22/09/2014

By John Williams, Head of Breakthrough, Santander UK


Time has gone by and you’ve been busy firming up details for your trip. You have ticked off all items on the three month checklist and you’re nearly ready to go. This article discusses the preparations you need to make with just one month to go before the trade mission.

Now is the time to review your objectives for the visit — are they realistic and justifiable? You should now confirm any appointments made and ensure you are able to make the allocated meeting times. Half an hour between meetings will almost never be enough, and it is considered rude in any country to be late - the last thing you want in a series of important business meetings is to be in a hurry.

Attend the trade mission briefing, held approximately one month before the visit. Talk to the organisers about arrangements for press releases ahead of the visit, both in the UK and overseas market, as well as in-country transport, supplementary accommodation or any likely extra costs.

By now you will have done some cultural research and made yourself aware of any customs around clothing, headwear or behaviour. There are plenty of expectations around what men and women should wear in many markets, and some of them may surprise you. Familiarise yourself with significant cultural issues in your chosen market and don’t forget the influence of colours, body language and business etiquette. And when you’ve decided what you’re wearing, send the garments to the dry cleaners!

If you need to use local currency (and in some countries you may have no choice), find out what it is and how much seems sensible. Order it now and find out if there are restrictions on how much you can carry, in what currencies, whether or not you can move around the country with it and whether or not anyone takes credit or debit cards. Being eight thousand miles from home at midnight, faced with a bill for $1,200, a customer who needs a taxi and a card that doesn’t work is not the business traveller’s scenario of choice.

Now is the time to inform all the necessary people that you are going away. Your employers (if they don’t already know!), potential customers, suppliers and agents should all be informed, as should your bank and the relevant contacts within UK Trade & investment, as they can put you in touch with useful people abroad and suggest events to attend.

Things you need to know:
- Make sure you are able to access your home office whilst you’re away and that you know your email address
- Read up on jet lag — what it is, how to reduce it and what to do if it overwhelms you
- Identify contact numbers and email addresses for special circumstances — loss of passport, luggage, or a medical emergency, for example
- Search the internet and ask the mission organiser and the Embassy for information on any business events while you’re there. Check if you can go and whether or not it will cost money
- Confirm with your office how expenses should be handled — if it’s in advance, order it now; if it’s after your trip, make sure you know how to claim and keep all your receipts
- Buy luggage if you need to, including a hand-carry bag or briefcase

Things to remember:
- Buy any gifts you may wish to take, bearing in mind any constraints on gift giving, whether cultural or legal
- Make sure you have adapters if you need them for your electrical equipment
- Check the climate and make sure your wardrobe is appropriate
- Check on the passport/visa situation — has it arrived, is it for the right dates, the right country?
- Check where you are with translations, business cards, company literature and health precautions
- Check your personal medical and travel insurance — if your company provides it, check that too

Remember that the point of travelling is not the travel, but the business that comes as a result. Getting the most from these trips takes time and advance planning. If you follow these tips, you will be covering many of the key elements of your preparation one month in advance.