11 January 2016


It is those businesses that are resilient that stand the test of time.

In fact, when I think of resilience one business and one CEO always comes to mind – Ron Santiago, managing director Europcar Australia and New Zealand. Ron Santiago has been in charge of Europcar Australia since 2008. That’s right, when the GFC hit and the business was losing $1 million a month. Rather than walk away from such a significant challenge, Ron set about with one task in mind – to make the business profitable as soon as humanly possible.

By the end of 2009, when most businesses were still struggling with the after effects of the GFC, Santiago had turned the business around to be in the black. How did he achieve this? By simply achieving excellence in every aspect of the business. Ron believes that by listening to your customers and putting them at the heart of your business, especially in the service industry, means that you will not go far wrong with what you are trying to achieve.

His philosophy of managing people, leading by example and creating a culture where people are valued, instils confidence and belief in his employees to be the best they can be.

Perhaps it is humble origins that enabled him to manage people at all levels and understand the service industry so well. Perhaps it is just his intimate understanding of business that have enabled him to have Europcar Australia and New Zealand a leader in the domestic car rental market. Perhaps it is a combination of everything.

Back in 2008 Ron reorganised Europcar Australia, which resulted in the alignment of business divisions leading to sustainable growth and profitability. These solid foundations have allowed the Europcar team to establish further businesses processes creating a defined culture to focus on continual improvement of the customer experience, which ultimately contributes to growth. So, what have been the results for Europcar Australia since Santiago took over? Europcar has won Australasia’s Leading Car Rental Company from 2010 to 2014. The company has won the award eight times in the last 10 years and Europcar are again nominated in 2015.

Other notable achievements include winning the Australian Government’s joint rental car provider back in 2012. In 2014 Europcar secured the number three market share position in the Australian domestic market. More importantly, they are recognized as the best car rental company with respect to customer experience, product quality and innovation.

Resilience is an important trait of any individual and any organisation. For CEOs it is important that you have a guard of invisible armour around you at all times, as you seem to be fighting never-ending battles.

The macro and micro economic environments are one that will challenge any CEO on any given day. Speed to market, agility and adaptability to new market conditions is essential for any CEO to make his or her mark in the world.

We live in a constantly changing environment. Yes there is a level of change fatigue, but the reality is change is here to stay, accept it, embrace it, and get on with it. So adapt your business to it, otherwise you won’t survive.

CEOs of today need to understand that the speed of change is upon us. It is important that all leaders build models for their business that are flexible and can deal with different types of situations that may possible arise over night. Same too with the staff we employ today. They have different expectations of what an employer should provide for them and unless we get to know our staff, not only will we not get the best out of them, but the business won’t reach the heights it is capable of either.

Any CEO just needs to look at the example of Ron Santiago to feel inspired.

With 23 years of rental industry experience spanning the UK, Europe and USA and having started his career from the ground up as a rental agent at Miami International Airport in 1987, Santiago’s journey to now being the managing Director of Europcar Australia and New Zealand, is an inspirational one – and a true example of resilience.

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