Time to look forward but not to forget
Martin Kennaugh is excited and nervous. The first big business aviation conference of 2022 – CJI London on 8 March – will be the first time he will see aviation industry colleagues in person in over 2 years. “It will be tremendous to see the people I work with everyday back in one room, catching up on what has happened and discussing the challenges our industry now face. But I am equally keen that the challenges we’ve faced over the last couple of years are not forgotten; our business has changed, the world has changed, and we should not simply go back to the way things were.”
High demand and mental health
As an industry, business aviation recovered better than others in 2021. Despite being caught in a battle between the pandemic, politics and, in Europe at least, Brexit, demand for private aircraft has surged. The Global Business Jet Market Report 2021 found a strong proportion of demand for business aircraft is coming from first time buyers amid ongoing pandemic woes and the growing need for safe and secure ‘bio-bubbles’. Further, it is likely the demand from new market entrants will continue for the next few years with no anticipated drop in ownership requirements from current aircraft owners.
Martin and his team at Martyn Fiddler Aviation have felt the highs and lows of this demand. “Following the depression of 2020, it was fantastic to be busy again, in fact 2021 was our best year on record. Everyone worked tirelessly to satisfy demand, however, we were acutely aware of the stress it was placing on our teams and how relentless demand was impacting their mental health”.
Contributors to the greater than normal stress levels included homeworking, delayed holidays, anxiety flowing from the pandemic and sheer number of clients requesting services. However, some of that stress came as a result of the changes Martyn Fiddler Aviation had made to their business. Martin explained “while our formal disaster recovery plans worked in 2020, we were aware they could be improved and some of our methods of working were not up to the challenges of prolonged homeworking. We felt we needed to upgrade our existing IT infrastructure to mitigate this risk – but in the end this resulted in upgrading or replacing our whole IT system - replacement of all desktops with laptops, scrapping landline phones, and moving all our servers to the cloud – a mammoth task which we set for 2021. While we did it with the best interests of our team in mind, we inadvertently added to their stress when dealing with unprecedented clients demands following Brexit”.
That was not all. During 2020 the Martyn Fiddler team wanted to treat the global situation as an opportunity to transform their sales, marketing and business development processes, and integrate a new CRM system across all offices. “Our traditional marketing and business development ended as the pandemic shut everything down. However, with Brexit coming we had an important message to get out to the industry – we needed to change and quick! In a similar way to our IT, we felt this was a once in a business lifetime opportunity to completely transform the way we communicated our services and knowledge to the world”.
Martin explained that the changes did not end there. “We saw so many opportunities to improve things within the business ranging from the simple scrapping of the dress code to the more complex creation of homeworking flexibility for all staff going into the future. We even commissioned a carbon footprint and ESG analysis to consider our social and environmental impacts!”
“It was a big challenge. The stress was real and at times we questioned whether we had put too much pressure on ourselves and our teams despite our good intentions. We were fortunate that the efficiencies from the new systems and processes kicked in quickly – it was a tough year but we all got through it and stronger than ever. We have learnt a lot about ourselves, our impact on mental health and how we work together”.
Sustainability: the carbon challenge
While 2021 was tough, Martin believes the challenges are only just beginning. “The world has changed and so have we. We have learnt valuable lessons and modified the way we do business; we must use what we have learnt to be more flexible, agile and wise. For example, while we have been looking forward to seeing people face to face again, we understand this must be a rationed element of our business development work.
Much can be achieved in the virtual space and we are conscious the impact travel has on our environment, now more than ever it is important to be a responsible, global corporate citizen. We will use business travel appropriately going forward and are committed to sustainability both internally and with our clients. SAF, carbon offsetting and transformative technology needs to be embraced by business and commercial aviation in 2022 and beyond – we will be a part of this”.
Of course, this does not take away from Martin’s excitement of going to CJI London. “This is one of the biggest events of the year! We must combine the business relationships we create with the pleasure of being together with the people we value working with – we just have to make sure we don’t forget what we have learned and slip into old habits”.
Join Martin and Heather at CJI London 2022.
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