PEOPLE ARE AT THE HEART OF EVERYTHING WE DO…
At Gray Dawes, we believe in the power of people. Not only do we want to provide our clients with a travel experience they will never forget, but we are also committed to nurturing our employees to reach their full potential. After all, our people are the integral ingredient of our thriving ecosystem. They bring the heart and soul to Gray Dawes’ bricks and mortar, their work ensuring we can deliver better travel management and make a positive difference in people’s lives.
But who are the people who shape Gray Dawes?
In this article, the first in a new series for Moving Forward, we catch up with Dan Fido, one of our brilliant Account Managers. We chat to him about his role, his life at Gray Dawes, his thoughts about the future, and the proudest moments in his career.
Dan Fido, Account Manager at Gray Dawes, during a trip to Thailand.
Hi Dan. Could you tell us a bit about the Account Manager role and your career so far?
So what exactly is an Account Manager?
“That’s a good question as most people don’t seem to know what an Account Manager does half of the time! I understand it though, as I do a lot of different things in my role. Primarily, my role is to keep people happy – I maintain valuable relationships with clients and ensure that, through those meaningful relationships, Gray Dawes can deliver a service that brings real value to their business.
I help to build our clients’ travel programs, too. That could be helping them with cost savings, delivering data, or hitting carbon targets – I often work with the services team to make sure that our delivery meet the high standards we set for ourselves.
“In some cases, our clients are specifically looking for good digital services. Then I would work closely with our Application Support team to ensure that my clients can get the absolute most out of our online booking tools and data dashboards. I’m essentially the voice of our clients internally.”
“So really we touch all points of the business. We work with pretty much every single team within Gray Dawes and I get to know just about everybody because every one of my clients has a different goal.”
How did you become an Account Manager?
“I’ve been an Account Manager on the Gray Dawes Enterprise Team for the past 5-and-a-half years of a 12-year career. I got my first taste of account management at a textiles company in Manchester – very northern, I know! I started out doing account management support before working my way up to Account Manager and then on to National Sales Manager.
I used to look after the accounts of a few big, international retailers and clients in hospitality, with one of my main focuses being the provision of company uniforms and PPE. I then moved over to the travel industry with Gray Dawes and haven’t looked back.”
approx number of Account Managers (AMs) in the UK as of 2021.
of Account Managers in the US are women, or approximately 466,000.
higher revenue/sales B2B when companies focus on account management.
more likely that clients will pick a company with a good Account Manager for future business.
What are your favourite parts of Account Management? And what key skills do you need?
So what is your favourite part of your role as an Account Manager?
“I think the fact that it is so sociable is my favourite part. I get to speak to loads of different people and develop relationships with so many interesting clients across various industries.
When I was in textiles it was a very corporate world and quite stiff. Travel isn’t really like that. Some of the relationships that I have with my clients are really, really good and extremely valuable – I’ll speak to them regularly and develop really strong bonds.
Obviously sometimes it’s business-y, but not it’s not all got to be black suit and tie! There’s a soft side to Account Management too – a causal, social side which I thoroughly enjoy.
I also always say that one of my favourite things about being an Account Manager is learning what other people and companies do. I find that really fascinating actually. Pre-pandemic, it was a little bit easier, but I still like going out to client sites to find out what they do.
Because you might never know how a company operates otherwise. If you’ve got a client that’s an ice cream manufacturer, for example, and you go and walk around the ice cream plant – is it called an ice cream plant? – you can get a better understanding of what they do, how they do it, and why. And I know that example sounds pretty childish – like ice-creams, really? – but I would really find it interesting!”
What key skills would you say an Account Manager needs, especially for those looking for a similar career in the role?
“First and foremost, you’ve got to be personable and you’ve got to be sociable. I think that’s one of the key things that all account managers have in common. You’re also going to need a good balance of commercial sensibility and empathy as ultimately you’re part of the sales team.”
I actually think empathy is, I would say, one of the most important skills of them all. You’ve got to see behind the person that you’re speaking to. You might get snapped at by a Travel Manager when something’s gone wrong – and in travel, sometimes things do change and go wrong.
I think it’s important that you empathise in those situations. The person snapping at you might have somebody on the trip who’s lost or tired and snapping at them. They might have a delayed flight and are desperate to get home. They might be missing the son’s birthday or something.
You’ve got to put yourself in their shoes a bit and think “right, OK, we really need to think about this and see what we can do.
As I’ve already mentioned, being commercially aware is good too. Clients will have commercial goals, whether that’s to reduce carbon, save money, or improve their data flow. You’ve got to be flexible to react to their own internal and external goals from a business perspective.”
What do you think the future of Account Management looks like?
“That’s an interesting question, and I think it depends on what a client wants. From a collaborative perspective, I think AI could enhance our efficiency as Account Managers – it’s something we’re already using in our tech which is really good.
For example, our new booking tool will suggest flights and hotels for people with all purchases tracked. No-one’s going off-piste, doing whatever, and putting it through expenses. It makes for a really smooth and obstacle-free experience.
As an actual Account manager though, I don’t think AI is quite where it needs to be yet. We still need to be careful. For example, there’s an AI tool that scans email chains and hand-picks the most pertinent information which is presented in a summary form. So if you have like ninety-one thousand emails to trawl through, it will help you out. It’ll even construct a response in your own voice.
But tools like that are still developing and not super accurate. And I really believe that as an Account Manager, the personal touch is key. So even though a template might be useful, and you might save 10 minutes here and there, the individual interactions are so important.
“Some clients might see the benefit in an AI chatbot instead of an Account Manager, but I don’t think that applies to our own client base. Realistically, clients need to be able to understand what their travel means and that’s where we come in – we explain things and not only give suggestions on how to enhance the travel experience but also offer practical advice on how to implement changes for visible results.”
And finally… tell us a bit about more yourself.
Where’s your favourite place in the world?
“Thailand for sure! It’s absolutely beautiful. I like places where there’s a bit of a culture shock as well, which Thailand definitely offers. I like seeing how people live completely differently, the landscape, and of course the heat. I love the heat, and I hate the cold, which doesn’t bode well for someone who lives in Manchester! I went a few years ago – it actually popped up on my Facebook memories recently. I was on a beach in the photo, then I looked out of the window and it was tipping it down… Get me back!”
Any hidden (or not-so-hidden) talents?
“I can play guitar and sing as you can see (There’s a microphone stand and a number of guitars behind him). My office is primarily an office which I’ll turn into a studio. I do plenty of acoustic gigs and song recordings. I perform a fair bit of original stuff and then I’ll do gigs of song covers in pubs and bars. It’s great fun.”
What’s your favourite food?
“Cinnabon. I love a Cinnabon! They’re so good. I’m not even that much of a sweet person, but I’ll choose that every single time!”
Dan performing at one of his gigs. He writes his own material and performs covers.
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