A consultant is just that—a consultant, not a decision maker. When we work with people on an analysis of their aircraft needs, acquisition or tax strategy, we give them options. Its up to the decision-maker to make the decisions.
Recently a client asked, "If it were your money, which aircraft would you purchase?" I replied, "It is not my money, so you need to be happy with what you choose. All three aircraft under consideration will do the job. Take the demo flights and go from there." If I really thought there was a clear best answer, I'd of pointed her in that direction, but since it is not my money, the final call is always the client’s to make.
Consultants can be (more) objective. We all have preconceived concepts and ideas, and sometimes those ingrained opinions blind us to what is going on. Especially when the choice of outcome is important to us. A consultant should be objective. They don’t have a vested interest in any one outcome. A good consultant looks at the issue from different angles and may offer fresh insights to a situation. Getting the complete picture and exploring competing points of view are reasons to work with consultants.
In a typical scenario, an Aviation Manager recommends to the CEO that they replace their current aircraft. “Great,” said the CEO. “Get me a report making the case for your recommendation, and do so as soon as you can.” The Aviation Manager had all the data—in his head, not in a document! He knew that with his busy schedule, he did not have the time to prepare a thorough report outlining the follow-on aircraft that was addressed all the concerns of the CEO and the Board of Directors. Furthermore, he felt that a second opinion from an independent third party added credibility to the recommendation./span>
He called us in, we asked the questions, listened intently and talked with the boss. Then we did the analysis, and in the end we delivered a report stating that the company indeed needed a new aircraft and confirmed that the selection the Aviation Manager suggested indeed was the best option.
Did our client waste his money? The Aviation Manager saved himself a few weeks of his time, got a third party review of his requirements, and had all the documentation needed to secure the CFO’s and Board’s support for the new aircraft. I think that was a good value.
When selecting a consultant, beyond the technical qualifications, remember it is a relationship. Consultants need to relate to you and be able to understand what you and your company executives are really asking. In some ways, the consultant is your “aircraft therapist—one who listens, asks questions and keeps your best interests (and that of the company) in mind. How far do you want the consultant to go in the analysis? Is it just an advisory consult or will this relationship extend all the way through contract negotiation and aircraft delivery? You decide.
A consultant’s recommendations should be objective and focused on the choices you need to make. A consultant who also sells aircraft can be very knowledgeable and a source of valuable insight, but there is at the very least the appearance of conflict of interest in the relationship. If the consultant is also brokering a great mid-size business jet and your company’s need might be met by such a jet, maintaining objectivity is paramount. Be sure the aircraft being offered is right for your firm. Trust is the key issue in a successful engagement with a consultant, whether independent or part of a brokerage.
When dealing with the Aviation Department and Executive team, the consultant must be “bilingual”. They need to be able to talk with the pilots and discuss operational issues like runway lengths and range. Just as important as the “plane talk” is the need to speak the language of business to address the financial concerns and the business management decisions needed in making the aircraft decision.
Consultants can add value in the acquisition process, but also can add value to the staffing, training, operations and safety of the operation. When done well, relationships with consultants give an impartial perspective, add value and save time.