Luca Gagliardi describes his experiences whilst working on a growth strategy project for a major international private jet operator.
Sunday – Prelude
Yes, the first day of the week should be Monday but in the UAE, where our client is based, it is a different story. Business weeks in many Middle Eastern countries start on Sundays. In an effort to try to maximise the time spent with the client we decided to leave from London, on Sunday evening at 21.00. It’s a small team going over; a senior consultant, the project manager and myself.
We land around 08.00 but thanks to the comforts of business class we are not overly tired by the trip. After dropping off our luggage we head over to the client’s headquarters.
The first day is about getting to know the people we will be working with and getting to grips with the client’s expectations. Therefore, in rapid succession, we have a few meetings with the CEO, the CFO and the strategy director of the company. The output of this project is to build future scenarios for the company to be discussed in the next board meeting. These range from defending the current market share to aggressive growth to introducing new offerings such as aircraft maintenance and on board catering.
James, the Project Manager, leads most of the discussions but we are all involved in questioning the senior management team to understand how to best address their needs. Some of my research for this project consisted of assimilating a market report and reviewing previous projects Roland Berger had done for the same firm, so James has no problem letting me intervene occasionally. At Roland Berger the more responsibilities you show you can handle, the more you will receive.
Today is all about data collection and the Middle East is renowned for being a seemingly data free zone. Nevertheless, we need to try and find as much hard information as possible in order to understand how well the business is positioned in the market. We start with historical financial statements from the finance department, to operating costs for aircrafts and updated market analysis. As we move from internal documentation to industry reports the task seems more and more daunting.
After a quick scan, some sources prove to be unreliable and the remaining ones often contradict each other. Trying to create a clear and coherent picture out of huge and chaotic data is one of the difficult assignments a consultant is often tasked with.
After having examined the data we collected yesterday and built a baseline of our client performance we need to then form an independent assessment of the market. We decide to complement the existing information with evidence from a series of expert interviews.
We start interviewing internal staff, brokers, industry associations and press agencies. I must admit that people in this region are extremely talkative; it is sometimes hard to keep the conversation on the right path, trying to avoid tangent conversions like the latest results of the Premier League and Balotelli’s haircut. In exchange for our efforts we collect some significant insights and opinions about the future of the industry.
Having collected data, interviewed experts and pestered local aviation authorities we now need to take a second to breathe and start analysing these in-depth. We spend most of the day slicing and dicing our findings in Excel and preparing a set of slides for a workshop we have scheduled for early next week. We will present our updated view of the market to internal stakeholders. Simultaneously we will be sending the document to all the people that were involved in the process of drafting it. By doing this latter stage we can validate our findings and say thanks to the participants.
Friday is the first day of the weekend. We will be staying out here one more week, starting work again on Sunday. Fully aligning our habits with the locals. We, therefore take advantage of this day off and spend the day on the beach and have a nice meal in the evening.