Welcome to the next instalment of our ‘in conversation with’ series, where we delve into the knowledge and career experiences of Focus Board Director, Mark Colley.

Mark Colley Focus Board Director

How did you get into the business travel industry?

Sunways Travel celebrated its 50th anniversary last year, so I recall growing up around the family business from a very young age. However, my chosen career path led me in a different direction into investment banking and broking in the City, and then later into forming my own company in hospitality.

Then, suddenly, and tragically, my dear brother, who had worked his way up through the family business to eventually run it, passed away in 2015. This left my retired father with little choice but to sell his cherished business. I couldn’t bare to see that happen, so I suggested that I step in to see if I could save it. Nine years on, I have never looked back. I take great pride in retaining the company for my father and in the memory of my brother, who dedicated his entire working life to Sunways. I am very close to my work colleagues, many of whom have worked for the company for 30-40 years, and I could not have succeeded in taking the business on without them – I owe them everything.

What skills do you feel you bring to the Focus Board and Partnership?

As I say, my career has been varied, but always in fast-paced, service led, and results driven environments. In particular, the City taught me that communication, focus and integrity will overcome any challenge – no matter what – and I have adapted these qualities throughout my career and hope that these have put me in good stead with my contribution to Focus and the Board.

I also have a sound knowledge of finance and economics – and enjoy getting into the finer detail of a business to make it more efficient and profitable.

Lastly, I consider myself as a ‘people person’, and I believe communication is at the heart of any good business. I enjoy bringing people together to solve problems and build better organisations. I also like a laugh – we can all take life too seriously at times – and this is something I like to think I take from my brother – although, he was far funnier than me!

Who has influenced your career the most to date?

Throughout my life, my father has always had the greatest influence on me. Anyone who started a business in the 70’s while single-handedly bringing two boys up, must be admired. The fact we have staff still working for us over 40 years is testament to the company he built and ethics he instilled.

My wife, Sara, comes a very close second. She’s so smart and adaptable and helps run the business in so many ways – in fact, we have been running businesses together since 2004 and we’re lucky to have found a formula that makes it work. She really is the brains behind the organisation!

What do you admire about Focus? What do you feel are the Partnership’s greatest strengths?

I am fiercely competitive when it comes to making a profit – it’s a trait from my City days and rightly or wrongly, it’s in my DNA and in the past would lead to me assuming everyone in business is a competitor.

When I entered the business travel world and in particular, Focus, I was proved very wrong. Never had I experienced such support and collaboration – all right, we’re not about to share our client lists, but everything else is on the table and Focus has taught me the power of collaboration. Isn’t life great when a negative viewpoint can be challenged, and one allows change to take place?!?

Looking ahead, what do you see as the biggest challenge in business travel for Focus TMC Partners over the next 12 months?

Like any industry, there are financial challenges ahead for anyone in business travel as we continue to grapple with revenue catching up with the hyper-inflationary costs of recent times. I am a numbers-person and firmly believe in the bottom line if we are to grow and prosper, and this is a challenge in current times. But I don’t think anyone in business travel needs to hear this from me…they’ve been cleverly adapting for decades in an ever-evolving industry, and very few sectors can pivot away from adversity into opportunity the way business travel can.

What advice would you give to someone who is interested in pursuing a career in business travel?

100% jump in. It is without doubt the most stimulating and rewarding industry I’ve been involved in. There’s never a dull moment!

If you could change one thing in the business travel industry, what would it be?

I wish there was more clarity around the commercials between Travel Management Companies and airlines, and greater recognition for the part TMCs play in airlines’ success. It’s often opaque and I believe the airlines have some catching up to do in this respect.

Can you tell us something about you that we might not know?

My passions are dining out, wine, whisky, and tennis. Anyone who knows me socially, will know the first three all too well. But unlike the first three, I am terrible at playing tennis, so I tend to keep that one to myself!

If you would like to get in touch with Mark Colley, Focus Board Director, or have any media enquiries, please contact: Joanne Emerson t: 0203 973 7730