One Entrepreneur's Musings on Business Travel

Live out of a suitcase? You're not alone. Many 'treps have adapted to a life on the road.
Magazine Contributor
4 min read

This story appears in the May 2011 issue of . Subscribe »

Peripatetic entrepreneur Karl Maier, CEO and founder of Market Force Information, a customer intelligence firm in Boulder, Colo., reveals the benefit of early-morning flights and explains why he prefers maps to his GPS.

I'm on the road half the time, visiting clients, companies we might acquire, operations. I'm working hard, I'm not with my family--it's a sacrifice. So I try to do something on each trip to make me feel better about it.

I get excited about trying different restaurants. I look for off-the-wall, even hole-in-the-wall places, something authentic in each city. I'll go to In-N-Out Burger in California, eat barbecue in North Carolina. Makes me feel like I've been somewhere.

I'm perfectly happy going to dinner alone. I'll sit at the bar at a steak house, watch a sports event, have a glass of good red wine. It's something I'd never do at home.

We don't stay in fancy hotels. Whatever's close to the meeting, whatever's cheap. But for $150 a night in most places, you can get a nice experience. That's a big change from just a few years ago.

Related: The Best Hotels for Business Travel

What makes me angry? Paying for internet in a hotel. Or when I can't control the temperature in my room. A hot and stuffy hotel room, I know the minute I walk in that I won't sleep.

Even though I travel all the time, I hate to fly. It scares me. That's why I take 6 a.m. flights. When you fly early in the morning, there's less turbulence. The air is calmer.

I don't check a bag. Period. Can't afford to lose it.

Having elite status on an airline is critical. I board first so I don't need to worry about space in the overhead bin. I get an aisle seat in the exit row or even an upgrade. This week I flew Delta from Atlanta to L.A. Nothing wrong with Delta, but I have no status. I ended up gate-checking my bag, and I sat in the back by the window. Couldn't get anything done, and then it took me forever to get off the plane.

Related: 10 Brands That Can Help Make Business Travel More Bearable

Flight time is my most productive time all week. No e-mails, no calls, no distractions. That's the only bad part of traveling with colleagues­­--they like to talk.

Last week I had Wi-Fi on a flight. I was aggravated because I didn't have the discipline not to buy it. And then the e-mails started coming in and I had to deal with them. Cell phones on a flight? Don't even talk about it. That would be a disaster.

I landed at a different terminal than I normally do in Atlanta. I got off and there was a Brooks Brothers store. I bought four pairs of boxer shorts. To me, that's a great use of my time.

I rent with Hertz almost exclusively. I get there, my name's on the screen, the car is ready. Once I saved a few dollars on an off-airport rental. Took an hour. I'll never do it again.

I have a GPS, but I still have my assistant print out maps. Recently I was in Costa Mesa, Calif., and without the map I wouldn't have known how close we were to Newport Beach. I thought, "I should go to the beach for an hour." I didn't end up having the time to do it, but at least I knew it was there.

I always hope I'll be able to go to a museum, see a baseball game. Rarely happens. I pack workout shorts and running shoes every trip, but only have time to use them maybe 30 percent of the time. I come home, unpack them, then pack them again. 

If I could run the company without leaving home? I wouldn't like it. I love the variety of being somewhere, seeing a new place, interacting with new people. On the road, for better or worse, no two days are the same.

-- As told to Bruce Schoenfeld


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