A conversation with easyJet ancillary revenue director, Andrew Middleton, highlighted many interesting insights small business owners could gleam from its operations – despite the company, one synonymous with aviation and British travel, having thousands of staff.
As part of Be the Business’ hospitality cluster efforts in Cornwall, a maiden masterclass event was held on 17 May at the Headland Hotel in Newquay. Formed in 2018, the programme was designed to get businesses from a sector so vital to the local economy together to share business ideas and solutions, – both in person and via digital platforms.
Revenue diversification served as the key theme for the masterclass, which took the form of an intimate Q&A session with easyJet’s Middleton and Be the Business CEO, Tony Danker, and an interactive workshop which got the audience thinking about improvements in the areas of technology, boosting revenues, maximising operations/processes, thinking ahead and managing staff.
Middleton gave attendees a valuable inside look at easyJet’s efforts away from flights. As the person in charge of commercial performance of verticals such as easyJet products, inflight retail, partnerships and the easyJet Holidays offering, Middleton must constantly scrutinise the performance of existing products and think about where new opportunities will arise in the future.
Talking to a room of businesses that included hotels, restaurants, activities operators and holiday cottage providers, Middleton said easyJet’s success will be driven by building a range of products that its customers want to buy, not that they feel they must. He and his team are trying to curate a range of products that suit a range of customers with different needs – creating a breadth of choice.
He also touched upon the importance of thinking in the medium to long term, and said he will sacrifice a short-term revenue stream if he feels it is right thing to do in long term.
Middleton added that in order to drive growth he and his team are broadening the offering and taking calculated bets. It comes back to the logic that if a few bets are placed, and you are prepared for some of them to fail, businesses can learn quickly and move on.
Following an interesting audience-led question session, where they looked to learn from the strategy of a big business and create insights for their own smaller operation, the room was split up into five groups for the workshop component. Based on the masterclass objective of having two or three action points to take away and get implementing, facilitators led conversations around the five key themes laid out above.
It was a chance for the cluster members to hear about the issues and struggles being felt by fellow hospitality businesses and see if there was any advice they could add or take away. Key themes to emerge were a need upskill staff so they can take on different responsibilities, automate certain administrative tasks to streamline and then improve, with customisation, the customer service process and looking outside of the business by letting others be curious for you.
Paloma Sackman, flagship manager at Be the Business, said: “It was truly motivating to see our Cornwall hospitality cluster start to gain momentum. The business leaders in the room were passionate and engaged about sharing ideas with their peers. They each took some learnings back into their own businesses and understood the power of working together to raise the game of the whole sector. Looking forward to making more progress in the coming months.”