Regardless of the endeavor, success comes as a result of focus, determination, and persistence. Admittedly, that’s not exactly a revolutionary idea.
The steps required to facilitate those points are somewhat more mysterious, however.
Many an entrepreneur has failed even though their idea, product, or the service they intended to deliver was well suited to the marketplace. More often than not, the difference between success and failure has to do with the clarity of the mission they’ve set themselves on.
Your local airport probably suffers from this exact problem. It’s at least possible one or two businesses on the field are similarly affected. That’s the good news. Because identifying the crux of the problem is the first step toward solving that problem.
And, heaven knows, general aviation has been having an issue with growth and delivery of services for some time.
At my own airport the locals have been at odds with the administration for years. Frankly, there is no compelling need for the conflict. It occurs and persists for one very simple reason: Neither side is particularly good at, or interested in, listening to the other. This is rooted in a basic lack of respect, not just from the administration to the users, but in the opposite direction as well.
In our case, the administration has never grasped that our airport is essentially a grass-roots, mom and pop general aviation airport that will never, ever be the primary destination for turbine powered aircraft coming to the area.
It’s not that our town isn’t wonderful. It is. It’s not because our lakes and open spaces aren’t appealing. They are. It’s not even because our airport doesn’t have the appropriate amenities to draw those aircraft in — and it doesn’t.
The reason our airport can’t, and won’t be a viable destination for large numbers of turbine powered aircraft is simple. There’s a better option only 14 miles away. At 200 knots that puts the larger airport with superior amenities, longer runways, and a tower only four minutes from our lovely little non-towered field.
Seriously, would you do the bulk of your family’s shopping at the convenience store across the street to save a four minute drive to the superstore that sells everything from candy bars to televisions? Probably not.
On the opposite side of the problem is a tenant and user community that is more or less dedicated to taking a negative stance on everything that comes down the pike. That’s human nature. People don’t like change.
If someone proposes something different, most people will stand in opposition to it. That’s true even if the change is a demonstrable improvement over the status quo. Pasteurization, chlorinating public water supplies, and putting electricity in our homes are all examples of great achievements that were originally denigrated as being unnecessary and potentially dangerous.
The general aviation marketplace has issues that prevent us from being as successful as we should be. Solution one involves developing a sense of mutual respect. Solution two involves the establishment of a community mindset rather than one that emulates two opposing teams. Reduced even further, these cures can be combined into one basic statement: The General Aviation community must work together at the local level to achieve success.
To achieve this kumbaya atmosphere, it’s necessary to establish a founding statement that anyone can refer to for guidance, at any time. A mission statement, essentially. Does your airport have one? Does your pilot association or flying club operate under a mantra that can guide you through difficult decisions?
Consider this: Nordstrom is a high end retailer that can be found from coast to coast. Its mission statement is this: “In store or online, where ever new opportunities arise, Nordstrom works relentlessly to give customers the most compelling shopping experience possible. The one constant? John W. Nordstrom’s founding philosophy: offer the customer the best possible service, selection, quality, and value.”
On the other end of the economic spectrum is IKEA. Its corporate mission statement is similarly uplifting. “At IKEA our vision is to create a better everyday life for the many people. Our business supports this vision by offering a wide range of well-designed, functional home furnishing products at prices so low that as many people as possible will be able to afford them.”
In both cases it’s possible to read the statement and come away with a clear vision of what the experience of visiting either store might be like. These short texts provide guidance for management, hourly workers, and customers. Anyone interested in the culture and intent of these businesses can find clarity within seconds. All they have to do is read these few lines.
What if your airport, or your pilot’s association, or your club or advisory committee took on a mission statement designed to guide future members, users, and visitors to your field? Imagine the shift in focus, and the potential for positive change.
“Fictional Airport of Note is dedicated to supporting general aviation as a recreational, commercial, and educational activity of significant value to the community as a whole. With a focus on exceptional customer service, Fictional Airport maintains a welcoming atmosphere for general aviation enthusiasts of every stripe. By working together, collaboratively with our partners and stakeholders, we dedicate ourselves to establishing Fictional Airport as a valuable public resource to Anytown, USA.”
Let me suggest that as a starting point. It’s yours to edit, change, modify, or discard. But at least consider it.
Having a well thought out mission statement on hand has been good for Nordstrom and IKEA. Coca Cola and Disney are on board, too. With heavy hitters like that seeing the benefit of putting guiding principles down on paper, you might find the magic to general aviation’s success in your neighborhood by following suit.