Another Year in the Books

 

207,438 flight miles, 13 countries, 220 nights in hotels, 14 nights on airplanes, and 9 nights in the office. That’s a little more than 26 times around the globe. 2017 was a big year travel wise. We have been fortunate in that our travels have taken us to to some magnificent locations. We’ve had the opportunity to meet some amazing people, expand our worldview  significantly, and experience the world in a way I wouldn’t have imagined possible not too long ago. Our business has grown, partnerships matured, and we’re finally in a place after all these years where it doesn’t feel like the rug will get ripped out from under us every day. We’re competing with and beating “the big guys.”

For me 2017 was a fantastic year and we’ve laid the groundwork for an even more exciting 2018 both professionally and personally. Happy New Year!

Pros and Cons of AirBnB for Business Travel


Last year Airbnb raised $1.5 billion in funds that brought the value of the company to about $25.5 billion. This made it worth more than the Chicago, Ill.-based Hyatt Hotels Corp and the Parsippany-Troy Hills, N.J.-based Wyndham Worldwide Corp, respectively. This must have Marriott (my go-to brand) and the other big guys worried. It’s not once a year vacationers that float a hotel’s bottom line. It’s people like me who basically live out of a suitcase and book full rate rooms. There’s pros and cons to each.

Over the past four years I have slowly ramped up the amount of time I spend in AirBnB vs a traditional hotel. It started back in 2014 during one of the quarterly trips to Stockholm, a notoriously bad European city for hotel availability. Pre-Marriott/Starwood merger, there was a single Marriott property in the city and it wasn’t in a central location (Starwood added an additional points generating option). In desperation, and instead of spending over $500/night on a subpar, tiny room I ventured for the first time into a random stranger’s home for the week. This particular apartment had everything you could hope for. It was about 3x the size of a standard hotel room, had a full kitchen and was centrally located (not as important, it was also much cheaper). Subsequent trips to Stockholm have relied almost exclusively on AirBnB mostly due to their lack of Marriott properties.

In 2014, ’15 and ’16 I averaged more than 200 nights in Marriott properties and slowly increased my AirBnB nights from 10 in 2014 to around 30 in 2016. While a 300% increase, still not on par with Marriott nights. Largely, my lack of enthusiasm for using AirBnB for business travel has centered on the unknown. While a quirky place that photographs well but is lacking amenities and strong internet might be fine for a short vacation, the certainty of Marriott (albeit other drawbacks) made it perfect for a late-night arrival knowing I wouldn’t have to worry about anything. With the addition of the “business travel friendly” icon in AirBnB this has gotten better but it’s just not quite there yet. While Airbnb has grown from appealing to couch-surfing budget-conscious tourists to business travelers seeking a more memorable experience (and in my case, a kitchen to cook some healthy meals in) there’s definitely room for improvement. Because there isn’t a “corporate” oversight of individual listings there is definitely a problem with listings that photograph well and really underwhelm you (or lack the amenities listed) and consistent issue at more than half the properties I have stayed in has been internet. It would be great if there was a way for guest ratings to include an auto-generated speed test result for the host internet connectivity in business verified listings.

In 2017, so far, I have spent 160 nights in Marriott and 40 nights in AirBnB. Looking forward to the end of the year, it will be about a 50/50 split with around 180 nights in Marriott and 60 nights in AirBnB. So there are pros and cons. To summarize, for me, the biggest pro is having an entire apartment or house. For trips over three days, this is critical. Having some extra space, the ability to cook a meal, and have a feeling of “home” can take some of the drudgery out of business travel. For short trips, the certainty and familiarity of established hotel brands like Marriott win out. I’m sure as AirBnB continues to grow they will explore more ways to capture business revenue. Finding ways to establish this certainty in listings will be key. On my travel alone we’re talking total revenue close to $40K per year that’s up for grabs and I’m no where near the top of the business travel game.

Interested in trying out AirBnB for your next business trip? Sign up for Airbnb and get $40 off your trip at http://abnb.me/e/sd2dao7LwG

Eating on The Road: Making Conscious Decisions

According to MyFitnessPal my “optimal” level of carbohydrate intake is 294 g per day. I can tell you that number is ridiculously high and reflects many of things that are grossly wrong with diets today.

