Our Journey: Consulting Life on the Road

Ron Stephenson Family Photo

This is the second installation in a blog series highlighting one HIT consultant’s experience taking his family on the road with him and the pros and cons of work-life balance along the way.

Once my family and I made the decision that we would relocate to my client sites together to salvage the family time I would lose by flying in and out of town every week, we needed to work through the logistics of what that looked like. How will the client accept this unique way of engaging in the project? And how do you manage and maintain your home base from another state? This is what experience has taught us.

Appealing to the Client

I was unsure how this unique, family-relocation approach to consulting would be received by the client. I knew there would be savings on some elements of the travel, but I expected the overall cost to be higher. Having been doing this for a few years, I’ve learned that the longer the project duration is, the less expensive it is for the customer. With the extended stays and rental periods, we are able to get lower rental car and hotel rates. Did you know when you stay in a hotel for 30 consecutive days, fees and taxes are waived? Here is an expense example from a recent client project. This shows a traditional “In on Sunday, out on Thursday” week compared to a 7-day extended stay.

Standard Travel Week Extended Travel Week
Airfare  $ 250.00  $      –
Rental Car  $ 350.00  $ 270.00
Hotel  $ 400.00  $ 630.00
Meals  $ 220.00  $ 230.00
Total  $ 1,220.00  $ 1,130.00

We also discovered other advantages to our approach, beyond just the fiscal ones. Being local means you can be available for an early Monday meeting, an unplanned Friday white-boarding session or for a weekend push to get an initiative over the finish line. And if there is a Friday happy hour planned, it’s a nice opportunity to connect with colleagues outside of the 8am to 5pm ritual of the work day.

Managing Home from a Distance

To be on the road, our home must be maintained remotely. Security, standard home maintenance and mail all need to be managed. What do you do if you get a jury summons or a sprinkler head breaks?  For security, we have web-accessible surveillance cameras inside and outside the house, and a doorbell that rings on our phones. These tools allow us to stay connected to our house without physically being there. To keep the house looking lived in, we hired a weekly yard service and a monthly cleaning service. (Plus, it’s pleasant to come home to!)

For our mail, we installed a large capacity steel, locking mailbox. Our neighbor checks our mail weekly and picks up any packages. For the important and personal mail, we schedule periodic Skype sessions with a close friend or family member to review the mail with us. Our parents or older son will drop by occasionally to walk the house perimeter, run the lawn sprinklers and take the car out for a spin. We’ve found when we’re back in town, a bottle of wine and steaks on the grill are a great way to say thanks for all of the help.

Once you have buy-in from the client and your support system at home is in place, you are ready to make your temporary home at the client’s site. In the next blog, I’ll write about our process for travel planning and some of the important aspects of acclimating to a new location.

Read more from consultants on our Consultant Lifestyle blog.