A recipe for success
In today's tough economic climate, certain industries are adversely affected more than others and the travel business is one that has been hit particularly hard during the downturn. Rising fuel prices and aggressive competition are just a few issues that the industry has had to grapple with, as well as poor foreign exchange rates for British travellers - causing purse strings to tighten. With the bottom line remaining the same as always for the airlines (filling seats), it has certainly been an uncertain time for many in the industry. Here, however, is a very inspirational story.
Richard Mintern, Chief Operating Officer (COO) of Monarch Group, takes a very pragmatic approach to the economic situation and believes that the types of problems airlines are facing today are nothing new, but rather go with the territory. Instead of battening down the hatches, Monarch Group quickly realised that in order to achieve its targets for yield and have passengers continue to fly with the airline, it needed to offer more flexible services to meet customers' needs.
Monarch Group has completely streamlined its offering, which meant substantial investment in world class technology and strategic transformation of many of the company's systems and processes. The Group also decided to think carefully about the role it plays in the industry and concluded that being in the middle, i.e. not seen as a premium product nor a budget airline, had its advantages. According to Richard 'Monarch is Europe's leading leisure airline and we compete successfully with the likes of easyJet in terms of providing a cost effective product, but if customers want to build their own class we can do that as well.'
Innovative thinking combined with a common sense approach have always been key factors in Richard's success. 'I think you need to be straightforward and candid with people,' comments Richard. 'I have always been honest and tenacious taking a resilient approach to challenges. Things don't always go well in business. Flexibility and the ability to take information in and process this quickly in order to make the right decision is paramount and my roles in the past have helped me to do this.'
Richard has had an enviable career with Monarch that spans over 20 years. Initially hired as an engineer and project manager for a flight simulator and training device and then asked to take charge of the group's IT department, where he recalls feeling staggered by its lack of professionalism and simple business management. In early 2000 an opportunity arose for Monarch to set up its first ecommerce system to start selling online to the public and Richard jumped at the opportunity. Richard was able to blend his technology experience with Monarch's commercial need to distribute directly to the public, via the Internet and took the site from around 20 to 30 bookings a day to its current position, where Monarch can receive over 20,000 bookings daily.
In 2006 Richard was promoted to Group CIO responsible for all aspects of information technology across the Monarch Group. In 2008, he became Managing Director of Monarch Aircraft Engineering Ltd, which at the time was a barely break even business. Richard explains how he had to manage the business through a tough period of reorganisation and restructure; removing outdated facilities and reorganising the workforce, which included a reduction of 150 employees out of 850. 50 percent of aircraft maintenance revenue had traditionally come from third party airlines and Richard decided they had to look at how they could replace this because it was very seasonal and subsequently inefficient. He took a strategic decision to lower the cost base and, in parallel pursue freight airline operators, so that the business could be utilised all year round. Today the business is more profitable than it has been for 10 years.
In July 2010, Richard was promoted to Group COO, which has allowed him to use his skills to work with the Managing Directors of other key divisions to help them restructure and transform their businesses. Richard attributes his success, even in times of uncertainty, to a straightforward and honest manner, whilst having a tenacious and resilient approach. Coming from the shop floor and rising to the top ensures that Richard maintains perspective and never loses sight of his roots.
To read the full Q&A interview and Richard's insightful answers to these and other questions please click on the adjacent link.
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An interview with...
Richard Mintern, Chief Operating Officer, Monarch Group
Feature Profile: Richard Mintern - Monarch Group (PDF 516kb)
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