The Ed Eppley Experience
The Ed Eppley Experience

Episode · 1 month ago

Ed's Secret Weapon for Business Travel

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

This episode of TEEE, isn't about professional management or leadership. It's about the crazy and ever changing world of business travel. Most people know I travel a great deal. (I'm over a million miles with Delta.) I often get asked for recommendations about travel. No matter what advice I might offer, I always suggest they subscribe to Joe Sent Me. For almost 20 years, Joe Brancatelli has been offering up great business travel advice. No one, and I mean no one knows more about the best way to spend your business travel dollars. Business travel isn't always enjoyable. Sometimes it stinks. Listen to this episode and learn from the best expert. Also, if you decide to subscribe to Joe's monthly service, mention that you heard about this from Ed Eppley and he'll reduce the annual rate from $149 to $99! 

Welcome to the Ed Epley experience, 20minutes that simplifies the complex job of managing and leading people andinspires you to take action on what you probably already know to build andsustain a smart and healthy business. Here's your host, Ed F lee to introducethis week's guest and business Leader. Welcome to the Epley Experience. Yourchance to get new ideas that will help you run a more successful andsustainable business. But today we're not necessarily focused on managementand leadership as we traditionally do. Instead, I wanted to share with you aresource that I've used for. He may have to tell me how long I've been amember of the the resource that provides, but joe Brancatelli. He's anitalian, he's a he's somebody I count as a friend in the travel world, eventhough this is our first time actually seeing each other face to face. Butwe've talked for a number of years, joe is a resource in the travel world andhe has a website I shouldn't say website as a newsletter called joe sentme and that's how I find out about stuff I need to know about in the worldof travel. And as most of you know, I travel a lot for business and pleasure.And so joe has been a resource that's helped me find smarter better ways tospend my dollars when I travel both personally and professionally. So joewelcome to the Ed Epley experience. Thank you Ed and thank you for sayingthat I've helped you because that's what we do. It would be a waste of timeif we didn't. Yeah, you do it well. And, and um it's hard to describe thepassion that you have for the work you do. It's where does the passion comefrom, joe? Is that something you've always had about? Travel? I well, I Idon't call it travel Ed. As you know, as a business traveler when we'retraveling, we don't think of ourselves as travelers. We think of ourselvesthat has business people in remote...

...locations and very few places in thetravel world. Deal with that. You know, it's much more fun to, you know, writeabout how wonderful Frances or the, you know, the amazing food in this otherplace or what great views you can have from a hotel overlooking the champs deElysee in paris what it doesn't, what these resources don't tell you about ishow bad is the coffee? And does the conference room have wifi? And theseare the things that our business traveler lives on. Not the views fromthe hotel room in the shams Elyse, but how early does the coffee go on? So Ican start my morning at five a.m. Paris time when it's still say 11 PM in Hongkong. When when did you first start advising others? Was that something youwere doing informally? And then all of a sudden you went, well, I, I want todo this more formally. How did that work? Well, I was as you are a traveler,a business traveler. I'm a journalist. And I was have always been one of thosejournalists that people would parachute as we call it into places. It's like,okay, so Afghanistan's breaking down joe go over there and write aboutAfghanistan when I started doing this Or people would assign me. It was theearly 80s and the only resource out there was a thing called the PocketFlight Guide. And with the Pocket Flight Guide came a magazine calledfrequent Flyer magazine. And it was different than the other publicationsbecause it focused on the business travel experience. In those days,nobody would spend $350 for a little pocket guide full of schedules. We're abusiness traveler. I was stunned and thrilled one day in the mid eightieswhen they called me and said, Hey, we've read your stuff in Newsweek andyou know, time and other places where I...

