The stock market has collapsed and businesses are ratcheting back all costs. Yet the president of a Los Angeles software company, who's on a plane three weeks a month, isn't cutting back on his travel. He's flying more.
Michael Macho (pronounced mah-ko), who heads Mobile BIS, is like a fire horse. He can get a call at 6 p.m. from the chief executive of a prospective customer in Toronto and will be up at 3 am the next day to catch the first flight out of Los Angeles International to the Canadian city.
He says it wows the boss of the potential customer when the president shows up the next day to present the company's wares.
"You forge a relationship with top executives that you can't do with a conference call or an expensive videoconference," Macho said. "It makes a big impact and often wins you the business. Plus, I like the spontaneity."
Macho's firm, Mobile BIS, (www.mobilebis.com) designs software that can automate a company's manual operations from a handheld wireless mobile computer like a BlackBerry, Palm or Psion. In tech jargon, it's called an "enterprise solution." But Macho says that today's businesspeople have to be enterprising and organized on business trips, too.
As a near full-time road soldier Macho flies different airlines. His preference is American Airlines, with which he is a Platinum member of the AAdvantage frequent flyer program.
"American flies to the destinations I need to get to, has a special phone number for Platinum members, separate ticket and security lines and my bags come off first," said Macho, who buys a full-fare coach ticket and is upgraded to business or first class for his loyalty.
Macho is a flying office. He carries a Dell laptop computer at all times and a BlackBerry, both loaded with files that he needs for the trip plus hard copies. He prefers an aisle seat, does not eat but might have a glass of wine. Above all, for an intense, focused personality, he doesn't stress out while traveling.
Example: most of us are griping about being nickled, dimed and dollared nonstop by airlines. But Macho doesn't. "When you're dealing with a profit-and-loss sheet of a young company, you're more empathetic when the airline charges extra to recoup their fuel costs and other overhead costs that have been climbing beyond their control. I don't really mind paying $25 to check a bag."
In fact, Macho considers a long flight in business class or first class a chance to do some market research. "I listen to my customers and my employees and, traveling in the front, you are usually sitting next to a high-level businessperson," he says. "In conversation, I learn from them."
The Mobile BIS president is an Admiral's Club member and deems it his wisest investment on the road. Flying American, he often connects through Dallas-Fort Worth airport, known for storms, weather, periodic aircraft delays and possible long connection times.
"If I had to walk around the airport for two or three hours, it would drive me crazy. I want to be productive. In the club, I take a shower, a short nap and can work."
Macho walks the fine line between spending for productivity and saving for economy purposes. His assistant books flights on Cheaptickets.com and rooms on Hotels.com. "We don't stay at grandiose hotels, usually a Courtyard by Marriott, Holiday Inn, Best Western -- as long as it has a business center and WiFi." In Atlanta, he got a Holiday Inn Crown Plaza on Peachtree Street for $125 a night through Hotels.com.
He is also a longtime Hertz Number One Gold member, because they know exactly what he wants to drive and he's registered and ready to drive off the minute he gets off the shuttle bus. Waiting in long lines at car rental counters, says Macho, is also crazymaking. Plus he always has a car with a global positioning system, GPS, so he can punch in his destination and get directions.
Macho knows a lot of the quirks business travelers wrestle with, such as the two-hour security check-in line and the outrageously slow and snaking taxi queue at McCann International Airport in Las Vegas. When he's away on trip for more than four days, he hires a private car to pick him up as early as 3 am. "It's cost-effective when I consider I have to take my own car, burn expensive gas, pay $25 a day for parking. This way, I get up, pack clothes to change into, take a shower at the Admirals Club and I'm fresh and ready to go."
His parting shot: "Put some R&R into your business trip and eat authentic food." In Washington D.C., he hikes, sightsees and once took a tour of the White House. In Birmingham, Ala., he eats barbecue at Sneaky Pete's. "Better than anything I can find in California."