The investment mogul Warren Buffett once asked, “Ever give a firm handshake over a speakerphone?” This quote from a decade-old “No Plane, No Gain” initiative has stayed with me because nothing can replace a warm handshake.
After all, one of the mainstays of business aviation is enabling personal, face-to-face handshake connections. Yet for the past eight months—and probably well into 2021—we’re forgoing them.
So, just how will we continue to manage in the meantime, without that symbolic, all-important handshake? For starters, we pivot. Just like we did after 9/11 and the Great Recession of 2008/09.
This time, business aviation has been equally resourceful and resilient. In fact, resiliency is a hallmark of our industry. Through innovation, we’ve found ways to accomplish many of the things we need to do—even if the framework for doing them has been radically altered.
On a call recently, my friend and NBAA colleague Dan Hubbard passionately reminded me of our industry’s innovative spirit. I was moved when he said, “When the curtain came down earlier this year, the business aviation industry stood up.”
And he’s spot on. In fact, we delivered on a vast array of humanitarian efforts. Entire aviation businesses turned over their manufacturing lines to produce vitally needed PPE masks. And companies readily lent their airplanes (for free in some cases) to deliver doctors and ventilators to rural hospitals. (Learn more about NBAA’s Business Aviation Lends a Hand initiative in the context of Covid-19.)
On top of that, various business aviation operators have put their airplanes back in the air, expanding their business-use policies so that critical work can get done. While we might no longer be sending business executives to meet in offices, we’re transporting key engineers to manufacturing plants and facilities personnel to support infrastructure projects.
The Right Connections
So we have a lot to feel good about. But what continues to be one of our most daunting challenges this year is making and maintaining meaningful, in-person connections.
We’ve always known that it’s critically important. In business aviation, when we connect, we make better professionals of ourselves. When we connect, we build and strengthen relationships among ourselves. And when we connect, we can better plan how we’re going to do business in the weeks and months ahead. We figure out how to compete, and how to succeed.
This year, it’s been enormously hard to do that.
While there might never be anything that replaces a face-to-face connection that begins and ends with a handshake, the business aviation community is coming together to get us as close to that as we can be.
This year, out of necessity, our industry associations and media outlets have hosted multiple virtual conferences. And next month, we’re pivoting to our first-ever NBAA Virtual Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition (VBACE). Of course, the overarching principle with all of these events is making connections.
While I understand that an online conference isn’t as ideal a connection as a handshake provides, it’s the next best thing. And from the sound of it, the high-tech VBACE platform plans to highlight that very innovation that’s become so rooted in our industry.
I, for one, will be taking full advantage of this event—not only as an educational session panelist, but as a topic facilitator and an exhibitor. This is our time to come together to connect people for business, education and networking opportunities.
Now more than ever, I’d love to be resuming the ritual of shaking hands with my business aviation colleagues. But in lieu of doing that, let’s all show up for these online events and do the next best thing.
Sheryl Barden is the president and CEO of Aviation Personnel International, the longest-running recruiting and HR consulting firm exclusively serving the needs of business aviation. A thought leader on all things related to business aviation professionals, Barden serves on NBAA’s board of directors and is chair of the NBAA advisory council.