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Q&A: Talking with Terry Jones

Terry Jones, founder and former CEO of Travelocity.com and Chairman of Kayak.com will present the keynote on “The Business of Innovation” at the Western Region Conference January 20-22, 2014 at the JW Marriott Desert Ridge in Phoenix, Ariz.

NAED: What are the common challenges of innovation you see with businesses?
Jones: What has happened in business to consumer is pretty clear. The online revolution – for example we kicked off with travel and now 60% of travel booked online. That same revolution has happened to books, to music. And we’ve seen with Amazon and others it’s happening to all kinds of retail. That same revolution is happening in business to business. Customers expect to be able to find out all about the product you have, what it does, and what it costs online.

NAED: What are the traits of an innovative culture?
Jones: The key is to experiment and to be okay with failure. You have to see what works for you and your business. And, a lot of businesses will say, “We’ve always done it this way. We’ve never done it any other way and that won’t work for us.” That attitude just stifles innovation.

NAED: How have customers changed?
Jones: Today customers are multi-channeled. They move pretty seamlessly between looking on the Web and talking on their smart phone…and they expect all of those things to work. They’re impatient. Instead of going out to source and find three vendors and talking to all of them – now they just search for it online. They are empowered by the information they get online and they know a lot more than they used to.

NAED: What advice would you give to a company just getting into e-commerce?
Jones: It’s important to find someone that understands your industry. Since people don’t look in the Yellow Pages anymore, you need to make sure that you’re sufficiently listed online so that when someone looks on Yahoo or Google or Yelp your company is there. And, you need to have as much information about your product that you can get online. A website can no longer be just a place for customers to find a phone number.

NAED: If you had to choose one single, greatest lesson you learned during your time at Travelocity, what would it be?
Jones: I had a good friend that I brought in and hired. That person was underperforming. I worked with him and I kept working with him probably longer than I should have. He wasn’t performing and we suffered because of it. You have to work very hard to develop the very best team you can and if someone isn’t cutting it then you know it’s time to make that change.

To gain more of Terry’s knowledge in person, click here to register for the Western Region Conference.

Jones founded Travelocity.com and led the company as president and chief executive officer for six years. He then took the company public. After leaving Travelocity, Jones was a co-founder of Kayak.com and served as the company’s chairman until it went public and was later sold to Priceline.

Previously, Jones served as chief information officer at American Airlines & Sabre Inc. In his 24 years at American, he held various executive positions including president of computer services, vice president of applications development and vice president of product.

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