As I write this I am sitting on an airplane in first class surrounded by relatively successful people most of whom travel as much if not more than I do. Of the 15 other people sharing the cabin with me, all but one is severely overweight. This problem is seen time and time again in any airline lounges and aircraft around the world that I happen to be in. There is a significant correlation between number of miles flown (or traveled period) in a year and BMI. It’s just damn hard to eat well on the road and there are many pitfalls that we as frequent travelers should be aware of and avoid.

Urged by my wife, I read “Why We Get Fat and What to Do About It” and took many of the lessons in this book to heart. First, eliminate sugar. Don’t get me wrong, this is incredibly hard. United might have a pretty poor success rate getting me to my destination on time but they can always be counted on to serve piping hot cookies. Want to grab a quick salad prior to a flight? That dressing almost assuredly has sugar (and soy…seriously there are so many unnecessary ingredients in airport food) in it, as does the dressing served with the salad on board. Fruit? Not any more. As you’ll learn when you read the book, fruit isn’t actually much better for you than raw sugar itself. Honey, sugar, fructose, whatever….It’s all basically treated by our bodies the same, it’s killing us, and it has no place in our lives.

The second lesson I’ve grasped ahold of in my daily life is not just limiting sugar but all carbohydrates. My goal is under 20 but realistically, especially on the road it’s closer to 30 net carbs per day. This has been incredibly eye opening. Seemingly healthy foods like hummus, green beans, quinoa, gluten free bread, etc are carb loaded and aren’t helping your expanding waistline. Serving sizes are also absurd making what you are typically served 4-5 actual servings per the nutrition information. Many foods marketed as healthy, natural, organic, etc are anything but good for you. It may be part of the reason why vegetarians in the United States aren’t typically healthier than their meat eating counterparts. They’re replacing meat with well marketed but ultimately crap food.

So what do I eat? First, I haven’t decreased the amount of exercise I do. That means I’m still burning ~4000 calories per day. It’s a lot of food when you’ve cut out calorie bomb, carbohydrate and sugar loaded foods like fruit, energy bars, and cookies.

The answer is fats and greens. Lots of them. The majority of my net carbs come from leafy greens, broccoli, etc. Breakfast starts with a “smoothie” made with spinach, almond milk, water, green superfood powder, tumeric, ginger, lysine, vitamin c powder, MCT oil and topped with low carb nuts like pumpkin seeds, walnuts, and pecans. My wife and I travel with our blender (you can actually carry this model in your carry on) and this meal to start the day is a godsend. Perhaps around midday I’ll cook some greens with a couple eggs in some duck fat (with a fat goal close to 200 grams per day, adding fat is vital). Lunch might consist of lettuce wraps, while dinner is usually a small portion of meat such as lamb or buffalo and more greens or veggies like brussels or cabbage and a side salad. At no point am I hungry. That’s part of the key to success. Being hungry encourages cheating which becomes habit which becomes the standard.

So how can I do this on the road? Step one: Save your meals out for client dinners and be that guy in a restaurant. Something on the menu not in line with your desires? Substitute it. You are paying for a meal. Get it the way you want. Order the steak, pass on the bread and substitute extra spinach or broccoli for the loaded potato. Want dessert? Have a cheese plate. Obviously there are limits to this and picking the right restaurant is critical. Steak and seafood houses are great. Perfect for client dinners and you won’t leave hungry. Step two: cook for yourself. Go to your local organic grocery store upon landing and pick up the essential items and cook for yourself, picking hotels like the Residence Inn by Marriott. Step three: have willpower. Served an airplane meal of a “Southwest” chicken salad with a side of fruit and a cookie? Don’t eat the fruit or the cookie, and take a minute to pick out the tomatoes, corn and black beans. Don’t even think about the dressing. The second ingredient is soybean oil, the third is sugar. Want dressing? Carry a small squeeze bottle of olive oil and apple cider vinegar. It’s low carb and tastes better than the syrupy crap served most places. There are tons of resources online and the real secret is just to take a moment and be conscious of the choices you make.

