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One on One: Kirk Rowe, COO, Innotech-Aviation

Innotech-Aviation celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. We talk about customer relations, the addition of a helicopter and expansion.


October 1, 2007
By David Carr

Topics

YOU ARE PART OF AN ORGANIZATION – THE IMP GROUP – THAT HAS INTERESTS IN
A NUMBER OF AVIATION- RELATED ACTIVITIES INCLUDING INNOTECH-EXECAIRE.
WHAT IS THE OVERALL BUSINESS STRATEGY?

Our
strategy goes back to providing service for other people’s aircraft
including hangars, fuel, pilots and heavy maintenance – avionics
installations and refurbishment. If you own an airplane you can come to
our company and deal with one organization that has complete service
coverage. You don’t have to deal with multiple vendors. We have also
built a company that is multi-tiered so there is no single point of
failure. We get a second set of eyes on everything we do.

THIS YEAR MARKS INNOTECHAVIATION’S 50TH ANNIVERSARY …

and the 40th for Execaire. We’re going to make some announcements at
CBAA and NBAA this year and probably have some promotions. Apart from
that, it is business as usual. There’s not much time for celebrating.
There are a lot of things we want to do.

SOME OF THE THINGS YOU DO HAVE BEEN CUTTING-EDGE. HOW DIFFICULT IS IT, THOUGH, TO BREAK INTO NEW SERVICES?
Some
come to market better than others. But if you don’t keep trying new
things you will never know. So we keep pushing. Execaire E-Charters was
the first reservation system for corporate Canada. That has been
successful to some degree. We still have full-time sales people on
staff. But you can use that reservation system to show the customer
pricing and how charters work. That is the philosophy we bring forward
to the customer. It’s not just about putting a pilot in the front seat.
It is about selling a package to somebody who doesn’t understand the
intricacies of aviation and needs somebody to explain it. If you have
the mechanisms and tools that they can test the process and get
involved themselves, they feel more comfortable. That’s when the trust
builds. People sense what they are getting from is an open book.

WOULD
YOU COMPARE THE EXECUTIVE CHARTER SIDE OF THE BUSINESS WITH THE
CANADIAN AIRLINE INDUSTRY? THERE IS ALWAYS A ‘JETSGO’ LOOKING TO GRAB
CUSTOMERS THROUGH DISCOUNT PRICING.

We’re coming across that
more than ever. Execaire is not a discount charter organization. Some
recent additions to the marketplace – we call them no-cost competitors
because they don’t have overhead costs – are very thin on the ground
and don’t have the service. For some operators that is okay. But most
require a significantly higher level of service and accountability. At
the end of the day, it is not my place to judge the market. I can only
stick to our vision and hope there are enough customers out there who
share our views. But you have to have a certain standard and those
standards are being pushed to the wall right now. Operators need to be
a little bit more wary and understanding of what is behind the pricing
principle.

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YOU MEAN PRICING FOR SUSTAINABILITY?
It’s fine
to go in with marginal profits but to hold that long-term is very
difficult. If you don’t have sufficient profits you will never grow
your business. If you can’t grow your business you are either going to
get taken over or you’re going to go out of business.

YOU HAVE ADDED A BELL 427 TO THE FLEET. IS THAT BECOMING A ‘MUST HAVE’ FOR COMPANIES LIKE YOURS?

It’s
a wonderful addition to our company because it’s a first. We feel there
is a market for it, especially in the downtown Toronto area. It is
early in the game right now, but we have had a good response. We have
to be careful how many helicopters we take on in one particular city,
otherwise you start to marginalize your services. Right now we’ve got
one and we will market it like hell. If there is more demand than
supply, we might take a look at getting a second.

WHERE IS THE INDUSTRY AND INNOTECH-EXECAIRE HEADED IN THE SHORT TERM?
The
fractional business has been growing a little bit in Canada with a few
regional players set up across the country. But that’s not something we
want to pursue. We are looking at a Web-based, secure access site for
customers to check their accounts and audit their business. There is a
card business we are looking at for charters. We can package the cards
with our fleet.

And we are [breaking away] from the view of us
as an eastern-Canada company. We are now managing a couple of airplanes
in Victoria and feel that the west coast could use an Execaire. Why?
Because what we bring to the table is like delivering a suitcase. Open
the suitcase and out pops your OC, your AMO, your mechanics, your pilot
and your bulk purchasing on fuel and insurance. We negotiate your whole
set-up. You’re up and running.

There are excellent opportunities
across Canada for that type of service. We don’t need to own a hangar
to say we are an established management company in any region of the
country. The technology in today’s marketplace allows us to bring the
service to them. That’s how we’re structuring our future growth.