The Secret Entrepreneur: Planes, rain, and awkward encounters

Practicalities aside, business travel can lead to some very strange experiences. How did our hidden boss cope as an innocent abroad?

Travelling for business is something I actually really enjoy. Which is fortunate as I have to do it a lot. In between conferences and visiting our office overseas, last year I flew just over twice around the world and racked up enough frequent flyers miles for a very nice holiday indeed.

Over the years I’ve formulated a few travel rules to make traveling a little easier.

1. Eight hours is the magic time. Under that, economy will do. More than that, go business class unless you can afford to waste two days (one in the air, the other recovering). I never used to fly business class until I did the maths on the time I lost, it really does make it worthwhile. 2. Force yourself on to local time as soon as you arrive. If you can make it through the first day, you’ll be fine. Do not sleep until night time. 3. Don’t know where you’re going? Get a taxi. 4. Never fly Ryanair. Life is just too short.

Anyway, that’s quite boring so let’s move on. I’m the Secret Entrepreneur so that I can talk about things that I wouldn’t otherwise. Like this one time in Australia…

I’d flown all the way from the UK to Sydney to set up a deal, and arrived first thing in the morning after a 24 hour flight – where after eight hours of productive work I set about making the most of the Upper Class bar on the Virgin flight (see rule 1).

Having got to my hotel and met my contact, rule 2 kicked in and I went straight to work. After an exciting, but long day finalising the deal we decided to go out for a celebratory dinner. Neither of us knew Sydney well (he was from another city), so we took a recommendation from my hotel and headed off to the restaurant on foot.

After a great meal and a little too much to drink, we decided to head back. Well, we tried. Jetlag kicked in and we got completely lost. Then it started to rain. Full-on, ridiculous, tropical-style rain. Stuck on a deserted street in the middle of Sydney CBD, we ran for cover and I directed us into the only open doorway I could find.

Not having clocked the sign outside thanks to the wall of water, we walked into the entrance of what appeared to be a private bar. A girl in a box office, which on later reflection was suspiciously well fortified, greeted us. She told me it was a ‘full service club’ and asked me if I understood.

Not wanting to lose face I assumed that ‘full service’ was analogous to ‘table service’ and that we’d just be paying more for our drinks. I nodded to indicate ‘of course I know what you mean’ and we walked through the door which she buzzed open.

Then things got weird.

The first indication was that the bar was open, and the drinks were free. The second was when we realised that the room contained the two of us, six women and two gigantic, mean looking guys playing pool. No one else.

Before we could take all of this in, we’d had a beer thrust in our hands and two friendly ladies start chatting to us. My friend and I exchanged confused glances but still couldn’t quite place what was going on. After a couple of minutes of awkward conversation we retreated to some seats in a corner of the room.

No sooner had we sat down than we were each brought a menu. We accepted. We opened. We read. We looked at each other. This was not a bar menu. “I think… we may be in a whorehouse” said I. “I think you might be right” said he.

We looked at our half-drunk beers, then across to the exit door and the two large guys, who had just stopped playing pool and started looking like security. Then around the room to see that the girls were watching us, obviously amused. We briefly discussed the etiquette – “Should we try and pay for the beers?” “No, let’s just try and escape with our morals – and limbs – intact”. We stood up, slowly walked to the door and prayed it would open.

It did, and we sprinted straight out into the pouring rain. Which is when I remembered why I had rule number 3, and caught a cab back to my hotel.

Read previous Secret Entrepreneur columns here on Startups.co.uk.

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