So what about results: in 2015 I was 18% body fat. I was basically eating what I wanted and using the “I worked out today so I deserve this” mentality toward crap eating. Lots of beer, the entire bread basket, and whatever else I could scavenge. By mid 2016, with careful calorie control and insane exercise programming I was able to lose around 20lbs and get down to just under 10% body fat, relatively healthy and fit by most standards, but I had flatlined and calorie control/binge eating was a problem and although I was lighter I also lost quite a bit of strength. I could run a mile faster but couldn’t lift as much. Changing to this ultra low carb/ketogenic diet had almost two immediate impacts. First, in the period of 4 weeks I dropped to just under 7% body fat and actually increased my overall strength (bench press, squat, and clean) by almost 10% getting back to my strength level prior to beginning to diet in 2015 without any reduction in endurance abilities.

Truthfully, when I started this diet protocol it was to be a good partner in my relationship with my wife. I was a bit skeptical as I had always adhered to the “calories in/calories out” mantra and strive to control portions, eating “healthy” foods and abiding by traditional nutrition guidelines that emphasize carbohydrates in our diet. Fact is, it would appear traditional nutrition guidelines are bullshit. I’m living proof, but I’m just one person. If you’re traveling as much as I am, look down. What do you have to lose besides a few pants sizes? Added bonus: You get to buy new suits. Check out Gary Taubes books and try it out for yourself.

Being Selfish With Your Time

img_20161219_133336Wherever life takes me on the next journey, one thing I learned in running a startup is that more is not always better. This is applicable in many areas. Top line revenue at the expense of profitability, contracts and projects that you can’t deliver on (better to say no than do a crap job) are both things that are typically in every management textbook as examples of “more is not better.” What I have come to realize is that time is probably the best example there is.

Running a startup, it is an understatement to say that time is a precious thing. If there was a way to add three or four hours to a day I would have taken this over many, many tangible goods. Over the past five years there have been more than a few times where I felt I was able to exercise little control over my time. Meetings were set by others, my schedule was not a priority and I wore many hats owing to lack of steady funding to support additional staff. The reality of this may not have been quite to out of my control. I definitely have a hard time saying no. Over time, like any successful startup, the day-to-day operations slowly shifted to operations staff and I am now almost fully committed to strategic operations and growth initiatives. There is still plenty of work to be done and I could theoretically continue to put in 20 hour days 7 days a week, sleep at the office, and continue the toil.

However in 2016 I committed to being selfish with my time. I have come to realize I don’t need more time. I just need to take back that time which is wasted by others. I needed to be selfish. No more attending meetings that could be handled with an email. No more travel for pointless conferences and events. And, most importantly, prioritizing and planning my days to focus on what really matters, ensuring I have built in time to appreciate life and take care of myself physically and mentally. Long gone are the days of priding myself on getting as little sleep as possible. It turns out I am far more productive calling it quits and going to bed and getting 6-7 hours of sleep. Waking up, enjoying a cup of coffee in bed, reading, going to the gym, then getting rolling and focusing on the day. In 7-8 hours I am accomplishing more than I was working almost three times as long. Productivity aside there are a number of other benefits. First, my life no longer revolves solely around work. Secondly, while I have always eaten pretty healthy, the lack of sleep, irregular eating patterns, and irregular exercise patterns took it’s toll. In the last year I have lost 20 lbs, and more importantly, my body fat percentage is down from 14% to just under 7%. This commitment to be selfish with my time has also allowed me to focus and slow down. In Dec 2016 I took the first vacation (With my wife to Chilean Patagonia, where the above picture was taken) I have had in 10 years where I didn’t bring (and use nearly full time) a work laptop. While I am on my 9th year as a United 1K and have had the privilege to visit 23 countries, I have rarely explored these locations due to short trips, back to back meetings and quick departures to fly to another meeting. I’ve committed to taking some time when I travel to explore, to use the downtime to decompress, focus and reflect on the best ways to proceed. Being selfish doesn’t mean doing less. Quite the contrary, I have found I can do more just much more efficiently and be exponentially happier.