Influencers & Profiles

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

Cara Waters /

Our biggest contract win was for travel spend in excess of $100 million and fundamentally we won that through conversation with [the client] about developing a very different model just for them to meet their specific travel requirements. We came up with a model, discussed it with them, they loved it and implemented it within three months.

There is nothing like a good network. We had worked with their CFO previously at another organisation.

Networks create a warmer lead and a warmer opportunity for you. It is incredibly important but just as important is word of mouth.

We’re not big on marketing, we don’t market per se. We undertake social media but the business that we get is really driven by word of mouth, it’s through recommendations.

For us, running a sales team is very much about integrity, it’s about the integrity of the proposition, the integrity of our people and the integrity of our fulfilment. 

We feel very passionately about not working with clients and companies that don’t sit within our values. That is very hard for our salespeople sometimes. We would rather be true to our values and come from a position of integrity.

The thing that makes the biggest difference for us is our culture. It’s the key driver behind everything we do. We hire and fire on values: Values fit is equally important, if not as important, for us as a technical fit. That, for us, is critical.

When you start out as a three or four man outfit it is very easy to establish culture. Now it is very important for us how we work with our leaders. Leadership training is critical to us. We do performance reviews every month, but at the end of the year we don’t do an annual performance review we do a cultural assessment instead. 

Culture starts for us with recruitment. We have a new recruitment process called onboarding. A new start gets boarding passes for their orientation; it’s like an airline because we are in the aviation industry.

Staff are incentivised on delivery of key performance indicators

We also have a profit share scheme so when we ship a certain amount of profit everyone shares in the profit of the business. For us it is important that we share the success of the business with our people, a number of our people are shareholders in the business as well.

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Cara Waters

Cara Waters is a former SmartCompany editor. Previously, Cara was a senior reporter for the Financial Times' website and worked for The Sunday Times in London.

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