A Guide to Business Travel for Startups

Today’s startup workforce has become more globalised than ever, necessitating increased corporate travel. Brex’s 2023 data from over 10,000 startups found that travel and entertainment expenses rose 129% for seed-stage startups and 512% for later-stage startups. As employers learn to navigate increasingly geo-diverse teams, managing a limited travel budget, minimising unnecessary expenses, and keeping an accurate record of petty cash transactions, among other concerns, business travel can be challenging for newer companies. Here are a few ways startups can set up their business travel plans without shortening their runway:

Research on Transportation

Gone are the days when only a few select employees would travel for work; according to Visit Britain’s 2023 business events webinar, 3,649 nights were dedicated to meeting six to 20 people during their corporate trips, higher than the 3,183 nights spent meeting only one to five people. These increased headcounts can strain an already restrictive startup budget. However, with some advanced planning, a startup’s procurement team can purchase cheap flight tickets from low-cost carriers; easyJet provides a Low Fare Finder to help teams compare flight prices for a chosen destination. In 2022, the airline transported 69 million passengers, and 9.5 million were on business, signifying the increased demand for startup-friendly airfares. Teams can also use a travel management platform designed for wholesale ticket buying, which may be able to streamline expenses or even provide discounts.

Combining Travel and Leisure

Stratos’s research indicates that 69% of Millennial travellers extend their business trips for leisure, with as many as 56% conjuring up reasons to go on business trips as often as possible. However, that doesn’t mean startup employees are necessarily slacking while out of office. Booking.com research, which included the UK, discovered that 59% of people feel that exploring new places inspires them to be more productive at work. Still, startups should find ways to rein in unnecessary spending, particularly at restaurants and hotels. More importantly, clear boundaries must be established to ensure employees are still on point while on holiday. Before a trip, teams should align on a fixed itinerary to clearly delineate work and leisure time. This allows employees to structure their days even in unfamiliar cities or countries; the holiday time that awaits them serves as a natural incentive to manage their time more efficiently.

Syncing Varied Schedules

A recent Forbes study discovered that eight in ten executives – the individuals on the startup pyramid most likely to travel for work – now prefer in-person meetings to remote ones. However, these in-person meetings can be challenging when mitigating jet lag and navigating new time zones come into the picture. In a BCD survey of 875 business travellers, 36% said jet lag increased stress levels during the trip; when back home, this number rose to 37%, owing to residual stress from the trip. Recovering from jet lag can result in lost hours of precious face time while away and back at the main office, so teams must be proactive to make the most of business conferences. If crossing time zones cannot be avoided, employees should be instructed to adjust sleep schedules a few days before departure.

As startups extend their reach to hire the best talents from outside their countries, business travel will become even more commonplace. By implementing the above strategies to stay within budget, accommodate leisure, and align schedules, startups can explore how they fare in a foreign environment. In the future, this may lead to exciting opportunities, such as applying for a startup visa to expand to a new location. After all, business trips don’t have to be disruptive – when planned properly, they can be the fuel to re-engage and excite your startup’s hardworking personnel.