...was working, we'd like you to help usweirdly about non travel things. The first two pieces I did for frequentFlyer, we're about uh telephone systems and personal computing, which were toareas that were beginning to impact business travel, but that the travelwriters knew nothing about. And basically I found a place where I couldwrite about the life I was living that wasn't all that much different from theother people we were meeting on a plane if I didn't know you. Ed and I wouldn'tknow you. We know each other by email, not by sight, we would sit down andmaybe at the next, you know at adjacent seats at a conference or maybe on aflight. And the first thing we do is start complaining about our life on theroad, how terrible it is, how difficult it is. And that's where joe sent mecurrently lives. That's what we do. The un fun unfriendly um pretty stuff thathelps you get your life on the road a little better, A little more productive.Who is your avatar? Your ideal member? Is it somebody like me that travels alot frequently or is it what do we look like? The perfect member. Ed is amember who did what you just did at the beginning of this podcast and said, youknow joe's help me out. Joe sent me is determinedly obstinately aggressivelynoncommercial. We don't take advertising, we don't trade links, wedon't promote, We don't track what people read. Okay, we put outinformation that we think can help Travelers. So the best trout, the idealJoe sent me a member. As someone who writes me a note saying, Hey, you savedme $50 on that fair. Thanks a lot or for the same amount of money. I got ahotel room that was three blocks closer to my conference and much better bed.That's the perfect member. And there is an art to the world of travel. There is,it's not purely science, there's...

...nuances to it and it's always in flux.There's always things changing. And so finding somebody who has their fingeron the pulse of both the airlines, the hotels, the lounges, things that nature,that's been a wonderful resource. I know when joe put something on the inthe newsletter every friday afternoon, it's meaningful. It's got substance. Ii it's one of the few that I always read, you know, is it safe to sayyou're not a big fan of the airline industry? Well, I I don't think thatany traveler, any business traveler, any business person can be a fair, afan of the airlines From the top line, as we have learned in the last year, asthey've taken about $80 billion dollars in taxpayer revenue as a thank you forexisting, They privatised the profits and socialist their losses. This hashappened for all of the 30 years that I've covered business travel, it'salmost 40 years now. They never want to earn their losses, they never want toown them. And when they make money, it's all there's so from the businessangle, that's why we don't like airlines, from the very personal angleas a traveler on business, the first thing you need to know is that theentire system is literally rigged against you. Business travelers are perhaps 20% ofthe volume, but you know, in the old standard there, 80% of the prophet andwhy are we business travelers that much of the prophet because the farestructure is tilted against us. They used to do it with saturday night staysnow, they're sort of getting it. And of course no business traveler wants tostay over at a conference location, you know, in february in Minnesota. Umanother day if they don't have to, they want to go home and live alive. Um Nowthey do it in different ways with things like basic economy which theyknow a business traveler would never...

...fly because it's so repressive. I meanliterally the airlines have created a kind of fair that are so ugly, theydon't expect you to buy them. That's a strange business for those of us rightabout business and those of us who live business are their defining moments inthe evolution of the airline industry that you kind of look at on this date.It got even worse on this in this moment. It took another turn and andand and went even further into the unfriendly direction. It's gone, well,you know, it's interesting that you bring that up before the pandemic,which of course changed everything again. I sat down one day and tried tomake believe you could take business travel and make it history. Yeah. And Ithink that you have, we have to go back to 1978 when the airlines wereregulated commodity in this country, they lived in a car cost plusenvironment. So they never had to think very hard, Right? Yeah, there's, thereare costs. We had 10% and that's how we make money, 1980 they becamederegulated. And here were these hothouse flowers who lived in a crossplus environment, suddenly dealing with the concept of competition. Now this isprimarily the airlines, hotels, car rentals and the other documents. I'vealways been competitive. But the, my bad metaphors, the airlines drive thebus, their mentality over ranks everything in the, in the britishtravel world. So you go to that and I think at each stage when there's beenan eruption, you know, the first gulf war, The Second Gulf War 9 11, Themeltdown financially of 2008, you can look at each one of these things As anepic in business travel and business travel has changed. And certainly whenthe rest of us get back on the road, I know you've been traveling as muchafter this pandemic business travel...

