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by Vault Consulting Editors | September 11, 2009


Driving two hours from the airport in to a featureless Minnesota tundra a much more pleasant with a comforting 'you are here' moving dot on a map. Since rental car GPS additions are rarely ever reimbursed on expenses and phone solutions just aren't the same as a stand-alone GPS, I would recommend opting for a portable GPS. As for features, I would say the traffic feature is useless in most cases, since the highway is generally the most direct route, but speed of the unit is key as you'll want to shoot straight out of the gate once you land at the airport. One new GPS feature that's one of my real favorites points out which lane to be in on a highway.

I always swore I would not get one of these (mainly to avoid being labeled a schizophrenic), but Bluetooth headsets really are necessary to juggle numerous conference calls, Police disdain and regulation of cell phone use while driving. So I now find myself in possession of a Jawbone; I'm a huge fan of its noise reduction based on the reverberations from your jaw and slim profile, although it does have a few design flaws, like an indicator light hidden behind where you press the power button. It's also so small that it can easily fall out of your ear and/or be lost. The new Jawbone Prime is expensive, but you can find a deal on it and the Jawbone II if you stick with OEM basic packaging.

As far as computer accessories, avoid that red nub or touchpad on your laptop and replace it with a Logitech VX Nano; I broke two however (as a result of large drops, much more my fault than Logitech's) or a Microsoft Arc (my current weapon of choice) which folds up, storing the USB transmitter inside. Laptops are fragile, so a neoprene case to absorb some shock is not a bad idea. A 6-inch hard drop in a security bin cost me my Dell LCD and few days of minimized productivity.

A universal laptop charger is a nice but expensive addition; an iGO, Targus, Kensington (I have the first two) with tips for most major laptops will set you back over a hundred dollars. To simultaneously charge your cell phone or GPS, most airports and Radioshack stores will have the tips do to so.

At a new client or site, it may take time to get internet access, and they may block the VPN access to your consulting firm, stopping you from entering time and checking your firm's email. I absolutely consider a cellular card/usb modem/Myfi a must. The Myfi is an innovative option, allowing 5 connections—that is if wireless is allowed at your site.

For auditors or others of us with sensitive client info, the 3M privacy screen is a must, but make sure your screen has the easy-slide tabs, as the permanent mount stickers aren't a great option. Some client may eventually want to see your screen and they will rip that thing off.

As far as apparel, wrinkle-free shirts are really helpful, especially if you're not scoring first class where you can hang up your garment bag. Brooks Brothers has some professional-looking ones, or you can try Eddie Bauer nano-tech ones. My also-consultant brother has been raving about Outlier Tailored Performance pants from a bike messenger company in New York. The black options look professional and, if they can take the extremes of bike messengers, they should do well for travel. I wouldn't admit it freely or wear it to a law firm, but if your luggage is lost, Target has passable dress clothes now that will work in an emergency. Another simple but very useful thing I've found is the brown/black reversible belt. Target has one (Swiss brand Wenger), as does Express.

A final note, on professionalism and individuality: from luggage to everything, most everyone in consulting will select black (doubly so if you're on the East Coast). This is not a creative industry, so the safe route is almost unilaterally taken. I diasgree with this for many reasons; black luggage is not smart, as it is easily lost or mistaken for someone else's. I'm not saying go for the pink one, but spice it up a notch. Personally, I like the iPod aeshetic and prefer sleeker, silver and white bags. I didn't think it would be that controversial, but one would think I'm an iconoclast after all the comments. 10,000 laptops a day are lost in airports. Finding one in a white case? I got 99 problems and that ain't one.


Filed Under: Consulting