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Part Twelve: More Jetset Characters

May 6, 2017 Headline News No Comments Email Email
As I said ‘our Tony’ did push his body quite hard in everything he did – I remember arriving at the bus shelter one morning (I used to collect him between 0715-0730) and thinking he was not there.  I was about to move on when I realised he was actually asleep – under the seat, lying on the grass with his head on his briefcase.  I almost left him there – but decided he probably would have objected to that, so (in traditional fashion) I gave a double blast on the car horn, woke him with a start, and we proceeded to work.

Tony was in many ways representative of the ongoing ‘battle’ between sales and admin/operations in the Jetset Wholesale division but he did try to straddle the divide and did a pretty good job of it, most of the time.
He got on particularly well with State Sales Manager Dennis Hall – even if he used to refer him as the only person that he (Tony) knew who had spent the first five years of their life as a charm on a charm bracelet – and they and the sales team mixed together quite well.
The characters out of Wholesale were many and varied – there was of course Tim Wagg (the boss) who ran the division according to David’s wishes – and never had a great deal of time for sales people who I am sure he considered completely unnecessary in the extreme.  There were over the years any number of different sales team members and managers and the names spring readily to mind even now.
At a National level – Garry Marshall, with MIke Farnell as his Assistant in Sales Admin; John Clune springs to mind; the mad Irishman Patrick Lynch (he was Vic Sales before Dennis H); Peter Doig – who tried very hard to bring about change but was just not up to it.  Roland Berger who came on board to run the ‘Silver Book’ (Australia) programme and eventually guys like Damien McConnell and George Sossi.  Mike Croy (ably assisted by Terry Old) reigned supreme in the West, very much running their own show – although they did ‘lend us’ (for just twelve months) Rohan Moss to run Reservations.  Thirty years later Rohan is still Melbourne based although no longer with Jetset.
How well I remember Rohan’s loud voice rising out across the room – he used to bellow “calls waiting – everyone on the phones  – NOW” and woe betide you if you did not react.  Rohan hated calls waiting and his loud voice was particularly effective in getting things happening.
Rohan in the end was a casualty of the Isi comeback – succumbing as did many others to the huge pressure that IJL put people under from1994/5 – 1997.  The colt from way out west – moved on and created a great career for himself first at Concorde (Air New Zealand Holidays – amongst other brands) – then at Transonic and the extensions of that via purchases of HWT and UTAG – via Helloworld to now working with Andrew and Cinzia Burns and their AOT/Helloworld team.
The memorable names ring out through the years when you think about it, from Jetset Holidays people like Heather Tweddle, Sylvia Paisley, Julie Moore, Mark Spalding, David (famously ‘Camp David – if I recall correctly) Tucker and the whole sensational Jetset reservations team; via Vic Sales – with Mark Oscar, Maureen Pearson/Laughlin, Gordon ‘Ding Dong’ Bell, Sarah James and a host of others – including once Romy (SOG) who was seconded there as part of his ‘trip around the company’, all under the leadership (eventually) of one Dennis Hall.  I can go back further and recall Rick Graham, Trish Hunt and Lea McDermott all from Vic Sales and all who made a contribution to the mayhem and the madness of the times.
There was always a hint of an almost constant battle; from an Operations point of view – Sales were always seen to ‘take the agent side’ whereas from a sales point of view Operations were always inflexible and unyielding and it made for many battles across the years.  Sales versus ‘operations” was at times almost a war – especially when describing Jetset Wholesale and the relationship with the National Sales Team, which had some characters of its own.
I remember well Bodil Schu-Hansen and her very special way of eating a Banana (for lunch) during our monthly National Sales/Agency Development meetings; Bodil was Jetset SA and a great sales rep she was as well.  Bodil was one of the genuine characters who made up the SA team over the years and there were many others.  Lesley Oliver for one, the maestro himself Bill Williams, over more recent years Frank Gatta and Paul Cook and of course the very special Jetset SA agent network – led by the ‘original’ Jetset Locations at Whyalla, Naracoorte, Millicent and Mount Gambier.
Queensland featured strongly in both the sales side – Janelle Slipper, Jacinta Sutton and of course (Mr F&T himself) Greg Morris; plus my great mate (the late) Doug Loudon who led the Queensland Agent Network for many years until his unfortunate accident and death on the Gold Coast.
There are many stories we could tell about Doug but one will always stick in my mind and it evolves from the AFTA conference held on Hamilton Island (I think) in the early 90’s.  That conference was famous for many events – the great golf cart Grand Prix, the SwingAway Suite, Bill Jackson and his midnight naked walk through the hotel, David Lovell and his attempts to attract female company and a number of other ‘incidents’ that will be left untold; but Doug’s midnight wanderings from the hotel to his room were legend.
There was an ornamental fish pond outside the front door of the hotel and – following the great Golf Cart Grand Prix (yes Margie B I will tell the story) – I farewelled Doug as he ‘staggered’ down the front stairs of the hotel – he had enjoyed a few bevies had Doug – and stepped/fell straight into the pool.  I sort of rushed to help him but he picked himself up, shook himself off and headed home.  The next morning he told me that it must have ‘pissed rain last night – at least in his area of the island – because when he got up his clothes that he had dumped were soaked and he had no explanation of how he, his clothes and his bedding had got so wet – other than a complete torrential downpour.  We – his great mates – chose not to enlighten him – it was just too good a story.
