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Time for a Travel Policy

Read our profile on a corporate travel policy that harnesses buying power with preferred travel suppliers.

Lynne Gale knows the best way to secure a buy-in from her company’s brass is to let the numbers do the talking. In late 2008, Gale (who was previously medical education and meetings manager at Stryker Canada but is no longer with the company), along with the director of finance, presented a cost analysis of implementing a corporate travel management policy to the general manager, compliance officer, human resources director, operations manager, and four business unit leaders.

The deal was sealed by meeting’s end. “The leaders signed off and the program was officially launched by January 1, 2009,” says Gale, and the process was smooth thanks to two key factors: timing and careful preplanning.

Timing. When Gale first joined Stryker Canada back in 2002, there was no corporate travel policy because the size and scope of the business didn’t warrant it. Although the 69-year-old parent company is among the 12 largest medical technology providers in the world, with satellite offices around the globe and sales in excess of $6.7 billion, the Canadian contingent was much smaller and, having been incorporated in 1990, much newer. But as the years passed, Stryker Canada tripled in size from 80 to approximately 250, and many of the new hires were on-the-road sales staff, which in turn accelerated business travel costs. At the same time, Stryker Canada—like the majority of companies around the globe—were feeling the squeeze of the soft economy. The time was ripe for a corporate travel policy.

Careful Preplanning. Rather than reinvent the wheel, Gale tweaked a corporate travel management policy template borrowed from a sister division in the U.S., and “Canadianized” it to reflect the needs of her division. And she employed the same practical strategy when sourcing a travel company. “I went with Orion Travelinx because I had previously worked with one of its travel agents.” In addition to booking tickets, the Burlington, Ont.-based business also supplies tailor-made spend reports. Gale says Linda McKinnell was “the rock,” and Orion president David Harris, assisted with Stryker’s airline negotiations. “Before we couldn’t leverage our total spend when we tried to negotiate, but now we can,” says Gale.

Seal of approval. When it was time for the meeting back in the winter of 2008, Gale presented her findings in a language the fiscally responsible leaders understood best. “It was all about the numbers,” says Gale. Once authourized, the new corporate travel policy was emailed to the sales force. Any resistance to the new travel procedure? According to Gale, the most common concern was whether booking through an agent would make the process more time consuming, but the staff soon realized first-hand that it was not. As for future options like an on-line travel policy, Gale says, “We’ll follow the best practices of our larger sister divisions.”

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