What to do when a business trip goes horribly wrong

nfib-logoHow to Recover From a Business Trip Gone Wrong

Learn to minimize the damage and move on with these tips.

Every frequent traveler has a horror story to share. When you’re traveling for business, the consequences can be particularly devastating.

Daniel Feiman, managing director of Build It Backwards, a global management consulting and training services firm in Redondo Beach, CA, experienced a disastrous business trip about seven years ago when his 3.5-hour redeye flight turned into 24 hours stuck in an airport, a missed speaking engagement, the loss of a $5,000 speaker fee—and his biggest client.

Control the Damage, If You Can

If your relationship with a client or potential client has been damaged, act quickly to salvage it. Feiman—who was scheduled as the keynote speaker at a large conference—spoke at an impromptu breakfast session the next day and went out of his way to repair the strained relationship.

Whether you’re at fault or not, if you want to stay in business with your client, make sure they know you’re willing to do whatever it takes to make it right.

Unfortunately for Feiman, there was no salvaging the relationship. “I tried to make amends, tried to apologize, but there was no recovery of that relationship,” he says. “I attempted to contact the client after some time had passed and got no response.”

Rebuild and Move On

For a small business, losing a big client is devastating. Feiman says it took six months for him to recover financially and over two years to replace the business he lost from his biggest client.

While he did eventually get his fare refunded by the airline, he chose not to pursue litigation and instead focused on networking and marketing to help his company bounce back from the client loss. “Sometimes you just bite the bullet and say, ‘Okay, lesson learned.’ There’s an old expression [that says something like], ‘find those things you can impact, and make an impact. Find those things that you can’t, and recognize the difference,’” he says.

Prepare a Backup Plan

In Feiman’s case, there isn’t a lot he could have done to avoid the disaster, but he wishes he’d prepared a backup plan to avoid leaving his client hanging in the event of his absence. While you can’t change what’s already happened, you can protect yourself from future disasters.

“Get in touch immediately with your office and the client, and let them know the situation. There are times when you can literally plan your backup,” he says. “I usually know at least one person who I could call in an emergency who might be able to step in. Having a strong network of trusted colleagues is so important to success today because things happen.”

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