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Plane Talk

Your Aviation Services – Are you aiming too low? (Part 1)

Posted on: January 7th, 2015 by Pete Agur

January AvBuyer Cover 2015As a leader you need to set high expectations. Are the goals high enough for the value your Business Aviation services can create for your employer?

Have you shared with others in the aviation department and the corporation as a whole why your firm has Business Aviation services?

If not, how can staff clearly focus on, and emphasize delivering the right stuff in the right ways? If you simply tell the personnel within your department what to do (when and where the passengers want to go, for example) how can your aviation professionals offer alternatives and suggestions that enhance the impact of your company’s efforts? Staff solutions can be as simple as reducing your door-to-door travel time by selecting airports that shorten driving time or avoid detectable surface traffic delays.

Do you, the aviation manager, report to a C-suite executive?

If not, it is harder for you to be in touch with the strategic direction of the company. Most companies continuously adapt their strategies to take advantage of market shifts and opportunities. The airport is naturally isolated from the pulse of the business. Having the aviation manager reporting to a senior executive helps to close that gap, allowing aviation services to adjust their offering more proactively. For instance, it can take weeks to prepare for and set up the logistics for a trip into third world countries where large market opportunities are greatest. This task can be done discretely and effectively, given some lead-time. Alternatively, imagine the company inaugurates a cost management initiative involving transportation and logistics. Allowing the aviation department to become a leading participant can greatly reduce the political pressure that invariably comes from more operationally-focused sources.

Is it obvious that aviation services are dramatically impacting the success of the enterprise? Are aviation services instrumental in stretching the reach of key executives, capturing new markets, seizing spontaneous opportunities, connecting intimately with valued customers (old and new), responding to critical threats, etc.? Those strategic trips more than pay for the investment in aviation assets. Be sure that aviation services receive the credit they are due for these successes. Your audience can be other department heads within the corporation; C-suite executives; or employees company-wide, depending on your company’s culture and the situation. You are likely to need such goodwill when your firm’s use of Business Aviation is challenged. Conversely, don’t impede the aviation department’s ability to create leveraged impact by asking your staff to operationally do more with less. Business Aviation is a strategic business unit. The net benefit of cutting into the meat of their activities can easily be a negative return.

Are employees getting the most out of their travel time?

Many companies are taking advantage of better and cheaper connectivity on-board business aircraft. You can do more than that, though. Some companies are adding an executive assistant to the passenger mix to assist executives to achieve more while travelling. Others are conducting trip-independent meetings in-flight. I meet with time-stressed leaders in the back of their aircraft. When we land I simply catch a flight home.

Their hundreds of hours en route is the last major opportunity to improve key travelers’ productivity.

Are you and your aviation professionals able to support other parts of the company? Does the department play a lead role in the selection of charter services for the entire company? Remote managers without aviation knowledge often assume the FAA assures that any charter company is safe, so they buy charter flights based on price. The results can be ugly. The US charter industry has an accident rate 4-5 times that of an internal aviation department. Some charter companies are very good. Some are not. You should be in a position to help the company choose wisely.

A Core Part of the Company?

An easy test to determine how well your aviation services are strategically integrated is to ask the department’s members what business are they in. If they say “aviation” or “safe transportation” they are focused on playing at the airport rather than being a key part of the core company. That parochial perspective constricts their ability to contribute more effectively to the value they can create for the entire enterprise. Even if you seek a low public profile, the aviation department needs to be included in the corporate brand.

These are only a few of the areas in which aviation services can do more with what you already have. If your primary aim for aviation services is “each departure should end in a safe landing”, you are shooting far too low. Next month we will focus on ‘standards’.

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