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?
My background has always been in the travel and hospitality sectors, with sales and marketing roles within inbound tourism, for Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary on the Gold Coast and the Hilton Hotel Group in Sydney. After 6 years with Hilton, I moved over to Flight Centre as a Product Manager when they acquired Quickbeds.com, later becoming the Team Leader then the Business LeaderIn 2007, Flight Centre purchased the Travel Spirit Group and we formed Flight Centre Global Product (FCGP), which became Flight Centre’s global procurement and contracting business. I was the Area Leader for product before moving into the Nation Leader role. I was then given the opportunity to live and work in the US for two years as EGM of Flight Centre Global Product, and have now been back in Australia for the past two years
What would you say is the big picture purpose of your role?
My role is to ensure that FCGP is able to procure and deliver the products, systems and support required by our wholesale and retail brands globally across the 12+ brands and six countries we operate in.
What would you consider to be the highlights of your career at Flight Centre?
I won the Director’s Award in 2009, which was totally unexpected. We were very much in the growth phase of Flight Centre Global Product at that stage, but it was nice to be recognised for the work we were doing. Also being given the opportunity to work overseas was fantastic. Living in Manhattan was a great experience, not just for me, but also for my family.
And it’s always a highlight attending the Global Gathering. It’s an opportunity to see how well the business and our people have performed and how big the company has become. It’s great to witness everyone enjoying the experience, not only my teams but everyone from all over the world – everyone makes the most of the amazing atmosphere. It definitely energises you for the year ahead.
And the lowlights?
I’ve made plenty of bad decisions along the way, and that’s never a good feeling. When I was leading Quickbeds.com I changed the supplier/system that provided our international product and the result was diabolical. I only focused on addressing the negatives and didn’t maintain the functionality consultants loved, and sales went through the floor overnight.
It was a big learning curve for me, but Flight Centre’s culture is all about learning from experience. You’ve got to take something out if it. I dealt with the problem by trying to communicate with everyone I could. I think I received 1000 emails and calls from angry consultants, Area Leaders and a few EGM’s over the next day or two and I did my best to respond to every one of them. I learnt from it and I’ve never let something like that happen again.
Where do you see yourself professionally in five years?
I’d like to be working for Flight Centre. I’m very passionate about the role product plays in our business and I think as we continue our transition from travel agent to retailer, global product will play an important role in this company wide strategy.
What about in 10 years?
By then I would have been working for Flight Centre for over 20 years. I’d like that to be the case, and the great thing about Flight Centre is that there are so many opportunities. There’s always something new to get involved in if you want to. So, hopefully I’ll still be with Flight Centre, but will that be in the product space? I’m not sure.
Any other messages for FCL colleagues or people interested in joining the company?
When we purchased the Travel Spirit Group, the SWOT team at the time got together and we were discussing how big we could make our own wholesale business over the next five years. Turnover for the previous year had been $57million. We were saying should we double it? Should we triple it? Someone mentioned one of our competitors had a turnover of $1billion that year. So we made that our five year goal. Tony Carolyn, who was originally from Travel Spirit, was looking at us like we were a bunch of lunatics – but we achieved it in just four years. That’s the thing about Flight Centre, you can dare to set massive goals that may seem unrealistic, and you end up achieving them. That typifies the Flight Centre culture – the belief that anything is possible