Short Stay Show: ‘A lot of tech is useless without human talent’, says Sykes’ boss

Short Stay Show: ‘A lot of tech is useless without human talent’, says Sykes’ boss

A lot of technology is built for problems that do not exist and is useless unless backed up by human talent, delegates at the Short Stay Show were told last week.

Graham Donoghue, chief executive of Sykes Holiday Cottages and former Tui new media director and managing director, said a lot of technology was “a lot of nonsense”.

“I see a lot of people building and using technology, developing it for problems that do not really exist. Artificial Intelligence, big data, machine learning, a lot of it’s just a lot of nonsense.

“Technology is great, but you still have to have people who can use it. It’s about your insight and the actions you take.

“Most of the businesses we acquire tend not to have great technology. It’s just an enabler. You still have to have truly awesome people backing it up.”

Donoghue said Sykes has grown from 180 staff to 900 in three years with skills like data science being brought into the business.

But he added Sykes still has lots of operations people in the business. “This is still a supply-driven market. Supply is key.”

Donoghue said Sykes is seeing plenty of demand and looks to match that with supply. And he said in terms of acquisitions the firm was “open for business”.

“It would be good if you are making money. I’m getting a bit fed up with people trying to sell their businesses to me who are not making money.”

Sykes looks to buy firms with headroom for growth and with an EBITDA multiple of between eight and 10.

“One of the key things for us is exclusivity. How many exclusive contracts do you have. We look for 70% to 75% and above. We are buying an annuity really. We need to make sure we have control.”

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