...will look nothing like what it was in2019. It's, it's different. There's no question about it. I flew back frombozeman Montana yesterday. It was out there on some personal things time withmy son and I had a wonderful time. But when we flew into bozeman, we had tosit on the plane for an hour waiting to get off and yesterday when we werewaiting to board in bozeman, we waited probably 2025 minutes beyond ourscheduled start for boarding and the two gate agents who were trying to takecare of us literally were nowhere to be seen. And finally at that, you know, 15minutes after the boarding time was supposed to start, I see them comewalking up the, from the plane and they were just to show they were hot, theywere tired, you can tell they've been working, they had been out therecleaning the plane and they got a situation right there right now inbozeman. I don't know where, I can't speak everywhere else. But the reasonwe were of an hour getting off the plane in an hour, I'm sorry, half anhour late getting on the plane was because they don't have enough peopleto be able to get the plane's cleaned and turn them around and and and stayon schedule. It was if that's, I mean service has gone down and I don't, Idon't blame those two individuals, it's a function of what the airlines areexperiencing. Well, the thing that I think it's important to tell people whodo not travel a lot on business, which means they're not watching the nuanceairlines today. And hotels are very much like Mcdonald's in that theirmodel is the franchise franchise model. Let's just go to hotels for a moment.So we don't beat up on the airlines endlessly here think of the hotel names,you know, Marriott Hilton Hyatt, intercontinental holiday Inn, you nameit. None of these brands owned the properties, correct? None of thesebrands even manage the properties, their franchise operations and theyhave a book of procedures that they...

...hand to the franchise in exchange for12 15 20% of the revenue so that they can fly the brand flag outside the door. And very much true is the fact thatthese brand standards are not manageable. Their, their fantasy modelsthat people simply cannot support in the case of going back to bozemanMontana, whatever airline you are flying, I can guarantee you it was not,the flights were not operated by the airline whose name was on the door.Those are commuter carriers run by independent airlines and they run onsomething because this is a business audience. I can say this capacitypurchase agreements. The big airlines like say a united will say, look, we'llgive you x thousands of dollars for the entire flight. And whether there's oneperson on the flight or 50 people on the flight, that's what you get and youfigure out how to meet our standards. And as those two people who were sweatyand disheveled will tell you it's almost impossible to meet the standardsthat the airlines tell you they've got in place. Well especially and I'mguessing right now they're understaffed. Like, like so many businesses right nowcan't get enough people and and so you know, I, I went to a wonderfulrestaurant Bochy, I wanted to go to Bacci in Healdsburg a couple of monthsago when we were there and we were there on a Wednesday and in HealdsburgCalifornia couldn't couldn't have dinner because they weren't open mondayTuesday and Wednesday night because they don't have enough, they don't haveenough staff in the case of the airlines because the airlines, while wesay they are deregulated, they still have a very heavy government hand Andthey should be, since we've given them $80 billion dollars in the last year,they must report many things that would otherwise be corporate confidential. Weknow how many people they employ. And right now At this moment, the airlinesare 10% smaller in terms of full time...

...employees than they were at this timelast year. Now think of that this time last year We were talking about perhaps700,000 people a day on the planes because we were just beginningsomething like a summer recovery before the fall Coronavirus. Now we're seeingtwo million people a day. And the airlines actually have fewer peopleworking. And this is after we gave them $80 billion dollars and specifically tokeep people employed. It sounds like a recipe for badcustomer service. Uh, it is the person who gives you good service on anairline in a hotel at a car rental desk. These are the people you say wonderfulthings to. I know many business travelers literally carry little perkslike kitkat bars or tootsie rolls to hand them just as a physical thank you.My God, you were not terrible to me today. And often the people who areterrible to you are under such intense pressure that it's not really theirfault. But you know, we've paid a lot of money and we want the service. SoWould it be better if we went back to privatize? I'm sorry if we went back tothe days of 1978 when the regulated airlines, you know, ed I am a child ofderegulation. Alright. I don't when people tell me, let's go back to theregulated days, the next thing they'll say is and boy you won't imagine whatthe standing rib roast on pan am was my reaction to that is. You know, I eat alot. I don't care about the standing rib roast on pan am and I don't care ifthey bring it on my United flight to paris tomorrow. I'm not getting on aplane to eat. I'm getting on a plane hopefully for a comfortable seat. Soyou could make the case for regulation based on how bad things are. Or I cangive you the two alternative. Bad...

