Boards are responsible for strategic planning. Creative Boards seek solutions that amplify the productivity of employees and time, a company’s most valuable assets, outlines Jack Olcott.
Numerous studies - many sponsored by the National Business Aviation Association - but all conducted by leading research organizations, reference the success of companies that employ some form of Business Aviation to transport their employees. Throughout the many decades that NBAA has tracked the use of business aircraft by US and European corporations, research data conclusively shows that when compared with non-users, firms employing Business Aviation generate higher profits for shareholders, maintain a higher retention rate among valuable employees and are included on lists of the best managed and most respected companies.
Yet there remain skeptics who question the value of business aircraft. Rhetorically, they ask whether companies use Business Aviation because they are successful, which subsequently leads to their decision to acquire an aircraft.
When I presented this question to the CEO of a well-known, publically traded corporation, his answer was clear:
“The company that considers Business Aviation once it is successful has the sequence backwards. Business Aviation is an effective tool for achieving success. It is not the prize that corporations obtain for being successful.”
Multiple Case Studies
No Plane. No Gain, NBAA’s impressive program of advocacy, has documented many examples of firms that used the unique ability of Business Aviation to move the right person or team quickly to locations when opportunities arise. The right person or persons can be face-to-face with the appropriate counterparties before the competition arrives. Clients are impressed by such responsiveness, and shareholders are the ultimate beneficiaries.
The launch document of No Plane. No Gain, published in the early 1990s, described South Trust’s response to a recession that impacted the banking community in the Southeast. At the time, South Trust was the second largest bank holding company in Alabama. Its rival across town, the state’s largest bank holding company, reacted negatively to the downturn by cutting spending wherever possible, including curtailment of its use of Business Aviation. South Trust took the opposite tact. “There’s business out there”, said its Board, charging the bank’s leadership to reach out to clients and prospects. The company aircraft was put to greater use, resulting in South Trust emerging from the recession as Alabama’s largest bank holding company.
Two decades later, at this year’s NBAA Business Aviation Conference & Exhibition, the Association distributed it latest study, “Business Leaders on Business Aviation”. Twenty-six CEOs, some well-known to the general public and others not household names, described briefly why their companies include Business Aviation as one of their tools for effective transportation and business success.
Frederick Smith, the Yale University student/entrepreneur who conceived the need for rapid delivery of packages by air and described in his senior thesis what became Federal Express, noted that “Business Aviation has been an integral part of FedEx’s success since the day we were founded”. As Chairman and CEO of FedEx, Fred Smith leads a firm that was named by Fortune magazine as one of the top 100 corporations to work for in 2013.
While the Kohler Company, founded in 1873 and located in Kohler, Wisconsin, is well known, its Chairman and CEO, Herb Kohler, maintains a lower profile. But his endorsement of Business Aviation is loud and clear. “Our company’s accomplishments working on the leading edge, and my usefulness, would be far less were it not for Business Aviation”, he is quoted by NBAA in its most recent No Plane. No Gain brochure: “Our people in the home office seldom spend more than one day round trip, which enables them to get their rest and have balanced lives while avoiding the congestion of airports.”
Sheila Johnson, CEO of Salamander Hotels & Resorts, says that “Business Aviation Takes Salamander Hotels & Resorts to new heights by putting us on the ground where we’re needed most.” Joe Sanderson, Chairman and CEO of Sanderson Farms, is quoted as saying:
“For Sanderson Farms, Business Aviation provides quick and efficient access to our locations so we can provide hands-on management as our industry demands.”
Brian McCoy, CEO of McCoy’s Building Supply, notes that “with 87 locations in five states, Business Aviation allows me to be face-to-face with team members and customers.” Dr. Ed Schweitzer, President of Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories, told NBAA that “All over the world, Business Aviation helps [Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories] make electrical power safer, more reliable and more economical. Our company is 100-percent employee-owned, and over 2,000 of our employee-owners have flown on SEL’s company planes.”
Companies large and small, well-known and obscure, use Business Aviation as a tool for business success. A wise Board includes the use of business aircraft in its strategic planning.
See overleaf for another Case Study of how Business Aviation has been used to further the business activities of industry-leading security firm TOPSGRUP.
Ed Note: Copies of “Business Leaders on Business Aviation” can be obtained by contacting the National Business Aviation Association, Inc., 1200 G Street, NW, Suite 1100, Washington, DC 20005 USA.