The latest leader to partner with AIB as an Industry Guest Lecturer is Laura Ruffles: a travel executive with nearly 25 years’ experience in the industry. Laura joined Corporate Travel Management in 2010 and now holds the dual role of Global COO and CEO of Australia and New Zealand. She is also an Executive Director of the Corporate Travel Management Board and a Graduate of the Institute of Company Directors. Prior to joining Corporate Travel Management, Laura spent 10 years with American Express, working from offices all around the world. Originally hailing from the UK, Laura has lived in Sydney for the past 12 years with her family.
At Corporate Travel Management, Laura is responsible for the strategic direction of the company, its innovation, productivity, customer retention and employee engagement. Clearly a leader with many strings to her bow, Laura will enrich AIB’s strategic management and leadership subjects as an Industry Guest Lecturer.
Corporate Travel Management was listed publicly in 2010, and at that stage was entirely Australia-based. Their addressable market was approximately four billion dollars out of a total eight billion dollar industry, and they were limited by what overseas business they could bid for and the types of customers they could service. Accordingly, the team focused on increasing their global footprint as well as diversifying their customer base to create a pedigree in additional industries including government.
The company’s global expansion meant that Laura needed to balance broader lessons with local tactics. That is, lessons learned from successful permeation of the US market may not resonate within China or vice versa. Laura meets that challenge by avoiding the temptation to impose a one-size-fits-all solution onto a problem. “We keep people locally engaged,” she explained, “and we engage all of our local expertise to work together on the best solution for our customers.” Fittingly, Laura has lived and worked in many countries and has an affection for travelling, which she deploys to help the business get an international foothold.
Corporate Travel Management’s steady growth has seen them acquire businesses that were previously competitors. As this can be an uncomfortable period for employees transiting to a new company, Laura notes that open communication is key. Their ideas and strategies are welcomed, and there is a real focus on setting the course together, as opposed to simply expecting them to fit the Corporate Travel Management mould. Laura is also an advocate of ensuring that every employee fully understands the value proposition, what the company stands for and what it offers, and that they can effectively communicate this to customers.
With the same focus on staff, Laura has also been instrumental in changing the way the company approaches professional development, replacing traditional six monthly performance reviews with monthly check-ins. That’s helped her staff feel more engaged and armed them with better quality information to be able to work on their own improvement.
Change management has also been central to her time with Corporate Travel Management, with digital technologies having a huge impact on the way the travel industry works. Online booking tools, in particular, have raised concerns among travel industry staff, and Laura’s been instrumental in managing the period of change with her people in mind. The key? “Communication, making sure that everybody has a voice and reinforcing to people how they can be part of the solution.”
Though, that digital disruption is also an asset to the company. Laura points to the increase in mobile technology and its ability to provide more information to travellers. She explained, “The digital solutions we have are now paramount to our travellers and making sure that we are giving them all the information they need.”
With so many insights gleaned from her years in leadership positions held globally, we’re excited about the practical experiences and knowledge that Laura can offer to our students. Welcome aboard Laura!