4 Ways to Get Started as a New Business Aviation Director

Author By Jim Lara

Every day in the life of a new business aviation director is different. And nobody can predict the plethora of issues that may come up over the course of a single business day.

But, there’s nothing like being prepared for some standard situations to ensure the first 100 days on the job are as seamless as possible.

4 Ways to Get Started as a New Business Aviation Director

1.  Know your new company’s culture

What’s the best way to “crack the company code” and learn new acronyms, processes, etc.? Develop key relationships up and down the enterprise’s organization. Learn the informal leadership and organizational dynamics.

Ask questions if you hear terminology you may not be familiar with. Immerse yourself in the organization’s core business purpose. Research each of the key players.

Understand very quickly what they consider valuable, what is considered to be a ‘pain’ and what doesn’t matter.


2.  Showcase your strengths as the New business aviation director

Understand what the enterprise needs, what the aviation organization needs to support the enterprise, and then deliver on all fronts. Avoid ‘deep dives’ into aviation lingo. Bring solutions!


3.  Don’t be afraid to show your weaknesses

Know what you are really good at, what you’re decent at and what you need help with. Map out who is great at what you’re not. Then off-load it. Never BS anyone. Reality and honesty pay great dividends.


4.  Find a mentor

You should never be without a mentor–especially when you’re a new business aviation director. You need mentors at all levels.

If you need to acquire a specific skill set, you may have to pay a coach. The best mentors will select you, not the other way around. The most effective mentors will be very tough, demanding and disciplined.

You will be “mentally sore” most of the time, as you will be constantly growing at a very rapid and uncomfortable pace. Being a ‘mentee’ is hard and humbling work. If you’re not committed, don’t start.

Needless to say, anew Director of Aviation will likely have an array of questions they must consider in their new role, like anyone starting a new job.


Q&As for Newly Minted Flight Department Leaders:

What are some of the don’ts of the job?

Easy. Don’t focus on yesterday. Focus on today and tomorrow. Refrain from talking about your last position—nobody cares how you did things at your last company.

Focus on how you can lead this organization to greatness.

Remember: it will be your direct reports’ accomplishments, not yours. That’s how your aviation department will create significant and sustainable value for the enterprise.


What can I do to best understand the mission, vision, values, brand proposition, etc. of the organization?

Read! The day you stop being an avid student of people, business and the technical facets of business aviation, you’ll know it’s time for you to leave.

Network constantly. Seek out outstanding teachers ‘on an outrageous basis’ by contacting them directly. Expect stellar outcomes … always. Urge your direct reports to outperform their personal expectations. Greatness is about attitude.


Should I start mentoring others during the first 100 days?

No. It’s much more important that you get your business aviation organization under command and set the appropriate strategic direction, employing the correct and most effective tactics first.


What’s the balance between my listening and taking action?

Together with you, your direct reports will craft the organization’s vision, mission and core values because most organizations, even today, don’t have them articulated. Then, you (primarily) will set the strategic direction, planting that flag on the distant hill.

Your team has the responsibility for executing. You will be watching, coaching and teaching, but doing very little ‘doing.’ If you are forced to ‘do,’ you have the wrong folks on your team.


Should a new hire (even a new business aviation director) worry about things such as dress code or hours on the job?

Sure, you will need to be reasonable and appropriate. This is no place to be a rebel.


Should I work harder and longer hours than everyone else?

This is irrelevant. It’s what gets done that counts. Regardless of the hours worked, you need to set the direction, provide the resources and remove the barriers. Your direct reports are responsible for the performance of their functional areas. You are responsible for conducting the orchestra, not playing each instrument.


In closing, there’s no magic pill that will help you be successful.

You have to decide if you are a leader, joiner or follower. If you are anything other than a leader, don’t try this role of Aviation Director because it will eat you alive. If you are truly a leader, you will figure out what has to be done very, very quickly.

But if you manage your new job like you would an extended interview, you will likely be happier and more satisfied within the first 100days. Ask more than you tell. Listen more than you talk.

Granted, you might not feel as comfortable as you did in your previous position, so use your colleagues and research to bolster your knowledge and confidence.

Have you read our previous blog post? If not, check out: First 100 Days, Part I: How to Be the Most Effective Business Aviation Director