When Decades of Experience Collides With the Speed of a Start-up

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Tried-and-tested meets shiny-and-new.

Sandra McLeod boasts 27 years of international experience in travel technology. It came as no surprise, then, when Travelport acquired corporate travel app Locomote in January 2016, that McLeod was subsequently appointed CEO, leaving her role as group vice president for global accounts and corporate development.

“Leading what had been a start-up company was certainly new territory for me, however it was also a refreshing challenge,” she starts. “Typically, when I take on new challenges, I establish goals quickly, look at what is working well and nurture those aspects, make changes to what needs improvement.”

A B2B network, Locomote has enabled travel agencies, corporations and developers to search, share, buy and sell travel since 2014, so it made perfect sense to acquire the innovative and creative corporate travel app – which cleverly “consolidates the entire travel lifecycle” – from the two Aussie entrepreneurs who developed it in our own backyard.

Read More: 7 Lessons We’ve Learnt from Thriving Sydney Start-ups

“One of the reasons Travelport was attracted to invest in Locomote as a tech start-up was because of its talented, energetic and creative people – those people continue to be part of Travelport Locomote and that is why it is important to be located in Melbourne,” explains Sandra.

Combining all aspects of travel from booking to tracking the expiration of staff passports and visas, the platform is easily integrated into existing workflows, providing a one-stop-shop for corporate travel.

With a “rock solid” relationship between management and co-founders, Ross and David Fastuca, McLeod has been able to learn and grow with the company, as well as make her stamp as an established international travel expert. “I rejoice in the fact that this generation has the courage to explore avenues and seek out new challenges, and have enough confidence in their abilities to move from company to company,” says Sandra, reflecting on the state of constant flux, that she sees appealing to younger generations. “I do, however, think that companies maybe are missing a trick on providing learning and development programs as well as benefits to retain key talent.”

This is a key reason the company has focused specifically on bringing some of these start-up style additions into their own office, consolidating a healthy, collaborative culture that actively celebrates team successes.

Read More: Anatomy of an Australian Start-up: From a Garage in Mudjimba to Shipping Product to Russia

“[We’ve] introduced activities and policies that enable [collaborative] behaviour,” explains McLeod. “A good example is our ‘Lunch and Learns’, where any of our employees can lead a session over lunchtime and share subject knowledge or share a work problem that they have with the rest of the team. I think that this is a great example of peer collaboration. “

With global horizons in their sights for the coming months and years, Locomote was acquired at a time when great talent was available. On-boarding Sandra under directive from Travelport, this experienced leader already has expansion on her mind.

“It is… important to plan meticulously in advance of any launch, being very clear that there is a need for your product, that you are able to differentiate yourself against your competitors and provide ROI to your shareholders,” she says. “When any company expands outside of its home market, of primary importance is to understand the need of the customer – am I trying to solve for the same customer problems? Are there any nuances or new requirements? Is the buying culture different?”

And that’s where the power of combining experience with fresh creativity really lies.

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