Welcome to 60 Second Interviews. Here you can get to know a little more about some of the business travel industry’s most successful buyers, suppliers, and practitioners in just one minute.
Simone has a wealth of experience in the business travel industry having held various roles over the last 32 years. CEO of ITM since 2011, Simone has previously held senior management positions at Capita Business Travel, Carlson Wagonlit Travel, Rosenbluth International, and HRG.
Name: Simone Buckley
Firm: Formerly Institute of Travel Management, now Sandy Row Travel
Hobbies: I’ve always loved dancing, and when I have the chance these days I do Ceroc (a modern type of jive). My two daughters dance, so if I’m not performing, I’m normally watching them at their ballet and tap lessons.
One Interesting fact about yourself: I once danced with Leonardo Di Caprio.
How did you get into the business travel industry?
After leaving school at 16, I joined leisure travel agents, Lunn Poly, through the Government’s YTS programme (Youth Training Scheme). It didn’t take me long me to work out that I could earn more working in business travel, so I convinced a colleague to show me how to use Travicom. Not long after, I moved to HRG as a business travel consultant and I’ve been involved in business travel in one way or another ever since!
Who has influenced your career the most?
As I didn’t go to university, I made it my mission to learn as much as I could from everyone I worked with. My first boss in sales, Julian Knott, had a huge influence on me, and I learnt so much from him at an early age. During my time at Rosenbluth International, I was lucky enough to work for Mal Johnson who joined the travel industry from a career at Xerox. What he didn’t know about strategic marketing and business planning wasn’t worth knowing, and he shared everything he’d learned from his lengthy career with me before he retired.
You joined ITM in 2011, has much changed since you first joined?
Yes and no. Behind the scenes much has changed, as with all businesses, we’ve reengineered our systems and automated processes, and with that we have new people working in the ITM team who have helped us progress. We have rebranded the association, and launched many new member resources, including the education and event programme that we have today.
Even with these changes, I like to think that we’ve kept the community and voluntary spirit that ITM has always had, and that has benefited the industry, for the past 60 years.
What has been your favourite moment during your tenure?
There have been so many great moments. There’s little things that stick in my mind, like when a member contacts me directly because they need some help and advice, and I’m able to share my knowledge or put them in touch who is facing the same challenge.
Then there’s the big moments like being on stage with Huw Edwards, Karen Brady, and Chris Hoy at ITM Conferences. There have been many memorable firsts too like the first time we had our first buyer only focus group, and we had more Travel Managers turn up than we had room for.
You leave to join your next big adventure as CEO of Sandy Row Travel, what’s the ethos when looking to build your team?
When I worked at Rosenbluth International, Hal published a book called "The Customer Comes Second" which was quiet controversial at the time. But, in essence his message was that you look after your people and they, in turn, will look after your customers. I recently read the quote "A company is nothing more than a collective capacity of its people to create value". My ethos is to have the most enthusiastic, hard working people on the team who are well looked after by the company in the belief that their collective capacity will create a great customer experience, and a great place to work.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to pursue a career in business travel?
Go for it and never doubt your own ability. What you don’t know today, learn for tomorrow and remember that the devil is in the detail.
Business travel has provided me with a career that has been rewarding in many ways, and also (more importantly) has been great fun along the way.
Quick Fire Questions
1. What do you enjoy most about your role?
The diversity of the people I get to work with and the variety of challenges.
2. What frustrates you about the business travel industry?
There is a shortage of young people joining the industry, and therefore a lack of skilled staff to take care of customers. I also still get frustrated when people (buyers and suppliers) question the value of the TMC and the ecosystem that it creates today.
3. Where’s your favourite holiday destination?
4. If you were stranded on a desert island, what 3 things would you take with you?
My family; Alex, Elizabeth, and Tony (not necessarily in that order lol)
5. If I had that magic wand and could change one single thing, what would it be?
That I had a magic wand that could change more than one single thing, and if that were the case I'd start with world peace, chocolate and wine that contained no calories, and that fairies were real and knew how to clean my house and tidy my daughters bedrooms!
From all of us at ITM, we wish you a fond farewell and the best of luck in your new role at Sandy Row Travel.