Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Dinner with Graham 'Skroo' Turner

What an incredible dinner with Graham 'Skroo' Turner - founder and MD of Flight Centre! The venue for the dinner with 12 superb women including Graham's vibrant wife Jude was at the Spicers Peak Lodge. Between dining on grilled scallop and moreton bay bug with corn puree and lemon foam in the award-winning restaurant, Graham gave us some insights in to his story and lessons learnt along the way:
He started his career with a double decker bus in Europe taking tours around to different countries - with numerous funny and not so funny incidents happening along the way. Graham sold out in 2003 and admits that he did not make much money but had a good time.
Flight Centre started in 1981 as Graham realised that there was more profit in selling airfares than bus trips. Today the business turns over more than 13 billion dollars and operates in 10 ountries out of 2,300 shops and businesses.
He sees himself as being more conservative than entrepreneurial - interesting self perception!
Graham keeps a little red book of useful insights and he often quotes Jim Collins and agrees that you need the basics in place - the right people have to be on the right seats on the bus. They need responsibilities and need to be driven to be the best.
He firmly believes that unless you are growing, you are in fact going backwards.
The business has a maximum of 5 layers and is team based with 6 or 7 people per team. Everyone needs to be multi-skilled.
His advice to us:
1. You can do as much planning as you like. The key is to make it happen.
2. Find the balance between systems that are too strict and those that don't consider the human side.
3. Understand the type of person you need in a particular role and don't compromise. Don't take note of references.
4. Assessment days work really well as it is easy to be fooled by people.
5. Over the years, he admits to having made amazing mistakes (said in more colourful language...) Sometimes you have to make the mistake twice to learn from it.
6. You have to constantly improve to be more competitive. Think strategically about what other fields you can get in to. Constantly question yourself. Have you made the right decisions?

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