EBACE, one of our industry’s biggest annual gatherings, returns to Geneva next week. I have to say, I’m really looking forward to attending with my team and catching up with all of the operators and partners who have helped make the Victor brand what it is and will be in the years ahead. With the future directly in mind, I’m even more excited by the prospect of introducing new parts of our industry to Victor, and sharing with them our focused approach to market disruption and a value proposition that will deliver for the long-term.
When we land in Switzerland next week, I am expecting to hear a lot of confusing noise from ‘follower’ charter brands about investment, expansion and supposedly game-changing product development. In reality, though, many new entrants are grossly exaggerating the size of the charter market, seemingly content in believing their own hype. Seemingly content, also, with basing their assumptions of rudimentary calculations by subtracting what is reportedly flown in hours by their total fleet in a bid to project the largest theoretical addressable market. The real challenge in not the size, but the necessary effort to gain any traction and the associated costs – not just financial but risk to business interruption, in asking a Part 135 operator to replace its flight and crew planning, scheduling and pricing system!
Many start-up businesses unfortunately fail. In our own sector, I was saddened to read of both BlackJet and Beacon’s recent demise. Their founders had a vision that translated into good ideas and an admirable drive to push the envelope. But both, too, struggled with the enterprise economics of disruption, and failure in our industry does no one any favours. If any good comes of this, then we must all be willing to challenge the notion “if the proposition is so good, why wouldn’t you use it” – this is often where start-ups go off the rails, and if you are still wondering what’s wrong with this then you’re not asking the right question.
The crunch for any new player claiming to have a disrupting business model is, of course, getting traction and sustaining growth – but not at any cost. You need to fully understand your customer and the channels to talk to them, as well as play your resource, your marketing and branding carefully. If a business is to succeed, it needs a sustainable business plan and quality management to execute. Our own strategy has been carefully thought through – the shiny appeal of having the best algorithm for locating, optimising and pricing will of course help reduce friction, but this alone is not be enough to claim a winning hand. Victor continues to invest in developing this capability, but we do so because we recognise that speed and efficiency has an important part to play alongside developing and expanding our customer service function – the human factor….
It will be interesting to see next week just how operators and industry figures react to the various conference noise – some of it openly cited as “too good to be true.”
Sustainability is crucial. This is not an industry for the faint-hearted investor. Many lack any genuine understanding of our industry and the inherent and complex challenges of disruption. The attraction of something shiny and new is always going to create interest, especially in the world of private aviation, but when operator margins are so thin, it’s the enterprise economics that brings most start-ups crashing down. If a business has taken several years to generate a modicum of revenue, then it’s time for investors to do their ‘due diligence’ and look beyond the times the business may have ‘pivoted’ and take some responsibility for avoiding getting swept up in the hype.
Our sector, as I have mentioned before, is starting to consolidate now and Victor continues to deliver growth trajectory and turnover – the true measures of success. We have caught our nearest online competitor in almost half the time they’ve been in business and, having examined the ‘year end’ numbers, outpaced their performance by generating almost twice the booking revenues.
I mention transparency a lot when talking about my business but this is its core value and differentiator. Our pricing demonstrates real consistency – underpinned by clear booking fees – and compliments an advanced technology platform that enhances our relationship with both operator and customer. By creating a clear and accessible marketplace for all, where charter is free to choose and free to use, we build ever greater trust and brand loyalty. We gain and retain customers, and further stimulate our long-term growth. This is our focus.
I can’t end this post without adding that Victor became an ARGUS registered business a few days ago. Ahead of the conference hype and swirl this is another concrete achievement that I’m immensely proud of my team for helping deliver. ARGUS’ independent rating is emphatic recognition of the quality, dependability and absolute clarity of our services – another reason to trust Victor as it cuts through this cluttered industry airspace….
Clive Jackson, CEO & founder of Victor