The head of travel at Dorset-based cosmetics giant Lush talks to Bob Papworth about her role and the challenges she faces
Lush is a very successful company – how and when did you first get involved?
I joined Lush in my current role in November 2013. I was introduced to the founders by a travel industry colleague, who knew that my skill-set matched the needs of their expanding travel team.
Please tell us about your background
My first role in the travel industry was in the early 1980s as a retail travel clerk. I have worked across all areas of travel – corporate, retail key-account management, foreign exchange, PR/brand senior management... I am relatively new to procurement and have enjoyed this aspect of my role as our business has developed and our needs have changed.
How many travellers does Lush have, and where do they go?
Our travel is global, to the countries where we have a retail presence as well as those where we buy the raw materials for our products. Our regular travellers in the UK number approximately 250, with many additional staff taking less frequent journeys for training and meetings, and so on.
Since I started at Lush, our traveller numbers have doubled, and we continue to travel to new destinations, both where we are expanding and where we source materials.
Do you have compliance issues, and how do you address them?
We work very closely with our colleagues and achieve a 98 per cent compliance rate. We work as a support team to the wider business, delivering a very individual service to meet the travellers’ needs. We provide the same high standard of service to our travelling colleagues as our retail customers receive in our shops. The work we do is very much appreciated by our colleagues.
What have been your greatest professional challenges?
I have been lucky to have enjoyed an extensive career across many sectors, which has provided many challenges. Supporting travellers in the aftermath of the Boxing Day 2004 tsunami, the break-up of the Russian States and the eastern European bloc, and the Gulf War all stand out – as well as trying to find a gymnast who was on holiday somewhere in the UK, to fly out to the 1988 Seoul Olympics to replace another, injured gymnast!
Perhaps the most recent was during the opening of our new flagship store in Oxford Street and the transfer of 600 international colleagues from the airport to an overnight hotel in central London, followed the next day by a whistle-stop visit to the store and then a transfer down to Bournemouth where they were attending a meeting – and we lost only one suitcase. I have changed direction several times within the travel sector and been involved in a successful homeworker start-up; all in all, I’d say the last 35 years have been fantastic.
If you could change one thing about the corporate travel buying process, what would it be?
If there was one thing to change, perhaps it would be group hotel contracting – it is still a challenging process and some of the practices appear to be outdated.
What advice would you offer to someone contemplating a career in travel management?
It is a fabulous industry which can see you working anywhere around the globe, in a huge variety of careers. I have seen so many technological advances and developments during my own career that whatever your skill-set, there will be a role somewhere in travel. A new recruit would need to enjoy working directly with people, have a good level of organisation, be a good communicator, be self-motivated and have a willingness to learn and be adaptable.
You’re a newcomer to the Business Travel Awards judging team – how was it for you?
It was a great experience and the standard of entries across all categories was extremely high. We compared submissions for key points of difference and how this has influenced the outcome on the team/business or individual. I was particularly impressed by companies’ CSR [corporate social responsibility] policies.
On a personal note, did you have earlier as-yet-unfulfilled ambitions?
To learn to sail, paddle-board and ski down a black run in full control!
How do you relax when work is over?
This weekend will see me out on my road bike – I have committed to a long bike ride from Bordeaux to Bournemouth in the spring and need to get practising...
Company profile: Lush
Lush’s founders, trichologist Mark Constantine and beauty therapist Liz Weir, set up their company in 1995, with a six-strong team making – by hand – ethically-sourced and eco-friendly cosmetics above a small shop in Poole, Dorset. Two decades later, Lush is now a multi-million pound global brand.