In a world where it's possible to speak to almost anyone face to face via Skype, and emailing or messaging your business contacts any time of the day or night is commonplace, you might automatically see cutting out business travel as a way to save on costs.
Before you take a hatchet to your startup's travel budget, though, consider this. Sales executives and dealmakers the world over swear by the power of face-to-face contact.
The power of face-to-face meetings
In fact, when it comes to building business relationships and securing critical funding, the old fashioned methods of in-person meetings over meals or drinks still get high marks for their effectiveness.
It makes sense. Think of how much faster you can get to know someone when you're standing in the same room with them, versus trading voicemails and emails with them over a period of months. Trust is one of the things that is most easily established in person.
Likewise, you can spend an afternoon with someone and know immediately that they are not a good fit for your operation.
More tools make staying connected to your team easy
Through the proliferation of co-working spaces and the round the clock availability of high speed internet access, you and your partners don't have to be disconnected from what's going on while you're on the road.
Many digital nomads and heavy business travelers report that they often enjoy increased focus and productivity while on the road because many of the distractions and annoyances we face at home and at the office are not there.
A lower cost of living can make travel affordable
Many countries around the world may enjoy a lower cost of living than your base. If your contacts are located in Asia or South America, for example, your travel may actually mean a saving to your bottom line.
One CEO, Jay Meistrich, reports that during the year that he spent traveling full-time while building his startup, Moo.do, that his travel costs including rent and food, all added up to be less than the cost of renting his home in San Francisco for that same period. For example, an entire month in Chiang Mai, Thailand cost him a whopping $641 compared to the $2,400 he spent on rent alone in San Francisco.
While you may not be interested in traveling the world for an entire year, staying connected with the home office is easier than ever with all of the tools now available. Your entire team can share a calendar, or use apps like Asana, Basecamp, or Trello to share schedules and project details.
Conduct better market research
Travel allows you to research new markets in an up close and personal way. If you have any intention of opening up new international markets, you would be wise to get some first-hand knowledge of your potential new customer base. Not all markets are the same, and you could save your startup a great deal of headache and expense by trying to sell the wrong thing to the wrong people.
Anything that you learn about the cultures you travel to may even help spark your creativity and lead to you developing even better products or services.
In especially tight financial times, it can be tempting to fall back on technology like email and voicemail when maintaining business relationships over long distances. But the effort and expense of traveling has the potential to pay off in stronger working relationships, increased funding, and higher sales.