Over the past few weeks I’ve been lucky to meet with owners and key managers with some outstanding travel companies. The one thing these workplaces have in common is an exceptionally strong organisational culture which shines through positively in everything they do.

Having not worked much in corporate, I’m always blown away when you walk into a room of 50 people on the same page.

Whilst not an essential element of organisational cultural success, an aspect Reho Travel, Gate 7 and GAdventures have in common is a strong triple bottom line philosophy. I’m not talking Jeans for Genes or even Movember (both great causes) but they are hands on and integrating it into the fabric of their company.

At roomsXML we sponsor the kids education, their photographs on the wall keep us all a little bit grounded. When it comes down to it, it’s fast cars versus a kid completing education.

So what makes for a good culture? What doesn’t? There is already hundreds of books written on the topic, but relevant to the travel industry, here’s some of the big standouts that I’ve seen that breed positive culture in an organisation.


1. Collaboration versus competition


Base salary plus incentive means people tend to play their cards close to their chest. No one wants to give away sale. The possibility being we don’t seek help which in turn would give the customer the best outcome if it hurts our hip pocket now. I previously contracted to a company who implemented new performance-based metrics and then allowed everybody to see everyone else’s performance.

The impact was devastating as everyone tried to move up the leaderboard, at all cost. Management and staff became dysfunctional.

Collaboration, helping and teamwork is an essential. Competition can be good, but maybe against oneself.


2. The physical space


If an office smells like death, it’s probably dying.

Bright light, fresh air, plants, comfortable chairs, not too cramped, definitely not as untidy as my desk…. It seems to have a massive impact on the minute to minute interactions. GAdventures staff had all customised their desk, with everything from footy scarves through to Goldfish bowls.

Very playful, and you could feel the fun. It was authentic with their organisation.


3. Staff know their place in the world


There is so many elements to this. At one end you have employees who know to respect their managers and appreciate the jobs they do. At the other end, you have employees who still respect their managers, and understand that on occasions, they need to rise above, beyond and outside of their role. Managers encourage this as it allows staff to grow. At the same time, staff have a great understanding of their place in the real, big world.

Look what this employee, Tristan F, said about his workplace, Gate 7 (edited…he really got into it..)

“For 8 years I’ve had the true pleasure of working for an amazing organisation …. It’s an honour to be able to now say that what we do is helping contribute directly to the fight against one of the worst ‘dark sides’ of international tourism, thanks to the incredible effort of a dedicated Gate 7 team and inspiring leader in Jo Palmer.”

A pretty good health check of a business.


4. Chronicles and narrative


Me at GAdventures last week

The stories are so important. Last night I presented in Sydney at AIITC and spoke about the narrative required to really sell India. To understand where a company is at you need to know where it’s come from and that history and those events make so much more sense of the current day.

I know in my office I still have terrible trinkets that I struggle to move past because it was there 15 years ago when working for myself was really hand to mouth. But it taught me humility and to value progress as we make it. I think culturally is reflected on a fair bit of humility on our team – and I’m lucky to have such a great team.

The story of an organisation can shape a lot of the culture.


5. Core values


This is one of those overstated wank words but on occasion really hits home and today I am happy to say, very positively

We are big on customer service, and we are working through with a tricky issue made by one of our overseas partners whose made a mistake on a name on a booking. Hotel playing hardball. The usual tricks aren’t working. We are still working through it, but Matt’s words on the phone just now were telling

“I just want to get this sorted, can we do any better, who can you call or can we put it on your credit card?”

We know our customers matter. I know that our core values are going pretty well if my staff are showing them back to me and expecting me to lift my game.

What does a successful organisational culture look like to you?