Terry Jones is an entrepreneur with a powerful message about digital disruption and innovation.
While working for American Airlines – where he rose to the position of Chief Information Officer for its SABRE division – Jones founded Travelocity, initially managing a team of six before becoming CEO and raking in billions of dollars in sales for the travel industry.
He had an unorthodox approach to scaling the online travel agency. “At Travelocity I tried to build a team of rivals,” he tells BusinessCloud.
“I hired people outside of American Airlines, young people who weren’t from travel, who thought they could fix anything, but they didn’t have any experience.
“On the other side, I had the ‘suits’ and they thought everything was fine and it didn’t need changing. They were slow, but they knew travel.
“I put them together and they fought like cats in a bag – it was crazy. But out of that crucible came a multibillion-dollar company.
“To be an inspiring leader, you have to listen, because the best ideas come from the bottom.”
Once Travelocity.com moved to private management – it is now owned by Expedia Group – Jones left the company to become a founding chairman of Kayak.com.
The travel agency and metasearch engine was another example of Jones looking to revolutionise the travel industry through disruption.
“A start-up is about a dream,” he explains. “When Steve Jobs invented the iPod, he called it a thousand songs in my pocket: that was the dream.
“Coca-Cola used to have a mission espoused by their leader, ‘a Coke within a hand’s reach of everybody in the world’. It’s inspiring, and everybody can work towards that, from the delivery person to the scientist to the marketeer.
“You stand out by having an amazing product and there’s some great examples right now. How do you like the last Tesla ad you saw? You’ve never seen one! They don’t need to advertise their product, it’s so good.
“Until recently when they went public, you never saw an ad for Airbnb. At Kayak we didn’t do any advertising at all until we went public and our product was just better.
“If you can provide an amazing user experience, that’s how you stand out. Word of mouth is much more powerful than word of mouse.”
The author of ON Innovation and Disruption OFF, he now delivers speeches on digital disruption and how companies can adapt to the post-COVID-19 pandemic.
“People are changing, huge numbers of people have changed the way they buy. They’ve gone online, they’ve switched their brand, and 80% of them say they’re going to stay with it,” he says.
“You’ve got to be out there with the right product and the right message, doing those things that are required during this pandemic, whether it’s curb–side delivery of food or overnight shipping.”
Terry Jones is part of The Champions Speakers Agency’s range of digital disruptive speakers and available to book now.