As another year starts, one has to wonder what the next twelve months has in store for the industry. Last year was certainly an interesting one, the rumour mill churning out plenty of rubbish and the industry throwing up a few surprises too. GDPR came into force, changing the way we have to handle sensitive data, the seedlings of "Blockchain" started to emerge as a realistic alternative to archaic payment methods and handling of the aforementioned data. Then there is the usual merry-go-round of personnel moving from place to place and of course a number of well overdue consolidations within the industry. But what of those less fortunate companies who didn't make it to the end of the year, or those teetering on the edge for many differing reasons - to my mind, it's mainly due to simple mathematics and basic accounting: small gross profit minus huge overheads = massive unsustainable nett loss
Almost three years ago to the day, I sold every worldly possession that I'd worked 20 years for and resigned from the company which I co-founded; I sold my beautiful house, my lovely Jag, cashed in my life savings and later that year with my own funding, I started Volanteus with no outside investment or partnership. It is for this reason which is why I'm continually astounded how so many competitors, bolstered by massive investments from outside sources, get themselves into financial trouble. It is not hard to make the books balance using simple principles of business; you employ enough staff to procure and process the bookings, you keep things lean and don't waste money on ego-driven advertising, you don't have a revolving door for staff and opt for quality over quantity, and you keep things real; not living by these pretty simple rules puts yourself under pressure from the first of each month – it's quite incredible how hard you can work and how sensible you can be when you're using your own money and not the funds some VC or 'big-brother' investor.
As Volanteus starts her third year, it is a testament to the valued clients and our incredible team, that even with the market being ultra-competitive and with the industry still not anywhere near it's peak, that we have grown, while quietly and understatedly turning-over not far off £20m in two years (with a healthy nett profit) from a standing start and we've become strong, stable and respected. We have done this through good old-fashioned hard work, organic growth and by quite simply, doing a good job and choosing to enrich our client's experience, knowing that they will come back to us. Ok, £20m over two years isn't going to revolutionise or make a massive dent in the market, but the principles of business should be clear, regardless of £20m, £120m or £200m.
Our awesome team is made up of genuine, morally sound, hard-working people and my philosophy of good business with good people runs through our client list as well as our payroll; prodigies, loyal colleagues and only those whom I respect, our clients too are decent and dependable and whom we support with quality and integrity... you know what ? It works !
Last year saw many companies in the industry fail, either suffering with a downturn in business and not acting accordingly, or trying to reinvent wheels and wings; or just trying to be too clever by being driven by ego, rather than ethics. When I was a youngster, I was a competitive swimmer, mainly long course as I was never any good at short-distance, I wore a swim-hat that stated "when the going gets tough, the sprinters get out" and this appears true in aviation as well as sport; those whom think they can ride rough-shot over this industry, quickly "buying" their market share or advertising themselves to near bankruptcy just to see their name in lights, will, as history has proven, often fail.
I have little doubt that others will follow suit this year, with rumours already rife of some mid and larger businesses struggling, their finances savaged by vast overheads and not having the foresight or humility to do what's right by their staff, clients or investors. There is enough business here for everyone, we are not in the Gordon Gekko era or industry of "greed is good". In these times when business is growing again, let's gain the foundation to go forward, reinvest in talent that will in turn allow growth for the industry as a whole – the shortcut option generally ends badly and ending in those "noisy" companies causing harm to the industry.
So here is to humility, to being humble and grateful, to working with ethics and decency and finally here is to a truly amazing 2019, where the weak shall fall, where the strong survive and the "awesome" will become more awesome.
Astral Towers, Betts Way, Crawley, RH10 9XA
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