It was also at AFTA Hamilton Island that one Bill Jackson (Jetset Insurance Services) chose to exit the wrong door in his room when going for a midnight pee – now Bill (so we are told) used to sleep naked and wound up outside – in the hotel corridor without a key, no-where to pee and no way to get back into his room.  To shorten the story – he spent the next half hour trying to find a way to attract attention without having to go to the lobby and completely embarrass himself – but the hotel wanted ID to let him back in the room.  When the security guard finally relented and came upstairs to rescue Bill from behind a ‘pot plant’ he confessed that the security team had been watching Bill on CCTV the whole time since he exited his room.
The even funnier part of the story was that the guest presenter the next morning – Alan Pease of ‘Body Language” fame started his presentation by telling a story about an incident that mirrored Bill’s.  Convinced that he was going to be ‘outed’ from the night before Bill slunk down in his seat even if he really he had no-where to hide – but (luckily) Alan Pease was relating a story about himself – so Bill escaped – until NOW!  Mind you Bill was not the first – nor will he be the last – person that this has happened to.
As I said – Hamilton Island was also the site of the Great Golf Cart Grand Prix.  It occurred (of course) late at night, after a long session at the Swingaway suite (hosted by Peter De Maria and Gerry Vette, two ‘old stagers’ of the industry and of AFTA) and it featured Sabre Pacific versus Jetset.  Sabre was represented by Bill Lawler (who else) and Margie (now) Bootsman but then I think Butterfield, whilst Jetset was Doug Louden (Navigator) and YT – in the drivers seat.  The Grand Prix featured a hilarious and wild drag race around as many parts of the island as we could get the carts too – starting and finishing outside the front of the hotel and the aforementioned goldfish pond.
To say that an excess of alcohol was most probably present in the blood streams of all participants was probably an understatement but the ride was fun, if at times quite hairy, and the result was (sadly I must report) a victory for the Sabre Team.   There are many more AFTA Conference stories and we shall return to them as they fit the narrative.
Reverting once more to the narrative between sales and operations – which was more of a series of ongoing skirmishes than a war.  it was led by Tim Wagg and John Lemish  neither of who’m will ever go down in history as ‘customer service focused’ – in fact the names Wagg and Lemish (at least in their Jetset days) were in fact mutually exclusive to the expression customer service.  Their focus was more on – what went wrong, who is to blame and who has to pay for it rather than fixing the problem.  In fairness – sales probably went too far the other way and supported the agent in all the battles – so that it was often a them and us sort of situation that eventuated.  It made for an interesting dynamic – most of the time.
So let’s talk sales, distribution and agency development as we tick off the true characters in the room – before we start on some of the great events of the ‘golden era’ of Jetset Tours.
The Agency Development team of the mid/late 80’s that eventually morphed into the Jetset Distribution team of the mid 90’s was full of characters and of life.  From NSW – I was lucky to have ‘laconic’ David Lovell, who managed to remain unflustered even under intense pressure – and the hard working – if often volatile Mark Lucas, as my key resources.  Between them they managed the largest and most diverse group of both branded and non-branded agents in the country.  Both David and Mark were very active in the launch of the Travel Centre Network and the growth of the franchisee group in their state.
David L could always be relied upon to break up a tense situation in the NSW Agency Network and believe me with some of the members that we had there were more than a few of those tense moments.  David had the knack of coming up with a quick quip, an off hand remark or even – if need be – a sharp rejoinder that bought things back on an even keel.   We had some pretty volatile agents as part of the network in those days – I can think of a few right now but discretion (perhaps) demands that I don’t actually name them.  There was one from Surry Hills who was alway capable of giving us a hard time, and stirring up the network along with it – BUT Mr Lovell had her measure well and truly.
Mark on the other hand was not as quick with the wit – but he knew the system, related well with the agents and managed his half of the group very well.  Between David, Mark, Mike Farnell and the sales team we had a pretty good handle on the NSW network, most of the time.
Now Queensland – well that was different.  Doug Louden was THE man, he was a great bloke (sadly he died much too early after a tragic accident on a high rise balcony on the Gold Coast) but he ran his business brilliantly.  Sadly he had to deal with the genuine erratic one himself Greg Morris as GM Jetset F&T Queensland and that was a challenge.  In fact it wad an almost insurmountable challenge and when you couple it with two/three of the ‘rebel agent members’ who co-existed (the only way to say it) within the network at the time it was tough.
There were once again some real problem members and again they can rename unnamed – although I am happy to say that the Cairns location was ALWAYS a challenge.
Back to Doug – he had a great sense of humour, a huge work ethic an ability to keep going even when exhausted and an ability to take the fire out of any situation when required – and he handled Greg when he had to, although it was tough.
All in all the BD/Agency Development/Distribution team – especially in the early days was a great one; importantly the job got done, the network got built and for the most part the agents were kept happy.
Mind you the highlight of the whole process were the events and the activities, the conferences and the sales meetings, the agent functions and (of course) the product launches all of which kept the processes flowing and when we return we shall talk about some of the better known/ and perhaps lesser known of those events.
Coming up – The Jetset Days – Highlight Events.
Written by: Peter Watson

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