Rob Flint, Executive General Manager – Global Corporate Operations
How long have you been with Flight Centre?
Could you tell me about your Flight Centre journey? How did you come to work for the company and how did you progress through the ranks?
Early in my career I lived in Europe, working for an Australian-owned, coach-based travel business. We were in direct competition with Top Deck, targeting the young and adventure travel market. Of course, Skroo owned Top Deck, so even though I never met him at that time, that was when I first learned about the business that went on to become Flight Centre.
After eight years in Europe, I came home to Rockhampton. A friend told me Flight Centre was looking for people in Rocky, and I started as a Travel Consultant in 1991. Fourteen months later I became the Team Leader.
After seven years working in-store, I moved to Brisbane and became an Area Leader. I did stints as National Brand Leader for Escape Travel, and Executive General Manager of Victoria, before returning to Brisbane for my current role, managing operations of our businesses in Asia and running niche corporate brands including Stage & Screen, Campus Travel and cievents.
What would you say is the big picture purpose of your role?
The main purpose of my role is to drive the corporate model globally, resulting in profitable growth of the brands. One of my core responsibilities is looking into new markets we can expand into, and also growing our offering in the countries we already operate in.
How do you approach your job? What are your objectives to be successful at what you do?
I look at what customers we should be attracting to suit our brands, and then how we can develop a good customer value proposition for those target markets. We are constantly evaluating what we can be the best at, and how our customers can get the right experience from us.
What would you consider to be the highlights of your career at Flight Centre?
One of the first major achievements was way back when I managed the shop in Rocky. I took over when it was losing bucket loads of money, but in space of 12 months, myself and a really good team took the business from losing $50K to making a $60K profit.
In the 2007/08 financial year I received the Director’s Award for turning around the retail and corporate business in Victoria and Tasmania. I must say this was mainly through the hard work of my fantastic SWOT Team. In three short years we were able to turn around an under-performing EGM Division and make it the most profitable business globally, and it still is today.
And the lowlights?
Full throttle was a difficult time. I was the Brand Leader of Escape Travel at the time and made the decision to return the business to a state-based leadership structure. It was the right call, but it left me without a role. I took long service leave while Full Throttle was underway, but basically that gave me ten weeks to stew about my future and wonder what was going to happen.
Skroo asked me to come back to manage the restructure of Student Flights. When that project was complete, I thought I would have to resign because there was no other role for me. I actually wrote my resignation letter, but decided to delay handing it in and went to play touch footy. When I got back to the office the next day I was receiving messages from colleagues congratulating me on my new role. In the space of a day Skroo had done a restructure, without telling us of course, and I’d been made the Executive General Manager of Victoria. I was very happy to move to Victoria, so it all worked out in the end.
Where do you see yourself professionally in five years?
I’d still like to be actively involved in Flight Centre, but maybe not in such a senior operations role. A non-executive role on the Board would be great, or maybe even running the business in a smaller overseas market. Something to keep me engaged and challenged.
What about in 10 years?
I don’t think I will ever retire, so hopefully I will still be actively involved with Flight Centre. I’d like to add value by developing the business in emerging markets, and mentoring new leaders. Flight Centre is forecast to double in size by 2020, bringing us to 35,000 to 40,000 employees. So there will be a lot of new leaders who need to be guided as we experience such rapid growth.
And I’d still like to be having lunch with Skroo every Tuesday and still playing touch footy.
Any other messages for FCL colleagues or people interested in joining the company?
It’s a long journey to achieve success. The young people coming through have to realise that they need to put in the hard work over a number of years to start seeing the benefits. Success isn’t just going to happen in two years – you’ve got to be persistent. If you are confident you are on the right track, the key with a company like Flight Centre is to persist, persist, persist.