How do I ask a company to fly my company out for a meeting?
March 19, 2009 8:54 AM   Subscribe

A very large media company is interested in talking to my small, three-person start-up. They're in LA, we're in NYC. How do we gently ask them to fly us out for a meeting? Or should we pay our own way? Not to be picky, but: as interesting as theoretical answers might be, I'm really looking for advice from someone who's been in a similar situation, and how they handled it. Thanks!
posted by Damn That Television to Media & Arts (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If they initiated the contact, they should probably spring for air-fare and accommodations. Simply state that you don't budget for such expenses since you are so small. Controlling expenses, and whatnot.

If they are really big, what would be the possibility of them flying-out to NY?
posted by Thorzdad at 9:02 AM on March 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

Back when we sold our dot-com at the turn of the decade, the buying company flew us out from our respective locations to San Francisco to meet them; they picked up the tab, and I don't think anyone expected otherwise. You're a startup; you're supposed to be frugal. ^_^
posted by korpios at 9:06 AM on March 19, 2009

I've not been in this situation, but I do work in finance. I would suggest a phone or tele-conference as a first step, possibly more than one. Set an agenda for the meeting and plan to discuss "Next Steps." If they are interested, they will probably offer to fly one or more team members out for further face-to-face discussions. If they don't suggest it, you bring it up. "As a next step, I think it would be beneficial to all parties if we could arrange a face-to-face meeting, either in our offices here in X or yours." You can then mention you'd prefer to hold it at your offices (if this is the case) as cost is obviously a concern given your small operation and budget constraints. If they prefer to meet at their offices, chances are they will get the message and fly you out. This is not at all uncommon and given their size I thin hey would expect to foot the bill as a matter of policy. Don't feel shy inquiring about the possibility.
posted by xiaolongbao at 9:07 AM on March 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

...I'm really looking for advice from someone who's been in a similar situation, and how they handled it. Thanks!

Even so, it won't necessarily apply to your situation. In the mid 90's I had a small automotive-related startup and I can't count the number of times that manufacturers like Honda or Toyota would say..."yeah, we're definitely interested in talking to you guys" which usually led to a phone call and pitch.

We also did get "Can you guys fly out here to our American HQ for a meeting?" In which case, we did respond positively. But then came the moment in which we balanced what we were getting out of the meeting vs. the cost and expense on our part. In all cases we either:
A) Told them flat-out that a meeting was not in our budget but perhaps we could meet up with one of them on one of their trips out here. The response was almost always "Aww, well thats too bad. And sure, Bob will be out there next month as it happens..."
B) We paid to go out to the meeting out of our small budget. This happened few enough times to count on one hand.

The only cases in which our expenses were paid were when that was stated up front as in "Are you guys available to come out and talk to us. It'd be at our expense."

Again, my situation and experience may not apply to you.
posted by vacapinta at 9:15 AM on March 19, 2009

Best answer: Agreeing generally w vacapinta — my start-up is HQed in Portland Maine and we're talking to big potential partners in NYC and LA; our CEO flies to them at our expense. If we were well along in acquisition talks I can imagine suggesting that they pick up the tab for a multi-day face-to-face technical-integration visit, but up till then your trip is basically a sales call even if they reached out initially, and the vendor normally pays for sales calls.
posted by nicwolff at 9:44 AM on March 19, 2009

You can expense off a good portion of business travel and related costs on your taxes. You are going there for business, right?

Honestly, you probably aren't expensing nearly as much as you can if you weren't aware that this trip is essentially half of whatever you think it will cost.

I do this regularly and more specifically, several times in the last 12 months.

I highly recommend: Sandy Botkin's seminar/course.
posted by emjay at 10:35 AM on March 19, 2009

Response by poster: emjay: Yes, we certainly can expense it. We've done it before, and it's probably what we're planning to do on this. Even still, "free" is better than "half" is our feeling.

Also, I know that other people's experiences might not apply. I just wanted to (ideally) only get information from people who have done anything even similar to this (so far, so good!) because it's one of those AskMeFi's that can be radically different in practice than in theory.

Thanks for all the insight so far, everyone!
posted by Damn That Television at 11:00 AM on March 19, 2009

Back when we sold our dot-com at the turn of the decade century
posted by Neiltupper at 1:50 PM on March 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

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