Years ago, when we were thinking about going into business together, we read all kinds of alarming (but very informative) articles like “Ok, Partner, We Better Sign a Prenup” or “Before You Tie the Knot” in smart publications like the Wall Street Journal. The articles were full of warnings about communicating, leadership, determining who should make which decisions, how to share equity and the most important point of all (in all caps and exclamation marks): make sure you have a dissolution agreement in place in case you break up.
Twelve years later, I think we could probably re-write that article with another point of view: Tips for Traveling with your Business Partner. When Ann and I travel together, we manage to eek out plenty of fun while we’re at it and we’ve learned to laugh off the head-shaking things that tend to happen. We’ve had passports stolen, a couple emergency landings, dozens of trains missed due to late arrivals, many – ahem – aromatic seat companions and we’ve watched hundreds of inflight movies. In fact, we pretty much know the whole entertainment lineup on both Delta and Air France by now, as well as the menus.
So, over the years, we’ve figured out that successfully traveling together requires the same kind of strategy we apply to Huff Harrington. And guess what? It works like a dream.
1. Determine parameters: when it comes to travel, we’ve got each other’s likes and dislikes down to a tee. We both like aisle seats but not the bulkhead if it’s an early evening flight (risk of unhappy babies). If nothing else is available, don’t scoff at the very back seat of each cabin – you can recline without somebody kneeing your seat. If an upgrade is available, there is no pity for those left behind. Upon disembarking, it’s a race to get through customs, so bye, see ya at baggage claim! And yes, we know each other’s luggage so whoever gets to baggage claim first grabs all the bags.
2. Play to your strengths and assign duties: Who drives? Who navigates? Easy! Ann navigates and I drive. Sometimes, the dialogue is hysterical, if not a little, um, stressful as we whirl through roundabouts, zoom down country roads and cruise along the A9 (always keeping to the right so the really fast cars can pass) We’ve got the toll booths down to a science (a little scary when there are five antsy Frenchmen lined up behind you) We have gotten lost and driven round and round in circles in a couple memorable villages and towns. We have rolled down windows and used our arms as blinkers. And, not once but twice, we drove through the twilight without our headlights on until a friendly Frenchman pulled us over to tell us we were in danger of being hit from behind. (Merci, Monsieur.)
3. The Paris office: we’ve got our list of favorite hotels around France and believe it or not, we’ve gone from cute and charming to “how many outlets are there? I need to plug in my phone, computer and iPad” or “does that one have a hairdryer?” and “wait a minute. Remember how bad the parking is at that one?” We’ve discovered that Accor’s Pullman hotel chain is a nice business class hotel – maybe not the most gorgeous, picturesque or elegant places – but they have loads of plugs, good hairdryers and a killer breakfast. (Fun fact: my first job out of college was with Accor Hotels in New York.)
(Okay. There’s one exception and this is it: a gorgeous old 19th century home turned into the most sophisticated, chic tiny hotel with a garden and pool that brought tears to my eyes. Owned and perfectly run by a delightful, elegant Belgian couple, this place checked all the boxes – and had plenty of plugs.)
4. Lunch and dinner breaks: I know what you’re thinking and yes, you’re right. We eat really, really well when we’re traveling, we don’t deny it. But we love checking out the most local of local places and rarely splurge on a big ticket meal. Near the Paris office is the lovely rue Cler, chock-a-block full of adorable and delicious places to dine. Luckily for us, the French take lunch really, really seriously so of course, we do as the natives do. If we’re in transit, we’ve got the system down: we buy baguettes au jambon et fromage and a soupçon of dark chocolate and eat on the train while we’re working our spread sheets and figuring out how much we just spent on that set of six gorgeous Louis XVI chairs.
Most of the time, we have to hit the ground running the day we arrive which makes for two sleepy business partners at the end of 36-hour day. We’ve got that covered too: take-out in Paris is the best. We each go our separate ways to forage for whatever sounds good and we’ll come back with the freshest poached salmon, roast chicken and potatoes from the “traiteur” down the street or pasta from the nearby Italian deli.
5. Compensation for business travel: this one is the best. Our reward for all those exhausting days, delays, hours of waiting on trains, planes and automobiles, bad weather, lost bags, a weak dollar and nights and nights of jet lag? We are always richly rewarded with the sweet friendships we’ve made with our vendors, shippers, cafe owners, hair dressers extraordinaire and our Paris/French partners.
We share a glass of wine and a giggle or two and then get down to business…followed by a glass of wine, a giggle or two and then bises (those kisses on each cheek) as we depart.
We’re well-paid in gorgeous scenery – who can compete with the Eiffel Tower twinkling outside your “office” window – or the endless lavender fields of Provence? We’re generously compensated with more food and wine than we can munch our way through. And best of all? Our pay (commensurate with experience) is time spent in a country we both adore, working with the smart, fun and funny Francais and the satisfaction that we are both doing something we both love so much.
So, are you listening, Wall Street Journal? Give a call for a few tips on how to travel with your business partner – and don’t worry, we’ve got all that other stuff covered.
PS: want to travel with us? We promise our trips are much more glamorous than when we travel by ourselves! Check out our 2018 trips to Paris and Provence right here.