Business aircraft provide many advantages for busy CEOs. Yet David Wyndham demonstrates that simply measuring time savings does not give the full picture…
The July/August edition of Harvard Business Review published the results of research looking at how CEOs spend their time. The study collected, coded and analyzed data for over 60,000 CEO-hours in 15-minute increments. The average annual revenue of the companies these CEOs run is $13.1bn.
The data was well researched and quantified, and it proved what seems obvious: CEOs are busy people. What also should become clear is the benefits that a business aircraft can have for these busy individuals, when used effectively.
To fully grasp those benefits, however, we need to consider more than just the time saved by using business aircraft. We need to consider the quality of that time, too.
The Travel Need
One take-away from the study is that where CEOs choose to spend their time is critical to their own effectiveness and signals the priorities for others within the company.
According to the research, about half of the polled CEO’s work time was spent outside the company headquarters – so with the CEOs averaging 62.5 hours a week, about 33 hours are spent outside of headquarters.
Face-to-face communication is the best way to learn what’s going on and to demonstrate to the entire organization what’s important. Spending time with frontline employees, on the factory floor, in the showroom and out in the field demonstrates more than any well-crafted email or video that everyone has an important role to play towards the success of the company.
These frontline visits also enable the CEO to get reliable information as to what is going on. Sales are an indicator of the health of a company, but so is talking with the sales clerk at the store. CEOs need to meet with investors, senior leadership teams, divisions heads, the board of directors and more.
More than one-third of a CEO’s time was found to be spent reacting to and dealing with unfolding developments. This could be a crisis (i.e. a fire shutting down a factory, a developing trade war impacting future costs, a strike), or an opportunity to purchase a competitor or complimentary organization.
Meanwhile, spending time with customers is also considered important, though the study showed that CEOs only spend about 3% of their time with customers, relying on others within the organization to be the interface.
The CEOs polled within the research felt this was too little time.
All the above should indicate clearly that a CEO is on-the-move, needs to be in many places, and plenty of travel is required to enable them to be face-to-face. The use of a business aircraft comes to mind of course, but why not just use the airlines?
The Business Aircraft Travel Advantage
We’ve highlighted many times before how the use of business aircraft results in less time spent traveling. Much of the travel time reduction is the result of being able to travel to airports located convenient to the facility or customer; direct, non-stop flights (avoiding the need for connecting flights); and the fact that the business aircraft departs and waits on the CEOs schedule.
In studies I’ve undertaken with clients, the travel time differences can range from a few hours to several days. I had one client that could fly to their plant in Nevada, have a four-hour meeting, and return home in a 12-hour day on the business aircraft. Undertaking that same trip via the airlines would have cost the client two nights away from home, due to the poor Airline connections.
Yet even with city pairs well served by the airlines (i.e. New York to Chicago or London to Berlin) the business aircraft can take less time – and given the demands on a CEO’s time even an additional two hours weekly can be worth their weight in gold.
The Business Aircraft Quality Advantage
Business aircraft add value in other ways that airline travel cannot, taking us into the realm of quality of time. For example, the Harvard Business Review’s study also discussed the urgent need for CEOs to find room to think, reflect, relax, exercise and eat well.
For many CEOs the time spent in a business aircraft gives them the space and opportunity to think and reflect. Brain research is showing that this quiet downtime, which was once thought of as unproductive, is necessary for the human brain to function at its most effective.
Little opportunity is provided in a security queue, sitting on a packed Scheduled Airline flight, or waiting for a cab for anyone to reflect and be thoughtful.
That four-hour round trip on a business aircraft, combined with allowing the time for a morning run and still being home for the kids’ bedtime is incredibly valuable to a CEO’s mental health and well-being to manage the immense demands placed on them every single day.
The quality of the time spent on the business aircraft in whatever way the CEO decides to use it may just be the secret weapon of the super-effective CEO.