Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association Protecting Your Freedom to Fly

Safety Publications/Articles

Give Yourself A Raise

Just a few years ago, the big question was, "How can we find more students?" Today, the question seems to be more along the lines of "How can we find more CFIs?"

Times are good. CFIs should make the most of it.

There are a few very important ways in which you can maximize your income without increasing your scheduled workload.

Never cancel a lesson. If the weather is bad, do ground work. Plan the next cross-country. Visit the tower or the flight service station. Review weight-and-balance calculations. Help the student to study for the written or the checkride. There are a million and one things you know that your student needs to learn, and many of these things can be taught on the ground. Why in the world would you cancel a lesson? You and your student scheduled this time for the purpose of learning to fly. Why would you waste the student's time or yours?

Cut down on no-shows and student-canceled lessons. Explain early in the relationship that the student must pay for late cancellations. After all, you are setting aside an airplane as well as your own professional time. It is only logical that you must charge for late cancellations. You will be amazed how much better students treat you when it is their money and time at risk, rather than yours. Late cancellation fees of some sort are a common business practice. Your students are used to them. If you don't charge them, you are just telling your students that neither your time nor your company's time is very important.

At the end of each lesson, give the student a written note confirming the date and time of the next lesson. Your dentist does this, and it works. The small effort will pay off handsomely - perhaps more handsomely than any other effort on your part.

This blade cuts in two directions, of course. If you expect students to stick to the schedule, they have every right to expect the same from you. If you are late or cancel lessons yourself without good cause, you cannot expect them to treat you like a professional. Conduct yourself in a businesslike fashion, and students will treat you like the professional you are.

Minimize what maintenance shops call "unbilled hours." Charge for debriefing time, but make sure that it is productive time for the student. Explain in advance that each lesson will include some flight time (weather permitting) and some ground time, during which they will pay for the instructor but not the airplane. Explain that this saves money in the long run, because many things can be learned without the expense of the airplane. Let them know that some of their most valuable learning time will be on the ground before and after each flight.

You really can train your customers to treat your time like the precious commodity that it is. For a wonderful example of this, consider the United Parcel Service truck driver. Everybody in town, from the highest executive to the lowliest new hire, is well aware that the UPS driver has no time to waste, and they treat him or her accordingly. If you want your package to go, it must be ready when the driver comes by. We all know this, and we adjust our schedules accordingly.

Your customers will do the same. I promise you, this is true.

By Ralph Hood

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