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Projecting from Data to See the Big Picture: Q&A with Chief Strategy Officer Alice Luo

To sit down for 30 minutes with Volaris Chief Strategy Officer Alice Luo is to get a glimpse of the breadth and depth of her interests. 

Her holistic perspective is reflected in her professional background, starting with her education, where she chose philosophy as part of her triple major, alongside two other majors in finance and operations management and later, an MBA.

She reveals she made many discoveries about herself in a career that includes experience in management consulting, investment banking, and a startup tech venture. Along the way, she fell in love with tech, which reaffirmed her belief that she wanted to work with software and take ownership over what she could deliver.

“I was constantly trying to find my passion throughout my early career journey,” she shares. “Ultimately, I realized that it wasn’t necessarily passion I was seeking, but instead satisfaction in the process of challenging myself, learning and renewing myself every single day.”

Now, she says the passion she has created at Volaris is in working with people across the organization, seeing her team grow, and through that, experiencing her own personal and professional growth.

Acquired Knowledge magazine spoke with her about how she is making a difference at Volaris.

What approach do you bring to Volaris as the Chief Strategy Officer?

The strategy team looks at the long-term growth plan at Volaris several years down the line, for the organization as a whole and across verticals.

I like to observe and ask questions that get to the root of issues. This practice helps me understand deeply when supporting our leaders and when helping Volaris CEO Mark Miller formulate strategies for the organization going forward.

I have lived in many countries across different continents—including China, the U.S., Canada, Ireland, France, and South Korea—and traveled to many more. The global worldview I developed during my formative years helps me succeed at a global organization like Volaris, where we need to connect with leaders around the world and understand the cultural nuances of maintaining strong business relationships.

Can you elaborate more on how the strategy team adds value for Volaris and for leaders within our member businesses?

The goal that I set for everyone on my team, including myself, is to be the highest multiplier possible for Volaris, and ultimately for our parent company, CSI, and our shareholders.

Our strategy work aims to drive total growth with an emphasis on organic growth. This year we held a virtual Organic Growth summit which highlighted various ways that businesses can pursue growth opportunities after they have joined Volaris. We want to make sure that we invest in our businesses so they can keep serving customers well and evolve with changing needs.

Within Volaris, your team is known for your sharing of in-depth, data-driven research and actionable insights. Can you tell us more about how this work serves our businesses?

We take a heavy focus on conducting our own research and analysis, using internal and external sources. We are the group that has the luxury of accessing data from all business units across Volaris. We do quite a bit of analysis on pricing, sales and marketing, and R&D.

For our Volaris business units, we run strategy sessions and internal strategy projects to help senior leadership teams. During the pandemic, we created a Volaris strategy insights website with the goal to provide actionable, data-driven and thought-provoking insights to our leaders. We started sharing our analysis in regular articles and one-page infographics which touch on key topics that are important for our leaders to take a deeper dive into. The content is based on analyses of our businesses, as well as businesses outside Volaris, and provides additional food for thought for our leaders. We have heard many use cases of our strategy insights, such as in key considerations for strategy planning, discussion topics for leadership teams or functional team meetings, pre-reading content for portfolio summits, and M&A content and publications.

What strategy topics are especially important for vertical market software companies?

Pricing is a big opportunity for many vertical market software companies, especially in this inflationary environment and when addressing how businesses can transition to value-based pricing. This topic interests many Volaris portfolio companies. I have spoken on the topic of value-based pricing at internal events including at Activate, Vencora’s portfolio event, for our European portfolio, and at the flagship Volaris conference, Quadrants, with the goal of advancing our thinking and action on pricing.

Another area of importance for many vertical market software companies is sales and marketing. We ask our businesses: How do you plan to drive more back to base sales from existing customers? How can you build a sustainable sales funnel so that you can keep growing your business? We believe it’s important to make sure they aren’t under-investing in sales and marketing.

Strategy is about making choices. The strategy formulation process involves using data to tell the story, but at the same time being careful to understand what the data is not telling you. To fill in the blanks, we make projections using data, and intuition which is developed from experience, perpetual learning, and talking with our leaders.

-Alice Luo, Chief Strategy Officer, Volaris Group

M&A is at the heart of what Volaris does. What kind of work do you do related to M&A?

M&A has always been a big part of my work and is very important to what we do. Over the years, my work on M&A has gradually become more hands-on. I’ve helped source deals through relationship-building, closed deals, and have also been involved with integration.

I help review the investment memos of the businesses we acquire. After the acquisitions close, I look to understand the journey of the businesses since joining Volaris. I review pre- and post-acquisition performance to better understand the level of additional growth and profitability achieved with our support. This analysis provides data points for our greater organization. The knowledge we gain from it is used in best practice sharing and learning, and it supports our track record of success with empowering growth in our acquired businesses.

What sort of research does your team do into vertical markets?

As an example, we supported the justice vertical with deep dive into research for a new initiative, and by developing a go-to-market strategy for a new product.

We take a high-level view across more than 30 different verticals that Volaris is in. During the pandemic, we looked at scenario planning strategies for various verticals to help our leaders think through challenges. If a business was in a vertical that was hit hard by COVID, we looked at what that business could do to minimize the impact of the lockdowns. We looked at how that business could ensure its bottom line and customers were supported. That work was well-regarded by our leaders and was cited quite often.

Read more about the Volaris strategy team’s work:

•    Rethinking Product Pricing
•    How to Unlock Value in Your Business with Automation