Pilots are typically considered to be thorough, detail-oriented people. They set lofty standards for themselves, focus on success, and commit themselves to getting the job done while maintaining a high level of safety. In a word, they act as professionals, even if they’re not employed as pilots.
Dan Dyer, the owner and founder of the San Carlos Flight Center in California, has made the culture of professionalism a cornerstone of his business. When hiring CFIs he takes into account the applicant’s attitude about professionalism. “That’s your first checkpoint, to see if they care about excellence in instruction,” Dyer said. By starting out with motivated instructors who are dedicated to doing a great job, he knows his customers will be well served.
Good hiring practices aren’t the whole story, though. He also insists on creating a culture of excellence that permeates the business. “In CFI meetings we talk incessantly about professionalism in flight instruction.”
Dyer’s sharp focus on what makes his business work is central to his success. “I understand the role of the school is not to teach. The instructors teach. The school creates an environment where good instructors teach.”
A few hundred miles north in Puyallup, Wash., Shawn Pratt operates the Safety in Motion Flight Center. Shawn’s hiring process also seeks the best available CFIs. “Part of the hiring process is seeing what kind of experience they have working with people and teaching.”
Pratt makes the point that CFIs who carry a certain level of professionalism provide the basis for a productive, safe, instructional environment. “I really can’t teach caring and motivation,” he said. Candidates must already possess those qualities to be successful at SIM Flight Center.
Shawn establishes a solid method of leadership by example, providing a standardized program for CFIs to work with. He also requires CFIs to be as prepared for each lesson as their students are expected to be. Having a Plan B for each lesson in anticipation of weather-outs, equipment issues, or other unforeseen circumstances keeps students from feeling they’re being taken advantage of by last-minute changes to their lessons that leave them unprepared and render the lessons to be of minimal value.
Flight training is a high-dollar investment that should result in high-quality customer service. These businesses take that to heart and as a result are doing well. “I think there’s a natural pull that brings people with similar goals together,” says Dyer. Put another way, students with high expectations seek out schools and instructors who can help them achieve success. Dyer and Pratt are finding that to be true and their businesses are succeeding as a result. That’s good food for thought and a great example for the rest of us.