Is Aviation in South Africa growing or shrinking?

By James Hart

The global economic downturn has certainly had an impact on our local economy and therefore also affected the aviation industry in South Africa. Although this has undoubtedly increased the pressure, there are still some in this industry succeeding. The question is, why some succeed while others struggle to remain profitable? Are we entirely dependent on the economic situation or does our culture and attitude play a significant role in our successes or failures?

After visiting most of the airports in Gauteng and engaging with various organizations in different sectors of aviation, I realised that we can all make a difference and improve this industry we are so passionate about, but in most cases it would require a behavioural change. While approaching one institution, I had my doubts and did not expect any positive response from them simply based on their appearance and the way I was received. After the receptionist completed her telephone conversation she raised her eyebrows and I knew that this was the cue to start talking. It is not surprising that I was the only visitor present but I was astonished when the receptionist made the business decision to decline my offer without even viewing or considering the proposal. After this insightful experience I proceeded to a competitor at the same airport and was delightfully surprised by the difference. The reception area was a buzz of activity. Not a single staff member walked passed me without politely greeting. Four of them offered me a cup of coffee or water while I waited for five minutes to meet with their management. It is not the coffee that attracted the large amount of support in their office that day. The coffee is merely a reflection of their attitude and an indication that they are serious, professional and keen to do business.

Normative deviance is becoming more and more evident every day and although this should not be an excuse, the phenomenon could be linked to political unhappiness or the financial pressures we are faced with today. We strike at each other and there is no form of cohesion or collaboration in this industry. We have all seen discussions on the public aviation forums where a very interesting topic starts but within minutes it is turned onto a political struggle or a mudslinging contest. Everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion and it is your right to express it, but it is not your right to attack another for sharing his simply because you disagree with it. Power and success comes in masses, cohesion and collaboration. With a significant cultural change we can accommodate each other and improve this industry together. You may not be fond of the Americans because they may be loud and dictating but you must agree that we can all learn from them. Why are they so successful? Is it because of their patriotism and culture of standing together? Is it because they sing the American Anthem at every event and hand out American flags to every event visitor? Again, it is not about the hand-out. It is all about the pride, cohesion and commitment to their own community creating strength and support regardless of the fact that they may be competing for the same business. If you have been to Oshkosh, the biggest aviation event in the world, you will know that the success of Oshkosh is largely attributed to the thousands of volunteers committing their time free of charge to this event. Some of them are toilet cleaners or rubbish removers and see nothing of the event itself but they still do it because it is their culture to contribute to society and the community. How many events in South Africa have you seen where it is all done on a voluntary basis?

We have all heard about the MPI that takes forever or the spray job that still has not started. Some organizations are overwhelmed with work and they may not have the resources to complete their commitments on time but they still accept the business. The fact that you take more business than you are geared for does not make you more successful. Eventually it will jeopardise your reputation and ultimately demise your business. The first thing that may come to mind is to grow or increase your capacity but this nice problem of having more business than you can handle my not be sustained every month and you will increase your risk by growing too fast. Why not form an alliance with other organizations in the industry and pass work to them when you are overloaded? Not only will you grow the industry, you will also have a satisfied customer who will recognise your commitment and effort to promptly meet their requirements. Make sure you maintain the customer ownership but improving your reputation and growing the industry will be more fruitful than creating your own unhappy customers.

Being successful is ultimately equated to your revenue versus your expenses but some may believe that by cutting expenses will make you more profitable. This is a myth and you cannot save yourself rich or successful. You have to spend money to make money. You have to promote yourself, create a perception of success. Nobody does business with unsuccessful people and will certainly not push any charity your way. It is your responsibility to convince the public that you can and will deliver on their requirements regardless of what it will take.

Some believe that they will succeed. Others believe that they will fail.
They are both right!!

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