MICHELLE Ashcroft, General ManagerPhil Hoffmann Travel
1. What does your role involve and how long have you been in your current position?
I have been in my role of General Manager with Phil Hoffmann Travel (PHT) since 2013. Leading a team of over 200 staff, my focus is to build an engaged performance culture and continue to grow our business through strategic planning, staff development and supplier relationships.
2. How did you start out in your career? Were you always destined to work in the travel industry?
My love of travel started when at age 15 I went to Germany on a student exchange. I loved the freedom and excitement of experiencing new cultures and meeting new people. I never wanted that feeling to stop. I started my career in 1997, and back then there were not many opportunities for inexperienced consultants. I started my career doing full time work experience, where I focused on customer service, product knowledge and building relationships. I was then offered a role with Phil Hoffmann Travel as a junior consultant and have never looked back.
3. Did you complete formal qualifications, and do you think they are important?
I started an Arts degree at Flinders University after school, but after a year I deferred and completed a travel course. Since then I have completed various certificates and business courses for development and inspiration. Whilst it hasn’t had an impact on my career, I do wish I had completed my B.A. degree for myself. I think times have changed, and that formal qualifications are now more important than ever, and an expectation from employers. Regardless of the content, a qualification shows a commitment and an ability to learn.
4. What do you love about your job?
I love the strategy, the pace, the competitive environment, and of course the travel! I love the opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives, both our clients and our team through travel experiences and career progression. But most of all I love the relationships I have built, both with our supplier partners and our team — who are the most passionate and talented bunch, who not only shine in the good times, but roll their sleeves up in the hard times, and are relentless in their vision of success.
5. What are some of the greatest challenges you’ve faced in your career?
Challenges generally appear when expectations aren’t met, and for over 20 years we have been faced with many. Whether it be world events, the economic climate, changing technology, client trends and expectations, or a skills shortage, I have always found that clear and consistent communication is the key to moving forward.
6. What factors were central to your success?
I have always had the drive and hunger to succeed, and I have been lucky to work in an environment that has supported this. I have worked with amazing leaders who have mentored and inspired me, whilst giving me feedback and empowerment to grow. I think an important factor in any longevity is the ability to adapt (think Charles Darwin) and have an open mind to change; so working in a business that is agile and constantly pushing the boundaries to innovate and futureproof, inspires a culture of success.
7. Did you have a mentor, and if so, how did you find them?
I have been extremely fortunate to have had many mentors over the years, some whom maybe don’t even know they sit in this space. Different people offer different things, so knowing who to go to for what can offer the growth and development needed. More than anything, it is trust that is critical for any mentoring relationship.
8. What are the keys to good business?
The key to good business starts with relationships and trust. If you can surround yourself with capable and driven people, both staff and supplier partnerships, who share the same values and vision of success, you will be unstoppable.