THE ROAD MORE TRAVELLED

THE ROAD MORE TRAVELLED

FOLLOWING the public float of Brisbane’s latest ASX-listed company Corporate Travel Management (CTM) in December, chairman Tony Bellas (pictured) is relishing a new challenge and responsibility. The former CEO of Seymour Group and Ergon Energy discusses the culture and people as CTM prepares for projected turnover of $491 million in FY2011.

CTM’s offer of 21.78 million shares to raise $21.7 million was over-subscribed and funded the subsequent acquisition of Travelcorp. The signs are looking good so far.

CTM is experiencing strong demand for its specialist services and is ideally positioned to leverage future growth from the corporate sector. CTM has forecast 40 per cent total travel value (TTV) growth and 112 per cent net profit after tax growth in FY2011, given the combination of a recovery in the corporate travel market, a six-month contribution from Travelcorp and new client wins.

How has the slowdown in corporate events and bookings affected the business?

The company has achieved sustained growth right though the GFC. We didn’t have a reduction in transactions despite broader impacts on corporate travel in general.

The way the business community values a crisis is that the economy might be slow at the moment, but it bounces back. It’s quite resilient.

What changes have you had to make to your leadership style from the traditional CEO role to chairman?

It has been an interesting change; I used to have a very operational role as CEO of Seymour Group. You go from having a direct operational role with senior management to one that provides guidance to the team and a responsibility to shareholders.

There’s information asymmetry between management who are dealing with issues and financial reports and the board and the directors who you see less frequently. You become more reliant on your management team.

How does the scope of responsibility shift as chairman?

You take a far more strategic view, a helicopter aspect. There’s a broader responsibility in setting risk parameters and also things like guiding and mentoring the chief executive and the senior team.

What’s the immediate challenge?

I’m trying not to climb into the detail too much and to better represent the interests of all shareholders. It’s that information asymmetry that I mentioned and you have to trust your senior management team and have confidence in their abilities.

There’s around 300 staff employed by CTM. What’s a common thread in your leadership style?

A company is a compact among individuals and its key people are employees. It’s all about relationships. A company’s people are its best asset and you need to nurture and develop skills and provide training to optimise their contribution. They provide wealth on the behalf of shareholders, so you need to ensure the opportunity is there for them to participate, that you incentivise them, and that they are best placed to make a positive contribution.

It sounds like you have a good culture there?

The organisation has a very good feel about it, there’s a lot of young people and they are given opportunities to act on their initiatives. Most senior managers were shareholders prior to listing and that has created more opportunities for them also.

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