...things. Think about the T. S. A. The T.S. A. was created not even 20 years ago. Okay. They were they are a function of9:11 created after 9:11. They are the worst run bureaucracy I have ever seen.Okay. They have 50,000 people and cannot get you through the checkpointsand don't seem to know what their own rules are. So that does not order. Welland again I go back to three bailouts of the airlines in 2020, They gotupwards of $80 billion dollars and we said okay, we said it right in the law,you will use this to keep people employed. And the airline said, well alot of people left because we bought them out. So we don't quite have thestaffs we used to have, so we'll just take the rest of the money. So privateenterprise almost always beat government thinking and unfortunatelywe live with a business that does not want to do it well if if you had itwithin your power to wave the magic wand and do something that would makethings better for at least the business travelers there. Is there one thing youcould do or you you would you would say if we could do this, it would reallychange things you know, I that answer has that question is asked of me allthe time. I've probably written 50 columns about that over the years. Whatthe one thing I would do are the five things I would do. The one thing Iwould do now because the airlines have basically had to get off the saturdaynight stay many many airfares now are one way purchase and that's a fairbreak for everyone. I would say minimum seat pitch on an airline. In the daysof of regulation There was 34" of what seat pitch, which means leg room, verynice, very padded seats. Now you have...

...as little as 29 on seats that they theindustry calls slim line seats. And what that means is it's a bench. I'm anice catholic boy Ed I spent a lot of time on in church pews. The headlineseats are no better than church pews. The only thing they don't have to do iskneel because you because no room to Neil Yeah, you couldn't if you wantedto hearing you just say that that truthfully that would be a big bigdifference wouldn't it? And they probably have to give up what one rowof seats on. The standard 7 37 perhaps one or two. The let's say well the factthat the 7 37 is now the standard is problematic in itself because once upona time the airlines advertised new york to Los Angeles on wide body 7 40 sevens.And you know now it's how many, how narrow can the plane? B and there's athere's an overriding financial reason for that. If you if you fly efficientsmaller planes you can fly to a destination more frequently and that'sactually good for business travelers. But airlines are such a strangebusiness model that you take three seats out of a plane, you may oftencost them the profit on that plane. As bad as it sounds. So I'm not sure youknow, I would say raise the prices but we live in a country now that believesyou have the right to travel at any time for any reason at the lowestpossible price. Hence the existence of airlines like Spirit and Frontier andAllegiant. Right, right, right. Probably a big change for me in thelast few years is watching the people trying to deliver or meet the customerstandard or the brand standards that we talked about earlier and using systemsand processes that don't work and I don't think of anything more than myexperiences with budget and how many times I went to a budget car place inthe last couple of years and watch the...

...poor agent trying to help me trying toenter data and you know, doing this keystrokes and not being able to giveme an answer that I needed to be able to complete my reservation and you knowat first I thought they were inept and then I've just come to realization no,they're working with bad systems and processes and what I hear you saying isin some cases that's the franchisees fault. In other cases that might be thebrand's fault. But in any case there's a lot of good people who want to takecare of us as travelers but are unable to do it because the the equipment, thesystems processes they're working for with or they have been trained thereare failing or they're not trained that we use them correctly. Something likethat. Well, you know, you almost have to stick a pin in a time had when yousay boy, I like traveling and then try to explain what's changed since then.Weirdly, the airlines Still largely work on computer systems that wereinvented in the 70s. Um, car rental is a part of the business that no onewants to talk about whenever I write a car rental column, nobody reads it. Nowagain, people have to subscribe to joe sent me and pay money to get us. So ifI send you something on car rental, I think it's important for you to read,but people don't want to read about car rental. It seems boring. It seems likewe know about it. Um, but to take your situation with budget, I know youmentioned to me that you had switched to National. Yeah. And National isowned by a family owned company. They have a franchise operation at National,but the parent company of Nationalist Enterprise. And we think of all theenterprise locations there are in the United States, thousands. They're allowned by one family and they run a good operation. And National has said, we'regoing to keep it really simple. Pay the middle mid sized car rate and then goto the lot and take anything you want you want. And that's the wise thing.I'd also come back to One thing and and...

