The aviation business is a bit of a social fraternity. Making up such a small and unique part of the business landscape, even “corporate” aviation is still very much driven by relationships. I think an important reason for that is because so much in aviation relies on trust. Passengers trust their pilots to operate safely and professionally. Pilots and passengers both rely on maintenance people to keep the equipment operating as it should. We all rely on suppliers of all types to design, build and deliver quality products and services that we use every day.
I recently returned from a bit of a prospecting trip to the upper Midwest. One of my stops included a visit to a pretty large aviation company that does a little bit of everything – manufacturing, maintenance, sales, training, etc. It is a family-owned company, now being run by the third generation. Every week, the CEO hosts an informal cookout at his private airport. Everyone seems to be invited, even though there was no formal invitation process. Employees, family friends, vendors, customers, neighbors and business associates were all there. The regulars take turns cooking – this night, it was the corporate attorney’s turn. He cooked lobster and clams with roasted corn. Everyone brings beer. Stories are swapped, jokes are told, and business is conducted on the tailgate of a pickup or over the grill. The one-on-one time achieved at the cookout was far greater and more worthwhile than any “give me 30 minutes of your time” suit and tie meeting that I could have scheduled.
As you consider your aviation business’s marketing strategy, remember that relationship building can be more important that any sign or web page that you can create. Make time to socialize. The trust that you build around the table, on the golf course, or even over a riverside lobster bake can pay back dividends.