Agency Eye: Inntel-igent management

This month I travelled to the scenic surroundings of Colchester. For it is here, on the outskirts of Kelvedon, that transactional agency Inntel is based.

Inntel is a company that, for over 30 years, has been selecting venues, managing events, and sourcing travel and accommodation options for its clients. Basically all the grisly stuff that, more often than not, you don’t want to do.

Douglas O'Neill

Douglas O’Neill

For year ending May 2016, Inntel reported figures of £60.6m, up from £58.2m in 2015 (4% growth) along with 9% growth in transactions.

Walking through the office and spending time with some of the team, it is obvious that the people who work there genuinely seem to love it. It’s common for an office to wear a veil of deceit when a journalist comes to town, but you can always see through the veneer. No such veneer here, though.

I sat down with MD Douglas O’Neill; keen to learn how he keeps the team enthused.

“I don’t see myself as coming from a business background, I see myself as being involved in the business and trying to make it a success,” he tells me.

What sort of boss are you, I ask? “Well,” he says, “You get two types of football manager: You get those that jump and shout from the side, and you have those who set the team up and let them go and play to their strengths. They do the work beforehand. That’s how I see myself really. I get the team in place and let them find their own paths.”

Surely that’s a recipe for anarchy? And very well it may be, but O’Neill recounts a piece of sage advice. “Don’t grow [the company] beyond having that personal touch. I like to see everyone who comes into the business. I like to meet them and chat to them,” he says.

“I want to be able to help the team score the goals. We make sure the team are given the right tools, the right training, and the right authority.”

The practice clearly works, as Inntel has an eye-watering staff retention rate, with 50% of everyone they have ever employed still there, and this year alone has seen three staff reach their 20th anniversary.

“There are three motivational factors: salary, tangible factors, and intangible factors, and it’s the intangible factors that are important. We focus on teambuilding, and fun things like apple bobbing and a sack race during the Olympics are great for keeping staff morale up,” adds O’Neill. “If people feel valued then that can only be good for the business.”

If you’re looking for someone to take care of your travel and meeting arrangements, you way as well phone the sack race gold medallist.

Martin Fullard


Martin Fullard

Martin Fullard: journalist, presenter, producer. Martin is the Deputy Editor at Conference News and Conference & Meetings World magazines. He leads the digital channels on Mash Media’s Conference Division as well as heading up Mash TV. He is formerly a web editor at a national newspaper in the Middle East and motoring journalist.

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