How Sue Hollis co-founded a $250 million travel company

How Sue Hollis co-founded a $250 million travel company

It’s all about values for Sue Hollis, who founded travel services business TravelEdge in 2000.

The Sydney-based entrepreneur, aged “50-ish”, created the travel services business with co-founder Grant Wilson and has built it into a company with $250 million turnover. She told SmartCompany that for her, founding TravelEdge was not about finding a niche.

When we started 14 years ago, we wanted to get into a business we thought made a difference. For us it was about creating a business that added value to people and to customers.

We were more blessed than I realised at the time when I started the business as our skill set is very different. We are complete polar opposites in skill set but our values are the same. There has never been an overlap in terms of roles and responsibilities.

Grant looks after strategic opportunities and my job is very much the delivery. If you looked at it in terms of traditional roles, Grant is more the chairman and I am the CEO. I make sure we optimise our business in every area that we work.

The plan for us was to start with something we knew, which was corporate travel. 

Whilst corporate travel is a traditional model we have seen the market change quite significantly over the last five to six years. That’s why we believe there is always room for a different model for clients who want to have more control.

The traditional corporate travel model is becoming very transactional, people want to book it themselves and do it online. There is merit to that, with good cost savings and control for the travellers themselves.

It was about identifying that opportunity, seeing it, letting it run.

Larger companies which grabbed that opportunity earlier in the piece are now saying, ‘We want something different, we want a different service model.’ Some of our clients own the consultants and we provide the technology, the experience and thought ownership. 

We are being approached by a lot of large companies now which are very interested in having a very different approach, but there is only 20 companies of that size to make that efficient. So we also need to develop a hybrid model for mid-sized companies and work out a third model for companies who want the benefits of our expertise without having a travel consultant.

It is a tight margin industry. It comes down to building models that clients need and making sure we can be as productive as we possibly can. 

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