Let us be the first to admit it: Most of us EP folks don’t have degrees in business. Courses in “value added economic modelling” and “data-driven analytics” weren’t offered at any of the EP schools we attended. But we’ve learned a few lessons along the way – courtesy of the corporate clients we serve.
This story ends with a client pulling me into a hotel room some 8,000 miles from home. After yet another string of 18-hour travel days traversing several continents and more than a dozen cities, the client, our principal, wanted to share a few thoughts on the EP and secure travel logistics services we were providing.
As we looked over the ancient cityscape bathed in light, the client told me that I was “naïve about business”, and went on to explain that our EP program had a much more profound impact on the company’s top and bottom lines than I likely realized.
This late-night conversation was a major pivot point in my understanding of the role of corporate EP, and led me to reevaluate how to manage our team and the client relationship. But before I get into that, let me set a little context.
An exceptionally busy EP team
By then, the corporate EP program had been in place for quite a while and I had been running the team for a number of years. It was arguably one of the busiest EP programs in existence. I know everybody’s busy, but things were pretty hectic.
We maintained an extremely volatile travel schedule that brought us around the globe regularly. Detail locations shifted constantly. Plans changed several times a day. Team members – who often worked in excess of 350 hours a month – routinely did multi-city and multi-country travel details with little to no advance notice.
Imagine writing, rewriting and troubleshooting logistics for flights, hotels and vehicles for a program like this. Not to mention organizing and motivating drivers, advance agents and coverage agents travelling with the client. Our people needed to be everywhere at once. We were running a mid-sized travel agency – on the road and on the fly – with our phones. It was that kind of detail.
Measure what matters
In order to pull off this logistical nightmare, I looked for any way possible to organize and optimize. Since we were running a skeleton crew, even an extra 30 minutes for the team to rest in their hotel rooms or grab a bite to eat made a world of difference. We constantly had to improve the program anywhere we could, because even the slightest change in program management and implementation would have ripple effects that would impact the client and the EP team.
I looked to the client’s business model, strategies and decision making processes to align my approach with theirs. After all, they were a multi-billion-dollar company that were doing a lot of things right. Maybe I could apply some of their management methods to running our EP program?
One thing I immediately recognized was my client’s relentless reliance on hard facts to facilitate decision making. Yes, gut feelings mattered, but the combination of experience and data-driven analysis was what really set these guys apart. I decided that I needed measurable data that would give me insight into our EP program’s deliveries and performance. I wanted statistics, collected over a period of time, that would help me determine the norms and the outliers – and provide insight into what we needed to change in our program in order to improve.
Data-driven analytics: Collect the data that provides benefit
I began documenting everything I could in spreadsheets and tables. Beyond extensive daily reporting of all of our movements and the extra service-related tasks performed, I also started tracking a number of other data points. Here are a few of them:
|DATA POINT||DECISION-MAKING BENEFIT|
|# of flights, private and commercial||Helps with cost analysis and budgeting|
|# hours spent on planes||Clearly shows time lost on planes that could be spent in meetings, or doing other work for the client and the team. If team members are on flights, they are getting less work done in general than if they are in an office on shift.|
|# hours in cars in transit||Can we optimize by using helicopters instead? Can we justify purchasing vehicles in locations that we spend a lot of time to reduce costs of rental vehicles and hired drivers?|
|Locations stayed by:
A. Domestic vs international
|Shows client where the principal is spending time; helps EP team know where to recruit team members: increase local knowledge and reduce travel expenses of getting team members to frequented locations|
|Hours worked by each agent on the team||Justify more time off for the team; show management whether we need more agents on the team|
|# of POI interactions the EP team dealt with||Justifies the program’s existence and quantifies threats; helps investigations department in lobbying for resources|
|# of SOP additions / changes||Shows the team is learning from mistakes and always trying to improve the program|
|# of EP program projects managed||Shows how the team is working with internal partners at the client’s company to improve the program. Example: improving residential alarm systems|
|# of days spent on training||Justify more training, identifies the areas where the EP team needs more|
Once we compiled the data and broke it down into easy-to-digest graphs and charts, the results were staggering. Practically everything we measured was longer and harder than any of us could have imagined. There were more hours worked, more locations visited and more nights in hotels than we thought. There were more projects completed, and more time spent in transit than any of us would have normally remembered.
The consequences of our analysis had a profound affect on the team, the client and the resources we were being allocated.
When we presented our data and analyses to the client organization, they were impressed. They dove into the data points themselves, and asked us to show them even greater levels of detail that could inform internal business decisions and budgeting. We would not have been able to provide this data to the client had we not been so diligent in recording it.
The data proves it: Secure travel logistics is a big part of corporate EP
We all know that the EP services we provide beyond those directly associated with protection really make a difference.
