Jacqui Walshe
Managing director of the Walshe Group


What does your role involve?

JACQUI WALSHEI am Managing Director of both the Walshe Group – a company that specialises in airline and tourist board representation, and its parent company Southern Travel Holdings which owns an inbound tour operator and an online retail travel business. I am also a board director; one of the boards I sit on is the Australian Tourism Export Council.

How did you start out in your career? Were you always destined to work in the travel industry?

In my case yes I was always destined for this. I was brought up in a travel industry family in New Zealand and my father always actively encouraged my brother and I to get involved. Leaving university, the travel industry seemed a good place to start.

Did you complete formal qualifications, and how essential are these for those who want to reach the top? How important is ongoing education?

I am a definite believer in ongoing education. I started straight out of university with a Bachelor of Business degree and then did an MBA about 10 years later, once I had had some business experience. Last year I completed the Australian Institute of Company Directors course. Taking the time to do the study when you are working is challenging, however there is definitely a benefit in getting up to speed with the latest thinking in business. I am also a great believer in using education as a means of networking with people in equivalent roles in other industries. That being said, it’s essential to put any formal qualifications into practice as there is so much to be learnt from hands on experience.

What were some of the greatest hurdles you’ve had to overcome?

Dealing with major setbacks in the business cycle, such as September 11 2001, were really challenging. I’ve had enough difficult periods in the business to know you have to just buckle down and work through it. We were for a long time a small player competing against some of the industry giants in Australia so finding a way to achieve competitiveness and grow the business was not always easy. Especially with my New Zealand accent!

What factors were central to your success?

Resilience, no question. Any long-term business has its ups and downs and to be sustainable you have to cope with the setbacks and keep finding your way forward. I have always actively consulted with my colleagues and peers and reflected on what is occurring in our environment, which I do think has made a real difference to how our business has performed. We have always pursued growth but never let ourselves be complacent or arrogant about any of our successes along the way.

Did you have a mentor, and if so, how did you find them?

I have a lot of people I talk to – I support Sheryl Sandberg’s views in ‘Lean In’ that your mentors do not have to be formally assigned. Over the years I have found many people willing to give me advice.

How have you seen attitudes to women change during your career?

The “old boys network” was very prevalent when I started in the late 80s but, as the latest disruptive businesses have shown, you can ignore the entrenched view and get on with doing something your way and succeed just as well. There are now many successful women in senior roles in the industry, though still not enough on boards.

What are the keys to good business?

Be willing to change and always adaptable. Intelligently assess your own business’s performance and the market you are working in. Surround yourself with people who are good at what they need to be good at and who have the values and qualities that fit your particular business culture.

What advice would you give to others in the industry who would like to follow in your footsteps?
Given how many competitors we have already I am not sure I even want to answer that question! But in all seriousness, don’t let yourself get stagnant, keep evolving, have a good team around you and take challenges in your stride.

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