possible and achieve the same level of service. Now, with inflation and all, it’s a much more valuable resource in general, whether it’s travel or not.
What internal relationships have you formed that have seen the most transformation in recent years?
The finance group has always been the finance group, and the only time they come to interact on the supply side is if there’s a problem. In the past they might not have paid much attention to the amount of money that was coming out for travel but they’re hearing these calls where I’m harassing these airline guys so we definitely have a lot more work close relationship, and this results in beneficial results. Now I have financial support and the magic words are, “I’ll save you money. Look at this.”