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GRAY STONE ADVISORS' BLOG
Get What You Need! Business Cases in Business AviationPrint This
“I’ll consider the expense, but first send me a business case.”
“Business case.” For no other reason than fear of the unknown, these two words are among the most dreaded in business aviation.
By Steve Brechter
Not long ago, flight departments merely had to ask to secure the resources they needed.
Tucked under the protective wing of the CEO, life was good.
But now? Not so much.
These days, securing the resources needed to effectively run a flight department is becoming more challenging.
The flight department of today often finds itself as simply “another business unit” within the parent company. Now it needs to stand in line and compete for resources that are becoming scarcer by the day.
What must you do to obtain the resources you need for your flight department? The answer is to prepare a carefully constructed and compelling business case.
A business case helps your parent company:
- understand the benefits of a proposed investment
- evaluate the request against other investment alternatives
It’s the way your “ask” gets selected over others.
The chances of obtaining the resources you need rises and falls based upon your ability to prepare an effective and compelling business case.
Here’s how it’s done.
How to Prepare an Effective Business Case in Business Aviation
These days, many flight departments find themselves in a disadvantaged position.
They are disadvantaged because business aviation is generally not part of the core business of the parent company.
As such, they’re often misunderstood. And they have to work hard to be understood.
Hands down, the most effective flight departments are the ones that can succinctly articulate their value proposition.
That is, they can clearly state the value that business aviation provides to their parent company (in dollars and cents) in return for the investment the company makes in aviation assets.
That always helps level the playing field. But how do you figure that out?
It comes down to being able to answer a very simple question: “Why does my parent company utilize business aviation?”
To answer it, you must build strong connections with your customers, the executives who are authorized to use the company aircraft.
You need to determine how business aviation currently creates (or should create) real value for them.
The best place to start on that quest is with the senior executive leadership of your parent company. This is the group that you are most familiar with, as you see them onboard the aircraft frequently.
The first step is to make an appointment and meet with them in their offices. Don’t try to do this on the way to or from the aircraft or the FBO.
Make it clear that you genuinely want to understand what creates value for them from a business standpoint.
Once the question is asked, listen and write down exactly what they say. You can ask clarifying questions, but don’t debate. Just listen.
You’ll hear many perspectives on what creates value for each executive and the parent company overall. For example:
- A sales executive might say that getting out to three cities in a day to create customer-facing opportunities has a direct impact on the firm’s top-line revenue.
- An operating executive may say that visiting the company’s hard-to-reach manufacturing plants every quarter helps ensure that operating cost targets are met.
In every case, you’ll come away with tangible and actionable insights on how value is created for your company.
You can then distill what you hear into a multi-faceted service model by which aviation can support the “pillars of value” across the enterprise.
So, you may ask, what does this have to do with building an effective business case for resources in a flight department?
Whatever you’re asking for must address the key points of value creation for your parent company.
The more you hit, the easier it will be to justify the investment.
A problem is defined as the difference between actual and expected outcomes.
For instance, when your parent company provides earnings guidance to the investment community and the actual result falls short of the guidance, that’s a “problem.”
Similarly, when your flight department is poised to get an executive to an important meeting in a far-off city to close a major deal—and the trip gets cancelled due to an aircraft-related mechanical issue—that’s a “problem” as well.
In both situations, value was lost or compromised for the parent company.
The most effective business cases target and support key points of value creation for the enterprise.
In a 2014 Harvard Business Review article, Carolyn O’Hara notes that a compelling business case should “lead with the need.”
Be clear on stating the need in your business case. The need should clearly resolve a problem that is inhibiting the creation of value within your parent company.
For example, using the AOG situation noted above, does your business case improve the dispatch reliability of your aircraft in a way that enhances the “on-time arrival” performance for the company’s executives?
If your business case supports or enables the creation of company-specific value, you’re golden.
Any Aviation Reporting Executive worth their salt is going to ensure the approach that you’re recommending is the best among the alternatives.
In a 2017 article in “Project Management,” Jennifer Bridges recommends the following six steps to narrow the focus of your business case:
- Note the alternative solutions
- Quantify the benefits
- Forecast the costs involved
- Determine the feasibility
- Discern the risks and issues
- Document the above in your business case
For additional impact, make sure to state the extent to which company-specific value is created for each of the alternative solutions considered.
Know your value proposition. That’s an often overlooked discriminator.
Now that you’ve identified the alternatives, you’ll need to rank them and propose a recommended solution.
How do you rank them? The answer may not be obvious.
Your first response may be to rank them in terms of the relative cost of implementation. But the lowest cost solution may not provide the best outcome.
The cost of implementation matters, for sure. But the ability to support or enhance the key points of company-specific value creation is perhaps what matters most.
So rank the alternatives by their relative ability to support the key “pillars of value” for your parent company.
The alternative that creates the greatest value is likely the one to recommend.
Now that you’ve recommended the solution that creates the most business value, you’ll need to outline how it will be implemented.
First, identify a project owner. He or she will be responsible to implement the plan.
Remember, as the leader of the organization, your job is not to “do,” but rather to “lead.”
Use the project as a development opportunity for a rising star in your flight department. Your prowess at developing your people will certainly be noticed by the executive evaluating your proposal.
The implementation plan should detail how the proposed course of action resolves the problem and creates value for the company.
Be sure to outline the resources you’ll need, including manpower, budget and support from corporate or other external resources.
It’s also important to clearly state the potential cost or adverse impact to value creation if the company elects not to proceed with your proposal.
Presenting the Business Case
Now that you’ve developed your business case, it’s time to sell it!
The best plan in the world will never get off the ground if it’s not communicated effectively.
Use a short and concise PowerPoint presentation to frame the discussion. Four to six pages tops. That’ll help keep things on track.
Clearly state the problem and the proposed solution first.
Remember, given the pace of most senior executives, you have about 5 seconds to capture their attention. You’ve lost them if it takes longer than that.
Begin your presentation with a story. Stories are what get people’s attention and will be a key element of your success.
Try an opener such as: “Remember the key meeting you missed due the AOG issue? This proposed investment dramatically reduces the chances of that happening again…”
It does not have to be long. But opening with an attention-getter to which the executive can personally relate will help you effectively make your case. And win!
What have you done to create a compelling and effective business case in your flight department? Let us know and we’ll share them in a future blog.
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