I tried 11 this, I mean sometimes someof the people who don't like what I write say you never have anything goodto say and I say, I'm sorry, I'm a business traveler. It's hard, but Iwill say this, there is a model out there. The hotel industry has itsproblems. But compared to airlines, their miraculous, the hotel industrylooked at the landscape and said not everybody wants to stay, pick the hotelyou thought of as important the polymer house in Chicago, you know the Pierrein new york, you know the old ambassador in Los Angeles which doesn'texist. You know the Mark Hopkins in san Francisco. Not everybody wants that.Some people just want a cup of coffee in the morning and a quick breakfastand a good shower. Hence we have the Hampton ends of the world, the highestplaces of the world. They realized that many people have to spend weeks in ahotel. Story openers, contractors. So they invented a brand called a line ofbusiness called extended stay there you have apartment like accommodations andthey take away some of the things you don't need, ballrooms, bellhops, thatkind of thing. The hotel industry looks at what their customers want and sayslet's design a hotel brand for that. That is something the rest of thetravel industry does not do. No, they don't, they don't let's talk a littlebit about joe sent me and what our audience, the folks that listen to theadeptly experience what what will they, what will they see when they go there,if there if they visit both your site and also get your e newsletter. Welljoe sent me was started literally in a hotel room in san Francisco two daysafter september 11th, I was writing columns for an important site at thetime called biztravel dot com. It was owned by a large travel agency. Iremember getting the call in the hotel...

...room from the from the owner who saidjoe the phones aren't ringing. I said well gee you know nobody's flying, whywould the phones be ringing? And he said well I'm not going to support thisanymore. And I said well okay. And I was angry because I thought he wasrunning away at the time that business travelers needed them needed us themost the risers. Absolutely. So I designed I said okay I'm gonna put upon my last column and fairness to him, he did let us all right, a final column.And I said I'll put up a little note at the bottom of my final column, send meyour email if you want me to keep writing these things, I will, I'llfigure out a way to do it. I knew nothing about web design or web,anything. I just you know now my job is to stick now runs against verbs andmake some sense out of it, not to figure out how it gets to people. So II think I took a site I had created for my niece's birth pictures. You knowthese plug them in things and I plugged in some columns and I said okay we'lldo this for a month because in a month the commercial publishers will comeback and they'll be smart because business travel is too profitable, theynever did. So I decided to keep Joe sent me which was a joke name which Iwould never use but it was a joke going to the end of 2001 In Chris aroundChristmas time 2001 the readers was sending me money in christmas cardssaying please try and keep going and I said I didn't know what to do with that.So I went toward the guy who had hired me a frequent flyer years ago and saidlet's try to do something and we created joe sent me because I was toldI couldn't change the name because that was a brand now. Yeah and I basicallydid what I wanted to do we don't take advertising, we don't trade, we don'ttrack hits, we don't do anything that annoys the reader, the site exists onlyfor the benefit of business travelers.

And I say to them you want real newsthat nobody is trying to sell you a credit card that you don't need or lieto you about the quality of a hotel. It takes you spending the money to go to anon commercial site and we bumped along for 1518, now 19 years. We don't makeany money. And our goal is not to make any money. We have, we do just enoughto survive. And that's what you'll find that joe sent me all the rightinformation. We think about business travel without any of the phony stuff.Well, it's the, it's the one subscription that I have that I neverquestioned. Should I renew it? And and what's the value I get for it? And isit fair to say it's what 100 bucks? Uh it is. I tell you it is now 149. We tryto, yeah, but we also have another policy that you know, makes peopleshake their head whatever price you pay when you come in, you never pay more.So I don't know at what price you came in at. I think I think I'm, I think I'm$99 so you will never pay more than that. Because my theory is you've beennice enough to subscribe, why would I raise your price? Our goal. This iswhat you can do when your goal is not to make money, but to keep peopleinformed and all the people who write for joe sent me right for free. It's acombination of journalists like myself and people like Barb McGarvey and ChrisBarnett and then travelers with passion like David Danto and will allen um, youknow who, who frankly find defense at everything. I'm the sanest voice, theresometimes a couple of ideas that I'll share with the audience and then I wantyou to tell them how to connect with you should they want to become membersto things that stand out one just as recent as yesterday day before you sendout a quick email that said, hey, if you're thinking about traveling toItaly, here is a place you ought to be aware of and there's, there's amember's discount if you want and and...

