“Those who build great companies understand that the ultimate throttle on growth for any great company is not markets, or technology, or competition, or products. It is one thing above all others: the ability to get and keep enough of the right people.” - James C. Collins, “Good to Great”
As I established and built Fly View Aerial (FVA) over the last 6 years, there has only been one thing I’ve consistently been successful at and could count on: my ability to make mistakes. When you start a business you wear a plethora of hats and it becomes easy to hover near mediocrity because it is challenging, and sometimes impossible, to focus your energy and time on what you’re really good at. Being in a technology driven industry, it often feels necessary to constantly invest in new gear such as cameras, gimbals, drones, etc. Over the past several years technological advancements in the aerial industry have moved at a speed similar to that of Usain Bolt, leaving me feeling dizzy and fearful that if I don’t keep up I’ll be left behind forever. To an extent, in this case, it is true. It’s easy to become distracted, losing focus of the best ways I can help my business grow.
“I wish that I knew what I know now when I was younger.” - Rod Stewart, “Ohh La La”
If I could go back and give advice to my fresh-out-of-college self, I would say that it is necessary to keep learning, not only from those in my industry, but especially from those outside it. I’d urge myself to read books about the psychology behind business and success, focusing on recurring themes and traits displayed by successful leaders and businesses across industries. One of my favorite books I read this year is “Good to Great” by James Collins. In this book Collins explores, historically, some of the greatest business leaders and minds the world has ever seen. Some names you would unquestionably know, others you wouldn’t. Of the many insightful and important observations Collins makes throughout the book, one point that stands out to me is that every single one of the leaders examined emphasized and prioritized people. While competitors experienced short term revenue spikes and fleeting times of success, the greatest leaders methodically and meticulously created a culture of success that sustained 15+ years of massive and unprecedented growth with them at the helm. These leaders didn’t succeed because they knew a secret recipe for success, they simply believed and trusted in the notion that putting the right people in the correct seats was more important than any products they could buy, mergers they could seek, or strategic chess-like moves they could make.
“You can accomplish anything in life, provided that you do not mind who gets the credit.” - Harry S. Truman.
For all of my many flaws and the mistakes I have made, I have done a few things right. One of the smartest business decisions I made was giving more responsibility to Shaun Wilkens. FVA’s growth and success with aerial operations has been a direct result of Shaun’s ability to adapt, his intentionality toward learning and becoming better at his craft, and his eagerness to solve problems and seek more responsibility. My mom used to tell me that no matter what job I held I should 1) always find ways to make myself indispensable and 2) do things that will make the lives of my colleagues easier. This advice is challenging to put into practice. From the perspective of an employer rather than an employee, it is difficult to hire someone who will simply do a job well, and it’s next to impossible to find someone who will care about your business and invest in it like you do. Shaun has truly made himself indispensable, and for that there isn’t a blog that I could write that would be long enough to express my gratitude. He makes my life easier, has made it so I can focus more of my energy on the things I am skilled at, and has proven his loyalty time and time again.
Success, no matter what the word means to you, is a direct byproduct of those who have helped you along your journey. It’s my hope that I never forget to acknowledge the many people who have proven instrumental in pushing me and helping me grow, not only a businessman, but also as a person.
“Having gratitude without expressing gratefulness is like buying someone a present, wrapping it, and sticking it in your closet.” - Unknown.
Here’s to never sticking my gratitude for you, Shaun, in a closet. Thank you for all you do and for being who you are. You are valued!