Browse Month: November 2007

Small business travel

Don’t know about the rest of the crowd, but my budget is really limited when it comes to travel – be it vacation or business travel. Unlike some big-name CEOs I can’t afford business class (let alone a private jet), so I travel just like most of the Americans – the cheapo way.While traveling to Chicago and back, I refreshed on usual travel things. Like purchasing tickets for early morning flight, avoiding weekends (I flew on Wednesday to Chicago and on Monday back) and packing lightly (you can have up to three luggage pieces for free, but each must be less then 50 lbs. For me it would have been easier to pack one large suitcase then two small, but…

Another thing I figured out is how NOT to rent a car. On the spot, even if you have a reservation, agent will try to upsell you stating that they don’t have the car you reserved. In my case instead of Dodge Charger the company’s (Dollar Car if you’re interested) representative stated that the only car they have in the same class would be Dodge Caravan. How are they in the same class beats me, but I ended up renting Chrysler 300 which was good enough for my purposes. Next time I’ll skip online reservation altogether and just show up at their desk inquiring as to what they have. If I don’t like the selection – I’ll just move on to the next desk. In Chicago Midway airport (another saver on ticket price) all rentals’ desks conveniently form a single line, so it won’t be a big deal with two bags under 50 lbs each.

Hotels are finally catching up to the 21st century. Last year, when I was in Arizona, Hilton hotel wanted $25/day for high-speed broadband. One year later, on this trip to Chicago, I stayed in two hotels (how that happened – long story) – La Quinta in Arlington Heights and Holiday Inn. Both feature free wireless internet, no problems and no strings. Of course you have to jump through couple of screens and maybe enter the access code (listed on a special note in your room), but other then that everything worked smoothly. I even didn’t have to pull out my cell phones (I brought both AT&T and Verizon devices, just in case) to use as a cellular modem.

On the road I used my Garmin nuvi 360 GPS unit with firmware updated to version 3.90 (was actual as of the first day when I arrived in Chicago). Except for one total failure to deliver me to Olive Garden somewhere close to airport (almost ended up in someone’s backyard) the thing worked fine, much better and faster then Google Maps on my HTC Advantage.

Last thing I’d like to mention is the airlines (again). If the current trend is any indication – in next several years seat space will decrease even more (I guess we all be standing on short flights), the weight of allowed luggage will also decrease and there will be almost no room for carry-ons in cabin, so we will only be allowed one personal item (like laptop). But they will be banned for security reasons.

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Small business in Chicago

Yesterday I have returned from a Thanksgiving trip to Chicago. Aside from matrimonial errands (my friends were getting married) I had a chance to communicate to a lot of different people from various social groups. Aside from regular chit-chat I was inquiring on the cost of living. Obviously you can get data from various web sites, from Monster.com to specialized ones, including Craigslist. What you don’t get is a “feeling”, the whole picture of quality of life. What can you afford if you are making $XX,000 per year? What can you afford if you make $YY,000 more? Gas, insurance, food – you can get the numbers, but it is usually hard to get an idea.As in many smaller communities, much more business done on a personal referral basis. This is good, because you only need to be good at what you are already doing and think less about marketing to various groups. It is also bad, since “word of mouth” is the slowest communication tool. Also it won’t forget your mistakes as easy as larger, unconnected market. Last, but not least – it’s complicated, because there will be a lot of people with whom you will naturally trade, for example – I create a web site for a car dealer to get a big discount on a car I like. No actual money involved, but I still get something for something.Good thing about coming into such a community – you immediately get a lot of referrals and potential clients. Bad thing is – they all expect you to perform nearly for free, because they were personally referred to you. If you set initial price too high – they’ll just flock away without even bargaining. If you set a reasonable price – they will try to negotiate it down to ridiculous levels, spreading bad news if you don’t let them.Probably that’s why, even though so many people encouraged me to move, I still don’t. New York is still much bigger market.