Something in the Air - Rizon Jet 

We caught up with Allan McGreal; Chief Executive Officer, Rizon Jet UK Ltd., to find out about his strategy for business success.

Allan McGreal is CEO of Rizon Jet, which provides a turnkey solution to private aviation and business jet travel with its operational base at London Biggin Hill Airport, offering maintenance services and aircraft handling and fixed-base operator facilities.

McGreal began his career in aviation in the Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm, serving aboard aircraft carriers with Phantom F4K and Sea Harrier squadrons and exchange with the US Navy before continuing a civilian career with British Aerospace Military Aircraft at BAE Dunsfold on Hawk and Sea Harrier production and flight test.

He later progressed to civilian aircraft in 1991 with British Airways, and then to business aviation in 1999.

He has held directorships in business aviation ever since, becoming head of business aviation with Marshall Aerospace in 2005, before joining Rizon Jet in January 2011. He became CEO of Rizon Jet UK in 2012.

Commissioned in 2011, Rizon Jet UK Ltd., which has received £28m in investment to date, provides turnkey solutions to business aviation travel from a new VIP passenger terminal and state-of-the-art maintenance hangar at London Biggin Hill Airport.

“The business is distinguished simply: an absolute compliance to regulation, with safety and quality taken as an imperative,” says McGreal. “The rest is imagination which is driven to exhaust every aspect of the unique and controversial facility and the skills of some very talented people.”

Asked what are the main attributes that any business leader needs to possess to be successful, McGreal says, “A remarkable tolerance for behaviours, foresight, a broad capacity to think, aptitude and faithfulness. But above all two further attributes remain ever present and forever important in any single observation however: a sense of humour and a love for the business within.”

He maintains that a successful business never stands still. “To determine not to be passive is important. I always take the view that, no matter the level of activity, the output or function of the business, it must be dynamic, it must add to the process where the sum of the parts equals more than the opening values. Where sizeable investment is a key contributor to the business, to not only be a guardian to the invested sums but to drive innovation, be controversial in the use and contribution such an investment can make within the industry we serve, for example; Rizon Jet UK is a recognizable £29m of a VIP Passenger Terminal and an exceptional hangar equipped with the very latest technology to maintain the most sophisticated Business Aircraft available today. 

“In revenue terms the core businesses of flight operations and maintenance and engineering have it, but in pure net contribution; the extracurricular conversion of ‘Cost Centres’ within customer services and the unoccupied areas within the main hangar into ‘Profit Centres’ are clear winners.  In fact such is the impact, not only is profit generated but such activity drives a PR & Marketing engine room well ahead of any forced strategy to communicate, and simultaneously draws attention to the facility by virtue of what is designed and delivered. 

“As an example, we have developed the facility spaces into; a 30,000 sq. ft. concert arena, a lifestyle event space, a film location, a TV studio, a photographic studio of some proportion, a product launch space, a theatre, an intimate café, an art space and gallery; all of these activities are now common within the business and have created a new, vibrant and profitable business within.”     

Overcoming challenges

The key challenges involved in running a business aviation company, says McGreal, are fourfold:  competition; airport policy, infrastructure and investment; cost of entry into the market; and government. 

“Competition: this can account for much of the energy exhausted in day to day business operations, with teams constantly alert to the changing tactics of competing businesses, some with long burn strategies which unless reacted to immediately, will always be expensive and forever in catch up mode, to other more opportunity led initiatives which can make or break the deal which turns a bad day to good or vice-versa. 

“Business aviation is one of the most heavily regulated, volatile and by its very nature of being available on demand, unpredictable of businesses, relying upon airport infrastructure to fit your needs, airport planning policies that align with one’s own corporate strategy and the investment being readily available for them to build what is required when it is required is enough to manage let alone the costs that exist in order to enter the market at all.

“Establishing a capability, be it flight operations or engineering at an airport, is today a costly exercise,” he continues. “Not only in cash terms, but in the scale of the task, not least because of the regulatory constraints and compliance needs. An average six-seat business aircraft will set you back perhaps US$8m; if flying is not on the agenda then a hangar is needed, engineers too, rare though they may be, and of course equipment, expensive and constantly becoming out-dated or in need of software updates.  This is assuming your chosen airport has space and an environment which allows for healthy and survivable competition.  

“Once there the game’s afoot but then there’s government. Government, in all its forms, treasury, tax, state powers, transportation, international trade and environmental, all combine or contrive dependent on your view to apply a deal more cost to an enterprise already heavily burdened with overhead.  Through all of this we survive however.  The trick is not to take it too seriously.”              

McGreal believes that, to continue to be successful, it’s important not to take his position at the helm of the company for granted. “First of all, and employment contracts aside, if I were ever to believe I am secure in my position then this would be dangerous, not least because I shouldn’t be, and precisely because it keeps me alive to think that I’m not.

“It’s the very nature of a business leader particularly in my industry today, to consider the survival skills necessary to be as brave as is needed, to exercise measured yet exhilarating controversy in competing for business whilst being, and here’s the rub, simultaneously responsible to your shareholders.  Business Aviation leadership is a most rewarding pastime, even though the business we do and the service offered will be to the most discerning and empowered clients available anywhere thereby possibly the most demanding or, and this is equal to any criticism of Business Aviation being for the wealthy alone, to the most needy by way of humanitarian and medical flights to safety.

“My skill is to manage to love what I do, despite much.”    




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