To my mind, travelling the globe for your business is the pinnacle of entrepreneurial success. Reaching new markets, meeting new people, experiencing new things- it’s living the dream.
It can also be ungodly hard on your finances. Sure, most expenses can be written off, but that doesn’t keep you from forming unhealthy spending habits. Below are the top financial obstacles you should look out for when traveling for business.
I can’t stress enough how important it is to become familiar with the currency of the countries you travel to. It shouldn’t even take all that long- on the flight to your destination, simply learn the base unit and how it compares to that of your home country. Even a cursory understanding is better than ignorance. Just to be safe, you can also install a conversion app on your phone.
If you saunter into Japan thinking that 1,000 Yen should cover you for the day’s expenses, you’re going to have a bad time. ¥1000 is worth less than 10USD. Conversely, if you think that 20 Kuwaiti Dinar isn’t much to drop on lunch, be advised that it comes to over 70 USD.
Even the difference between a US dollar and Australian dollar can cause havoc on your budget when you’re talking about a week long stay, let alone a month.
Know Your Work Expense
It’s easy to get complacent when you have a work expense account to use while traveling. The last thing you want to do is get called into your boss’s office to discuss why you’ve put $400 worth of Pocky on the company’s tab.
Before you leave, get clear direction from your supervisor, HR, or the accountant as to what acceptable expenses are. Some businesses cover all meals including drinks, while others refuse to comp alcoholic beverages. The act of verifying appropriate expenses will also help you get in the mindset of being financially aware.
Accident and Injury
One of my biggest fears when I did more globetrotting was that I would get injured in the field. I’ve seen coworkers contract illnesses and take spills that landed them in hospitals thousands of miles away from home and family.
Coordinating with medical professionals across the planet can be mind-blowingly difficult and expensive, so it’s important to be financially prepared for injuries large and small. In my case, I know that my accident insurance with GIO.com.au covers me worldwide, but not all carriers are willing to extend their benefits outside of their country’s borders. Check with your insurance company and be sure that the benefits you have at home can help you abroad.
Always be sure to have all your necessary insurance information on you, with extra copies to keep in your luggage and hotel room. If you are allergic to any medications, keep that information prevalent as well. If you are taking an international phone, then clearly mark emergency numbers.
For all of you titans of industry out there, you know that business travel is as much a social endeavor as much as a financial one. Forming partnerships, particularly business partnerships, is handled differently in cultures around the world.
Did you know that Korean culture is gift-oriented? When dealing with Korean manners, it’s considered impolite to fail to offer gifts to those who host you. You might need to spend more money than you planned in order to keep up with this atmosphere of generosity.
Did you know that you should plan on drinking every single night you spend with your Japanese partners? Be prepared to buy multiple rounds of drinks for your partners.
If you’re being sent abroad by your work, you’ll likely receive some kind of etiquette training. Regardless of whether your employer has offered such training, you should research the customs of the country you’re visiting so you can budget accordingly. If you are expected to buy gifts, meals, and drinks for potential clients or business partners, those costs should be reimbursed by the company.
Traveling for work is exhilarating and exhausting and rewarding. You can see the world, gain new skills, and build an impressive reputation. But it can also put a serious dent in your finances if you’re unprepared. As I always say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Look ahead and anticipate expenses before they occur- it’s the best way to ensure that your professionalism is reflected in your budget.