After a long, hard, sun-soaked week in Lakeland, Florida, at the SUN ‘n FUN International Fly-In and Expo, thousands of aeronautically minded folks fled the field with their aviation jones fully satisfied, headed in the general direction of home.
I joined that group, too. With a smile on my face and a song in my heart, I exclaimed, “I’m outta here,” on Sunday evening, shook about a hundred hands, waved to a lot more folks than that, and hit the taxiway with an intent to fly as soon as possible.
Although I live in the same county that houses Lakeland Linder Regional Airport, my home county is roughly twice the size of Rhode Island. Plus, I house the company airplane closer to where I live, so it was with great joy that I joined the line of departing aircraft, positioned myself on Runway 9L, and launched into the sky as my ADS-B unit squawked, “Traffic, traffic, traffic.” It wasn’t wrong, either. I was about the sixth aircraft off the runway on Sunday evening, with a long line of faster aircraft manned by more ambitious pilots coming up from behind.
Now that the week has come to an end, it would be nice if there was some free time built into all our calendars. Nice in the sense that we’re a bit winded from the workload, and sunburned from many hours of exposure to that massive yellow ball in the sky.
But it’s not time to dial back the customer service yet. Not for most of us, anyhow. The week after SUN ‘n FUN — or any show — is a follow-up week, when we hit our keyboards and phones with a vengeance to connect with folks we met at the show.
Understand, this isn’t a punishment. It’s not penance for failing to do a bang-up job at the show. Rather, it’s a step toward a level of involvement that fulfills many of us. It brings us a sense of satisfaction for a job well done.
And it often allows us to develop the most tenuous of connections into a more meaningful, worthwhile series of interactions that might, just might, turn into a true friendship.
There’s value in that. Yes, there is.
As I write this column I’ve got a pile of business cards sitting in front of me, each one worthy of an email or a phone call. Beside them is a spiral bound notebook that I carried throughout the show. If someone of interest engaged me but didn’t have a business card to share, I asked them to jot down the appropriate information that would allow me to reach out to them when we all got back home from the show. Most of them did just that.
And now it’s follow-up week. Some of these contacts will spill over into next week, too. That’s fine with me. I enjoy developing new relationships, building new alliances, and sharing information with people who genuinely want to learn more about something which I have insight into.
Often, I find they have something to teach me, too.
It’s a win-win deal really, as most relationships are, if you conduct them in the appropriate manner.
This process became clear to me some years ago, and so I’ve employed it religiously throughout my career. Often to great effect.
A great example of this method of interaction and its benefits can be gleaned from a relationship I built with a gentleman from the British film industry more than a decade ago. We met when he was on vacation and happened into an aviation-oriented museum where I was doing some fabric work on an ancient deHavilland biplane. We met and chatted a bit, totally by happenstance. When our conversation came to an end, he mentioned that he was off to England that night. I didn’t happen to have a business card in my possession, since I was all goopy and possibly goofy from playing with buckets of dope. But I did have a copy of my first novel in the car. So I retrieved it, jotted my email address inside, and wished him well.
Wouldn’t you know it, he read the book throughout the flight home. He liked it, too. Enough that he wrote me when he got back home to let me know how welcome the distraction of a book was on his flight. We corresponded occasionally throughout the years, only meeting once more, until this past week. Yes, it’s true, my friend from the British film industry came to SUN ‘n FUN. He crossed the Atlantic, rented a car, prowled the grounds of the event, and came by to see me every single day.
That’s how bonds are established. A little at a time, with minimal effort, really. But effort is expended and reciprocated more often than not in a successful relationship.
Whether personal, professional, religious, or romantic in nature, it’s the willingness to reach out and connect that cements us together – no matter how far apart our homes are located, or how divergent our career paths might appear to be.
No, I am not alone this week. Vendors are following-up by reaching out to professional contacts. Manufacturers are writing and calling potential buyers. People who were strangers two weeks ago are making an effort to establish a rapport with others who share only the most tenuous connection to this point. And many of them will be successful.
Perhaps the key to revitalizing the general aviation industry lies in something as simple as an email, a phone call, or an invitation to lunch. Wouldn’t that be a wonderful turn of events?
After all, anyone can write a note or make a phone call. And who knows what sort of amazing adventure might result from that effort?