As the president and CEO of Bruno Event Team— a Birmingham-based sports marketing and event management company—Gene Hallman has seen the organization grow phenomenally in size, number and type of events produced, not the mention the amount of territory covered. Launched in 1995 by Hallman and Ronald Bruno, the company now has 70 employees in 10 offices in North America, including Canada. They produce prominent events ranging from Regions Tradition at Greystone to a steeple chase in Charleston, S.C., the BMW Championship in Lake Forest, Ill., and another PGA Champions event in Calgary. Producing other events from football to motorsports keep Hallman busy here at home but also on the road…a lot. (By the time you read this, he’ll have just returned from Poland to watch the 2017 World Games, an event Birmingham is hosting in 2021.)
Factor in the normal demands of serving as a CEO of a company with such a large geographical footprint, and it’s clear Hallman wouldn’t have survived this long without having mastered a few tricks of the travel trade. Here’s what he’s learned.
- Keep a separate set of toiletries for travel. “As far as packing is concerned, I’ve got that down to a science,” Hallman says. “My travel toiletry bag is always packed and ready to go, because I’ve duplicated everything I would need, and that includes an extra charger for my phone and computer, too. All I have to do is just pick it up, put that in the suitcase and take off.”
- Avoid carry-on bags. “Checking a bag is far superior to trying to fight over space in the overhead bin. If you carry it with you, you might save seven or eight minutes, but it’s not worth it.”
- Pack high-quality, wrinkle-free clothes. “Fifteen years ago, if you wore anything other than a 100 percent cotton dress shirt, you were violating all the codes of fashion. Now there are very high-end, very nice-looking blend dress shirts and pants that minimize the wrinkling, so you’re not pulling out the iron as much in the hotel room.”
- Invest in a white-noise machine. “I travel with one because I found over the years that hotel noise—like slamming of doors in the hallway—is really horrible for getting a good night’s sleep.”
- Find a favorite hotel brand and stick with it. “I try and pick one that I’m comfortable with, so I know that there’s consistency. For me that’s Marriott. I know that when I go to a Marriot, it’s not a guess as to what kind of quality it’s going to have.
- Keep up a healthy routine. “It’s really easy to eat poorly on the road, so I’m very conscious of that to make sure I don’t fall into bad eating habits. You can put on weight and not feel good. So I definitely take my workout clothes, and I work out on the road. I might actually be better on the road than at home, just because I’m so conscious of it.”
- Take early flights. “The first flights of the day almost without exception are good to go. It’s hard to have a delay on a 6:50 a.m. flight.”
- Skip the rental car. I try to avoid renting a car. It’s expensive and it’s too hard to try to navigate around the town, even with the mobile app on your phone. I use Uber or taxis or get a ride from the staff members who live in most of the cities I visit.”
- Focus on the purpose of the trip. “The hardest thing for the CEO of a company is juggling all the demands of the business that are ongoing while at the same time really focusing on the reason for the trip itself. You’re there to see those staff members or that client, and you have to shut out as much as you can everything else, or else you defeat the purpose. If you go to Des Moines, or Sacramento but you’re working on other things, you might as well have just stayed home.”
- Choose trips wisely. “Probably the biggest thing is to avoid travel as much as you can, because the level of sophistication of teleconferencing has gotten so high, the days of going for a meeting are greatly reduced. If you’re going, you’re going for a reason more than just a meeting…because the cost of travel in terms of loss