Posted by: Craig Harding | December 9, 2009

Road Warrior Consultant Tip

This week I thought I would stray away form the technical and pure methodical aspects of project management and share a story about life as a consultant road warrior. Those project managers and other IT personnel that work in the consulting business, have many stories of life on the road and the tricks of the trade that go with surviving the long times away from home.

 Several years ago I embarked on my first foray into the consulting life on the road. I was very green to the aspect of being away from home for long periods of time and had not yet become accustomed to hotel life. My first assignment was in Boston where I was assigned to PM a project that had several other colleagues from our consulting firm.

One developer was a seasoned road warrior. He picked me up at the airport and we proceeded to the hotel. As we hopped out of the car in front of the hotel he tossed his keys to the valet parking attendant, who greeted him by name. As we entered the hotel everyone seemed to know this guy personally. The door man, bell hop, the gal on the front desk, and they all seemed to talk to him like they knew him for years. I knew that he had only been at the hotel for three or four weeks. Was he that friendly or were the hotel staff extremely polite?

After settling in to my average hotel room I went to meet my colleague at his room a few floors up, of course at the concierge level. All this was beginning to look suspicious. His room was twice as big as mine with a sitting room and extra big TV. He would not let on as to how he managed to get such a sweet deal.

The next morning I met him in the lobby on our way to the client site. His car had been parked in the VIP section of the lot just outside the door all night. I finally had to make him come clean. He said that after a few years on the road it was clear that having these little perks sure made being away from home for extended periods of time much more bearable. His secret was very simple. We would receive $45 per diem for food when traveling on business. This was more than adequate when you were away for four or five days a week. He would take one day’s per diem each week, put it in an envelope, and give it to a different one of the hotel staff at the end of each week. It did not take long for word to get around between the hotel staff that a nice gratuity would be waiting at the end of the week if he was given a little extra attention. But no one knew who would receive the tip. This was a way for him to get a little preferential treatment at no real cost to him. This is the kind of guy I like to have on my projects, always thinking outside the box.

The life of a road warrior in the consulting business can be long and arduous. Some people learn to adjust and devise ways of coping. Some never get the hang of it. Any perks you can pick up along the way are a bonus.




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