Preventing bad things from happening is our primary task, of course. But in addition to keeping clients safe, enabling their productivity is a huge and under-appreciated value add. Data analysis proves this.
The biggest single area of “extra” service for a corporate EP team has to do with secure travel logistics that keep executives as productive as they can be no matter where they travel. These moments of service are often the things that clients remember – and you should be documenting these, too!
By providing measurable and accurate data points relative to productivity-enhancing travel, in a language that clients are familiar and comfortable with, we helped them identify and understand a need that they didn’t even know existed – and appreciate the value of the EP team meeting that need.
The data we presented and packaged helped the company make decisions about where to focus the principal’s time in the upcoming year. By being able to document that when we ran travel logistics we never once had the client late to a meeting, we were able to gain additional resources. The extra manpower that I had been lobbying for for years finally came our way, giving the EP team members the well-deserved breaks they needed to be as operationally ready and well prepared mentally and physically as they could be.
The billion-dollar conversation
It was after all this work collecting, processing and sharing data that the principal called me into his hotel room and told how naïve I was. According to their analysis, based on our data, the EP team had effectively added a billion dollars of value to the business.
I know, you’re likely thinking to yourself: a billion dollars? Yeah right. Well, those were the principal’s words, and here’s just one example mentioned in that conversation.
The day started with a drive from one major city to another for an important meeting.
Although we had researched options for a helicopter ride in case traffic was bad, the client opted for a drive. So we ensured that we left the city early in order to make it to the meeting in time.
The deal that took place at that meeting was apparently worth millions of dollars. On the car ride back to our overnight location, a last minute opportunity came up for another meeting in another country. What we pulled off next was nothing short of amazing, yet it was something that any well-prepared team should be able to do.
We had one agent driving, myself in the car with the principal, and another agent in a follow vehicle. With the help of several EAs working remotely in a different time zone, we were able to set up commercial flights for the team from three separate area airports. We also arranged a private flight just in case. We got an advance agent to where the next day’s meeting was to take place – in another country – and briefed him on all requirements to handle our arrival and the next days’ important meeting.
All this was accomplished via text and email from the vehicle, so as to not disturb the client, who was resting in the car.
Traffic became gridlocked. What was a two-hour drive turned into a five-hour slog, forcing us to rebook all commercial flights as we changed our driving route to find the way least affected by the constantly changing traffic conditions.
We ended up taking the private flight late that night. After getting to our hotel, there was basically time to change into suits and get the client to the meeting the following morning.
The principal secured that deal as well, and closed out the quarter strong.
Our travels took us to three more countries the following week. Practically the entire team came down with a bug, and we had to replace agents to get them home and keep them from getting the principal sick.
It was on the last night of that trip, at the end of a successful year, that the client pulled me aside to talk about the billion dollars of value our EP program added – and how “naïve” I was.
The importance of good data
How could the client justify a number like that?
It was because in addition to having a stellar team of dedicated guys, we also had the data to demonstrate the value we added to the client’s business.
For one thing, the principal explained, he would have ended up getting sick and missing the third meeting – and never would have made the first or second meetings – if we hadn’t been there to make the arrangements and the logistics work.
Another reason was that the principal was able to maintain a near-constant, high level of concentration on the deals he was working on rather than focus on the logistics of getting from one meeting to another. We removed the stress of getting to where he needed to be, so he could get to more places, faster and easier.
Consider the impact of making the company’s highest-paid executive way more productive. It makes you wonder: Why wouldn’t a major corporation have an excellent EP program?
Decisions made by boards and executive teams at large corporations, whose principals we are charged with protecting, are increasingly based on data. AS EP professionals we need to adapt our approach to demonstrate the value our programs add (and the budgets we ask for) by presenting data in a way that is on par with how decisions are being made across all other lines of business in the private sector today.
Gone are the days of EP teams showing up to work and doing a good job as judged simply by allowing nothing to happen to the clients and getting them where they need to be safely.
Collecting EP data just got easier with the ADVANCE app
Since my early days of collecting data in spreadsheets a lot has changed.
First of all, good data is more important than ever. As the world of corporate EP becomes increasingly professionalized, EP providers and corporate clients have come to rely on data to make decisions. The quality and transparency of data analysis has improved.
Another important development is how easy it is to collect the data that matters. While I still use spreadsheets, the entire process of data collection and reporting has become much simpler with the introduction of the ADVANCE app, which allows EP agents and managers to enter and review data remotely, on their mobile devices.
Let’s all get better at quantifying what’s important
The entire corporate EP profession must adapt to the needs of our clients.
We need to present information that makes decision making easier and better.
Do this, and you will see the results you are looking for. Developing performance data has consequences beyond the immediate benefits of justifying program resources. It can also enable a client to optimize other areas of their business. I have never, with any of my clients, been questioned on something I am trying to accomplish if I have a sound reason and the data to back it up.