Productivity on the Go

Scott Kriz is co-founder and CEO of Bitium, an operating system that provides app management, single-sign-on and analytics for more than 1,000 cloud-based apps. Before Bitium, Scott held product roles at Fastpoint Games and ProElite. He also helped found CollegeTownUSA, was CEO at MindEdge, Inc., and worked as a systems engineer at General Electric and Raytheon Company.

Scott Kriz is passionate about helping Silicon Valley startups work efficiently with their cloud apps – a skill he values most when he’s on the road himself. Moving between offices, airplanes and coffee shops, Scott has identified exactly what he needs to stay productive when he’s on business trips or offsite meetings. He walked us through his trips to show us exactly how this works.

Prepping for the Trip

What’s your personal threshold for booking an out-of-town trip?

With a few exceptions, I try to schedule at least three meetings before booking a day trip. If it looks like I will have more than five meetings, I book a hotel. Being a Los Angeles-based company has its benefits, but I’ve found that being present in the Bay Area at least once a month is advantageous if the time is spent efficiently.

How do you set a schedule for your trips?

My calendar dictates my entire day, both on the road and in the office. My Bitium team knows this, and has access to my calendar to schedule relevant meetings. All meeting blocks include travel time, but I specify the exact time of the meeting in the event description, so that I can double-book a commute to a meeting with a call, if needed.

Allowing members of my team to schedule meetings directly into my calendar means I can make the most of every trip. If they know that I have an hour free in Palo Alto, for example, they can schedule a meeting with a potential hire, potential customer or strategic connection while I’m there.

How do you handle regular internal meetings while you’re traveling?

I generally decline all internal meetings when traveling. Our team has a standing Skype chat at 8:30pm Sunday through Thursday. For those, I make sure to let the team know up front if I may not be able to make it and why.

To ensure that the company knows I’ll be out of the office, I send a quick note the management team so that they know to look at my calendar to see where I will be and when. The goal is to maximize the time spent while traveling.

Do you delegate work before leaving?

We’ve done a good job as a company at delineating roles and responsibilities. It’s always been our goal to have people cross-trained for every job function. This generally means that delegation is not necessary. However, if I anticipate that there will be something time-sensitive coming down the line, I let a few people on the team know before I hit the road.

During the Trip

Any productivity tips for the plane ride?

I’ve found that an airplane can be one of the best places to focus. I tend to set goals for each flight and I take advantage of the isolation and lack of communication tools on board. Takeoff and landing provide a perfect time to brainstorm. I keep a notebook and pen out to write down my thoughts, user flows through a new feature or whatever else is on my mind. As soon as I’m able to open my computer, I’m focused entirely on Excel and Powerpoint. I spend most of my days living in SaaS and cloud-based software. The plane gives me the opportunity to dig into financial models, sales decks and analysis, without the temptation to check email and multitask.

How do you prioritize tasks on the road?

I think of travel as a tactical mission. If there happens to be downtime, that’s great. But I don’t expect to have time to focus on much besides the task at hand. That’s why I typically put a low priority on activities that are not related to the meetings scheduled on a trip.

What two pieces of technology do you keep on you while traveling (besides your laptop and smartphone)?

Power and Internet.

There’s no worse feeling than low battery on a phone or laptop when traveling. USB car chargers and mobile power chargers help solve that problem.

The other critical tool is the Internet. None of my work is dependent on a local device. Everything is in the cloud. My company, Bitium, is a SaaS management company. Our product enables companies to access their web based applications anywhere from any device. I’m now completely dependent on the technology that we have built. It enables me to work from any device from anywhere with an internet connection. I can effectively get online through any computer, smartphone or tablet and access everything from storage (Box and Dropbox) to Salesforce.

How do you guarantee you’ll have an internet connection wherever you are?

This requires a bit of pre-planning:

  1. I map out where the local Starbucks are, and put the addresses directly into my calendar.
  2. A lot of my travel is to California’s Bay Area, so I’ve been renting cars through Silvercar. The service includes WiFi in the car.
  3. I create redundancy through a tethered Internet connection from my phone.

How do you choose where to work while you’re on the go?

I try to find places to work that have Internet, power and background noise. It’s very easy to work from a Starbucks where most of the conversations are based around what coffee drink to order. I consider this white noise and it actually helps me focus. I tend to try to avoid public workspaces, where there is too much conversation going on, especially if it relates to startups and funding. For example, I try to avoid the Starbucks on Sand Hill Road. It’s too distracting and tempting to eavesdrop.

How do you keep your team in the loop while you’re away?

When I’m traveling alone, I call Bitium’s co-founder after every important meeting to give him a detailed summary of the meeting while it’s fresh in my mind.

On the other hand, for sales meetings, I often follow up with a quick email to the person I met with and BCC: my Salesforce account, so that I’m sure that the interaction is tracked and visible to the rest of the sales team even before my return to the office.

After the Trip

What do you do when you return to the office to follow up on the trip?

I find that returning to work with pending follow-up and unanswered emails causes a massive loss in efficiency. When I return from a trip, I typically give myself time to get some sleep, wake up at home the next morning, and get through my inbox early on, before the distractions of the day begin. In some cases, I leverage my calendar to set times and dates to follow up one meetings for which immediacy may not be appropriate. I also go through all unresolved items in Salesforce that I’ve created via Bcc: during the trip.

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