By John Enticknap, Aviation Business Strategies Group
“The goal is to transform data into information, and information into insight.” - Carly Fiorni: President Hewlett Packard, 1999-2005
Do you really know what’s going on at your FBO? It seems many businesses operate on a day-to-day, crises-to-crises basis with the managers just along for the ride.
This has validity in numerous market segments, not just in the aviation services industry. During our NATA FBO Success Seminar, scheduled in Dallas on September 12, 13 and 14, we will discuss this and many other topics. However, for this blog post, let’s concentrate on data collection and what we can do to improve our financial numbers. Then, turn it into insight we can act on to operate our businesses more profitability.
We think it is fair to say most owner/operator FBOs provide a range of services. These may include fuel sales, flight training, aircraft rental, aircraft sales, maintenance and real estate rental. Now, maybe you don’t do all of these, but it’s safe to assume your FBO offers multiple services. So, how do you keep track of everything?
Many FBOs started their business by offering a variety of flight services, because their owners were flight instructors and/or flight examiners. Others started FBOs because of their A&P background and providing aircraft maintenance services. Still, others may have started working in line service and are now FBO managers.
Regardless of your background, you have an accounting system to keep track of billing and expenses. However, the big question is: Does your current system give you data that can be used to properly manage your business?
Data without understanding is useless! At our FBO Success Seminar, we suggest a number of Simple Strategies, as well as a number of Simple Tactics, to assist you with data management.
Here is the data we suggest you collect and utilize on a daily basis.
Start by using Dashboard Reports
So, what constitutes a Dashboard Report? While flying, you check and scan the dashboard/instrument panel repeatedly to monitor what is happening and adjust accordingly. Financial Dashboards do the same thing for your business. They’re a quick snap shot you take on a regular basis to make sure the engine of your company is running smoothly.
Just as you set up way points when you are flying, with a financial dashboard you set up data points you can use on a daily basis.
Here are some suggested data points to set up on your dashboard:
Line Service Business
Review your previous day’s retail fuel sales
Contract fuel sales
Airline fuel uplift
Month to date retail fuel sales
MTD contract fuel sales
MTD airline fuel uplift
Budget retail fuel sales, contract and airline fuel sales
Number of customer contacts yesterday
Mechanic hours billed yesterday
Mechanic hours paid leave, vacation
Mechanic hours paid
Yesterday mechanic productivity
Month to date productivity
Parts sales dollars
Budget parts sales
Support staff hours paid
Number of customer contacts
Number of annuals/100 hr./inspections bid
Flight instructor hours billed yesterday
Flight instructor hours paid
Flight instructor productivity
Charter hours billed
Charter hours available
Customer contact - flight instruction
Sale contacts for charter
So, what kind of data are we collecting? You’ll notice a variety of sales data, labor data and marketing data. Why are these three data points the major drivers of your business?
1. If you’re not getting a good, regular snapshot of fuel sales, plus flight hours and/or maintenance hours, you’re managing blind.
2. After cost of sales, labor is your biggest expense. Labor hours must be reviewed and managed to assure you maximize productivity.
3. You must continually market your business, retain existing customers and gain new customers. If you don’t grow - you go out of business.
If, after reviewing our list of data points you are saying, “well it’s going to take all day to gather that information,” then you need to examine your accounting system. It should be able to produce these reports.
We know from experience that programs such as TotalFBO®, one of the most popular FBO accounting and operating systems, provide these types of reports. Although the reports may not be in the exact format as we showed above, they’re in a readily manageable format. If you have a different accounting system, aviation specific or not, you should still be able to generate these daily Dashboard reports.
Make the adjustments with your accounting personnel, as well as department managers, to collect this data and start reviewing it on a daily basis. Now, that we have the information, it’s time to act on it.
One of the best ways to look at your statistics is to compare it to your history and your budget. (You did put a budget together at the beginning of your fiscal year, right?) By completing the budget process, it forces you to review and forecast sale levels in all departments. Then, you can plan your labor, expenses and other data points within your business.
Now, that we have current information, we can analyze and proceed accordingly. If our fuel sales are going well and above budget, we are able find out why. It could be a result of increased traffic or increased uplift per aircraft, etc.
As for aircraft maintenance, we can determine if productivity was at least 85 percent or meeting our budget goals? How many annuals/100hr/inspections have been quoted? We want to keep the shop busy! The same analysis should be completed for your flight school, charter department and any other activity within the business.
Now that you have insight, it will be easier to manage your business and you can relax knowing you have information systems in place to keep track of your progress. It’s a win-win for all involved.
Let us know what your think. We appreciate your input and comments. Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
About the authors:
Ron Jackson is Co-Founder of Aviation Business Strategies Group and President of The Jackson Group, a PR agency specializing in FBO marketing and CSR training. He has held management positions with Cessna Aircraft and Bozell Advertising and is the author of “Mission Marketing: Creating Brand Value” and co-author of “Don’t Forget the Cheese!” the ultimate FBO Customer Service Experience. Ron co-developed NATA’s acclaimed FBO Success Seminar Series and writes an industry blog for AcUKwikAlert.com titled: The FBO Connection.
John Enticknap founded Aviation Business Strategies Group in 2006 following a distinguished career in aviation fueling and FBO management, including President of Mercury Air Centers network of 21 FBO locations. He is an ATP and CFI rated pilot with more than 7,800 flight hours and is the author of “10 Steps to Building a Profitable FBO”. John developed NATA’s acclaimed FBO Success Seminar Series and writes an industry blog for AcUKwikAlert.com titled: The FBO Connection.