Speaker Interview: Melissa Browne
Melissa Browne CEO of A+TA, CEO of The Money Barre, and Director of Business at Thinkers,inq preschool.
Melissa Browne is a serial entrepreneur, accountant, author and public speaker. She is the CEO of both A+TA, an accountancy and taxation firm, and The Money Barre, a financial planning firm. She’s also the Director of Business at Thinkers,inq preschool. She has authored two books about business and money and regularly contributes to Fairfax media.
Ahead of her presentation at the Travel Industry Exhibition & Conference, Original thinking for creative leadership, Melissa sat down with us and discussed her leadership philosophy, thriving through times of great change, and the power of creative thinking.
- The importance of creative thinking and collaboration for problem solving
- Not responding to disruption, pre-empting it
- Knowing what customers need, not just what they want
- Asking yourself, ‘If I was to start a business tomorrow to put me out of business how could I do that?’
What is your personal leadership philosophy?
When I first started in business I used to call myself a ‘benevolent dictator’ but the problem with that is you create doers, not thinkers and innovators. In business today we don’t need an army of drones. Now I would describe my leadership philosophy as someone who is courageous enough to lead from the front by doing not just by saying. To inspire others through what they see not necessarily what I say. To be the type of collaborative leader who is willing and wanting to unleash the potential within those who work for her to be the best that they can be both at work and in all of their lives.
The travel industry is going through a lot of change at the moment, what are the best qualities in a leader to bring a company through times of great change?
I think a great leader in a time of change needs to be open-minded and collaborative. I think it’s important to ensure everyone in the company knows what is happening and is heard. Because often the answer to what the company is facing lies with someone whom you least expect to have the answer which is why you need to involve all of your people in coming up with solutions.
Your presentation topic is Original Thinking for Creative Leadership, can you give us a small taste of what you’re going to talk about?
What got us here won’t get us there. Many of us are already feeling the effect of disruption in our industry and we don’t have to look very far to see it all around us – from Uber to Airbnb to Netflix, we’re facing a time of transformation like no other.
Or are we? Change is nothing new. But the thinking that is required in order to stay relevant, to stay in business, and to succeed, does need to be updated. Today, more than ever, as leaders we need to adapt and encourage creative and critical thinking in our leadership styles so that our businesses don’t simply survive but thrive in a new era. We can pout and stamp our feet because we don’t want things to change or we can figure out how we can stand out and succeed in this new age of business.
You’ve initiated several successful start-ups, what lessons can established travel industry members take from the start-up sector?
So many things. To be nimble, to be agile, to look for the problem that customers are wrestling with and come up with creative solutions, to look to other industries for new ideas and to not be afraid to fail. We also need to be careful however of simply listening to our customers and providing them what they want because often our customers don’t know what they want. After all, Henry Ford famously said if he asked what his customers wanted they would have said a faster horse.
Changes in technology have precipitated a number of disruptors over a number of industries. What lessons do you think the travel industry can take away from disruptors such as Airbnb?
If there is one certainty in business, it’s that change happens. If I look at every industry I’m involved with there is possible change and even extinction from technology, globalisation or any other number of big changes. I think the lesson to be learned is not to be apathetic and believe that change will never happen to your sector. I think one of the biggest lessons we can learn from disruptors such as Airbnb, Uber, Netflix or other disruptors is to really lean into our customers and find out what they need. To really understand their frustration and ask how you can seek to do something about that with your business.
Your philosophy for Thinkers.inq is to push out thinkers rather than doers. Can that be transferred over to the world of business, especially travel?
Absolutely. More than ever in business we need creative and critical thinkers who are questioning what is happening in their industry and looking for improvements and disruptions. Yes, we need to do the work otherwise our businesses will grind to a halt but we also need to be alert to what is happening and not be afraid of what is coming. We need to be spending time in our business asking the question, ‘If I was to start a business tomorrow to put me out of business how could I do that?’ Then when you’ve created the scenario, work out if you should be adopting some of those things. Or if you should react now before that business happened so that your customers are continuously surprised and delighted.
Melissa Browne will discuss her leadership philosophy, and more, in further detail as part of her presentation, “Original Thinking for Creative Leadership”, at The Travel Industry Exhibition & Conference 2017.
This must-see industry event will run in Sydney from 20-21 July in the Ted Hopkins Room, Crystal Palace – Luna Park and in Melbourne from the 25-26 July at the MCEC (Melbourne Convention & Exhibition Centre).