...you send it Sevilla. I went to thewebsite looked at it, it's remarkable and it was like, okay, this is, this isso, so for so many of us, when we go to places we've never been before, it'swho do you trust and how do you minimize the likelihood that you havean experience that something less than that you would want it to be. And sojoe helps filter out those things in advance to help you be aware of thoseoptions that you have and more likely make the best choice choice for you ifI could jump in it because I think it's important. Sure we have the same policyabout the discounts we do as everything else. I negotiate them for the benefitof the members. We don't take a cut, we don't take a commission, We're not. Andas I say it at the end of the bottom if you do business with these guys, noskin off my nose, I'm telling you it's a good deal. And that all came aboutbecause airlines, when joe sent me started to get some readership and somecachet, which I find hilarious. The airline said, well you know, we'll giveyou Discounted price and then you'll get $300. And I said, well why don'tyou just give the $300 back to the traveler by reducing the price? And Iliterally, we've done deals with, with tap with air lingus with several otherairlines and sometimes it has to go right to the chairman of the board toget to sign off on the deal because the chairman of the board can't fathom thatsomebody is going to promote their product without taking money withoutgetting paid. And in fact, one of the questions I get all the time is not somuch lately, obviously is we'd love what what airline can you recommend inchina? And there's a fabulous airline actually, ostensibly private ownedcalled Hainan Airways, Terrific Service, terrific brand new planes owned by acompany. God knows how much money they've lost because the governmentwill take them over anyway. We literally could not do the deal evenafter we negotiated it because the...

...chinese government back in. Beijing wasconvinced somebody was getting a payoff. Okay, it's like you're reducing yourprice by $500, you know, on a business class seat that's only available inwhat they call a closed shop. A deal. Only Josemi members could get it. I'mnot taking any money. Where would the payoff be? But you could not convincethe Beijing bureaucrats that there was not somebody stealing money. So we donot go, we do deals when we can and we have some good ones, but they're hardto, they really hard to navigate in the world that lived on payoffs. You you dohelp people find some great deals and that's what I want to tell the audiencethat the first time we went to Italy, It was because Joe said there's goingto be a, there's an airfare right now for 48 hours, 72 hours for businessclass seats to Rome and you know, you might want to take advantage of it. Iwent online and we got myself, my wife and our dear friends, Tony and BetsyStephens, we got four wonderful business class seats for $1800 a personto roman back. And it was, it was like, I don't probably a third of the normalcost business class is so much more comfortable at 1855. Oh my God, Oh mygosh, it really all the problems go away and it spoils you and it raisesthe bar for future travel, I tell you that that is a problem joe. If peoplewant to reach out to you and and find out more about joe sent me what's thebest way for them to do that? Go to joe sent me dot com. J O e S E N T M E dotcom. And if you remember that's from the pajama game, not three times inwhisper low and say that you were sent by joe. It's a terrible bad joke. Iwish I could change the name of the site, but it's not not going to happen.But just sent me dot com. We have a free newsletter. Some of the sites isfree to read. Some of it is not and you have to be a member. You can join oryou can have the free letter first and join when you want. And right now Iwould say the most important thing...

...we're doing is a on our travelNewsstand page. Every day we put out a coronavirus update which is totallyfocused on business travel And in bullet points. So you don't have toread 900 words on something and that's every word we've ever written about.Coronavirus is free to everyone. He's a good man. He's joe Brancatelli.He's become a better friend today as a result of spending time with us here onthe Epley experience, joe. Thanks so much. You're a gentleman and thanks forhaving me. I appreciate it. Yeah, thank you for listening to the Ed Epleyexperience. For more information on building a more sustainable, smarterand healthier business, visit www. The Epley Group dot com for resources tipsand Ed's latest blogs. That's the Eppley e p p l e y group dot com. Plustake a free assessment at the Epley Group dot com slash assessment to findout how you measure up as a highly skilled and accomplished manager andwhere to focus on improving your skills.

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