Cargo Champion – Lisa Brock
17 / 05 / 2014
LISA BROCK’s strategic mind, her imperturbability, coupled with a pleasant countenance could have made her a very successful football manager or a very rich poker player. Not even the most artful inquisition will entice her to peel back the layers of reserve to reveal the real person behind the title: executive manager of Qantas Freight.
Tell-tale signs hint at the exceptional skills and abilities, which thrust her to the helm of an organisation generating annual revenues of about AUD $1billion and employing around 1, 500 people across the world, when one closely examines her career in the air cargo industry.
“I think building a team is like building a football team. You need people with lots of different skills, talents and backgrounds that just fit together to create a very strong squad.
The team, to me, is the most important thing,” enthuses Brock. “I think we have a great group of people [here] and I find that really satisfying.
I get a lot of enjoyment standing in the terminal talking to the guys; talking to the sales guys around the world; and talking to the head-office [Sydney] team as well.”
Brock is proud of her management style, which she describes as ‘pretty inclusive’. But she is quick to stress the importance of balancing listening to feedback – with being decisive when needed.
Unarguably, the Manchester United supporter’s ascension within the business has been winged – to say the least.
The chartered accountant joined the Qantas Group in 1998 from Erst & Young, before subsequently becoming knee-deep in the cargo division’s mergers and acquisitions exploits. After six years, Brock realised she had stumbled across another of her passions.
“I was looking for a role that was more commercial and involved my line-management experience. It was natural for me to move over to freight. It has been fantastic. You are exposed to the global economy; exposed to a lot of things that are happening within it, whether it is the latest release of the iPhone, or what’s’ happening in the pharmaceuticals industry, or with perishables exports from Australia. You have to be across a lot of different industries and I think that’s really fascinating and quite strategic.”
The mathematics and science boffin has been in her current position since 2011. She appears to be quite nonchalant about her success and her life-changing move to Australia away from the bosom of her family (she has two sisters) and friends back in Cheshire in England, although she does fly back regularly “to catch up” and have good meals.
“I think I took opportunities as they came up, so it was not part of a grand strategic plan,“ she explains. “I have been lucky because I’ve had good opportunities – moving to Australia and taking the role with Qantas. I wasn’t planning on staying in Australia, I just did, and my life is there now, so the plan is to stay. But, who knows? I went over there for a short stint and stayed, which is fantastic. It is a gorgeous place.”
Brock especially likes walking her dogs on some of Australia’s countless picture-postcard sandy beaches and admits to occasionally partaking in one of Australia’s most famous exports: wine.
But she reveals little else about her adopted Antipodean lifestyle. Bring up the topic of efreight though and a little ripple appears on her calm exterior. She is less than impressed by how reticent the industry has been in embracing technology and acknowledging its benefits.
“People know there is a need to change and it just takes a long time to actually get these industry solutions to happen,” she asserts. “Just getting the pace of change moving throughout the entire industry is difficult, but I think we are getting there in that side of things. Qantas is actively pushing the electronic airwaybill (eAWB). We have a whole programme around using technology and innovation to drive and improve service and efficiency, such as implementing iPhone applications so people can track their freight. I think we must embrace technology and change. You cannot stand still and do nothing. You must embrace continual movement.”
So what next for the British innovator? “I always want to continue to be challenged. I like achieving things, making a difference and I think I am doing that [at work],” she muses. “We have set a clear vision and we have communicated that vision throughout Qantas Freight.”