Wings Magazine

Red Carpet Treatment

Leave it to a baseball coach to properly conceptualize the importance of teamwork to the overall success of a Canadian fixed based operator (FBO).

September 8, 2014  By Stacy Bradshaw

Saskatoon’s KREOS leadership team of FBO manager Sherry Franks and president/COO Wes Ramsay

“It’s most certainly about teamwork,” says Darryl Golbeck, the new General Manager at Skyservice Calgary (YYC), when asked what makes his FBO stand out at the bustling Calgary International Airport. As a savvy youth baseball coach when he’s not leading the Skyservice team, Golbeck knows a thing or two about assembling the right players to get the job done. And even though he’s just recently taken the helm at YYC after working at Skyservice in Toronto – a completely different atmosphere he notes – he’s also quite aware of how to execute the proper game plan for developing a winning FBO, one that consistently exceeds customer expectations for value, price, comfort and convenience.

Meeting such standards and executing the game plan flawlessly as a team is also why Skyservice YYC – and the other national and regional winners – have been recognized in Wings magazine’s annual survey of top fixed based operators.

“Teamwork is the key ingredient to our success without question and each person on your staff has to believe in what they do,” Golbeck notes. “If they buy into this concept, it easily reflects on how they deal with customers.” Also crucial, he notes, is attentiveness to detail and the utmost flexibility when dealing with clients. It’s all about delivering a heightened sense of awareness and establishing a corporate culture that puts clients’ needs above all else – a mainstay in the corporate Skyservice model.

“At an FBO, you are looking at two key words – anticipation and communication. You are always trying to anticipate when a customer is coming in, what could they need,” Globeck says. “If you are asking the questions ahead of time, you’re not guessing if it’s coffee or ice, for example. If someone is coming from far away and they are staying overnight, they are going to need a hotel, they are going to need a rental car. You have to anticipate and communicate these things with the client. And communication comes from the line crew right on up. You have to make sure everyone is on the same page, asking the same questions. If you can get everyone to communicate with the customer – the pilots, the engineers, the people on board – you can ensure that you are properly meeting their needs.”

Signature YUL  
Signature’s “Service with a Leading Edge” training program has helped instil a sense of integrity at Signature YUL. Photo: Signature YUL

Exceeding expectations in every realm is something the team at KREOS Aviation in Saskatoon has been doing since the FBO’s inception in 2010. Sherry Franks, the manager of the family-owned, independent operation at Saskatoon International Airport agrees that teamwork, communication and attentiveness to detail are critical elements in an FBO’s success. She calls it the desire to go beyond the “expected” elements of your job to attain a higher level of attentiveness. This level of awareness comes when the team follows and respects key processes.

“Success is determined by your team’s individual personalities and their ability to fit in and care about all aspects of the process,” she says. “It’s the presentation of yourself, the building, understanding client needs and feelings, how you can help them out . . . it all starts with your personality. There really is no need for you to be involved with aviation prior to joining the team – it’s mainly about your personality and how you treat people.”

Like many western cities, Saskatoon is booming at the moment, buoyed by significant interest in natural resource exportation, construction and more. The result is an uptick in aircraft activity and the spinoff at KREOS has been very positive, notes Wes Ramsay, the firm’s Chief Operating Officer.

“Saskatchewan is a unique province and there is a real mix of clients here. And we do have a lot of traffic at the moment,” he says. “We are lucky because there is a lot of opportunity as well. We are a growing city, the natural resource base in Saskatchewan is very strong, so we see plenty of good things happening going forward. It’s all the more reason to concentrate on the strength of our FBO.”

When it comes to meeting the needs of customers and establishing the right corporate philosophies in employee development, Ramsay defers to Franks, who has done a “tremendous” job creating a welcoming, successful culture.

Teamwork is paramount at Irving Aviation Services YYT, voted the third-best FBO in Atlantic Canada

“Sherry works hard with our CSR’s to ensure they are the right fit, that they have the right feel with what it is we are trying to accomplish here,” he says. “She sets that vision, is crystal clear on what she expects, and, yes, there is a standard that she expects that is above everything else. Yes, there is a manual to follow that has been created, but the ultimate end game goes beyond that because each employee needs to take responsibility for so much more.”

Following corporate doctrines to meet a high level of service excellence is standard practice at Montreal’s Signature. Here, teamwork and an almost unbelievable attention to detail – for example, their incredible cappuccino’s are now famous in the industry – are the driving forces behind all aspects of the FBO’s philosophy, notes Starlink Aviation president/COO Zoran Bratuljevic. For the fourth year in a row, this unique combination of service, value, price and ambiance has propelled Signature YUL to top honours in the Wings annual Canadian FBO survey. Actively promoting their position as an industry leader doesn’t hurt either.

Bratuljevic suggests the award proves that Signature’s corporate training tool, “Service with a Leading Edge,” is paying off in spades. The program, developed in concert with hotelier Ritz-Carlton, gives Signature employees the tools they need to ensure customers are treated with the highest service levels possible. The tool ensures clients choosing Signature get the same quality standards at every Signature FBO.

“Service with a Leading Edge training is part of our corporate culture and we are fortunate to have our own in-house trainer, Yuliya Marunych, the customer service trainer for Canada and a few locations in the U.S.,” Bratuljevic says. “What we look for in an employee is personality, passion and eagerness – the training will do the rest.”

In the FBO business, passion, personality and an eagerness to achieve have helped some FBOs quickly gain recognition on the national stage. Avfuel’s H-18 FBO at Montreal/Saint Hubert Airport is one such example. The fledgling FBO, which will host next year’s Canadian Business Aviation Association conference, came out of nowhere this year to capture the inaugural “Rising Star” award – an honour given to a Canadian FBO that gains the most total votes year over year.

H-18 FBO opened its doors in June 2010 and has made a significant impact in the entertainment and sports charter markets. Located just 15 minutes from Montreal, H-18 has a small, determined staff of just 10, but has amenities including a 200,000-sq. ft. ramp, more than 30,000 sq. ft. of hangar space, and a spacious, comfortable location with conference rooms, pilot’s lounge, passenger lounge and more. The company hopes to make a big splash in the BizAv market in the months and years ahead, notes President Gordon Livingstone.

“We are in a bit of a niche market, we are at a different airport, so that’s something that our people are going to have to realize – that this airport has certain nuances,” Livingstone says. “It’s what it offers, the location. And when they are on the ramp, we try to ask them what they really want, what they need.

“A lot of times, a high-end customer will come in, they are met by a limo and whisked off to where they have to go, leaving the pilot and the rest of the team that have to stay with us. We can offer them a lot – we can offer them a car ride to a hotel, a rental car, we can take them to a restaurant . . . I think everyone on the team is thinking of ways to cater to their needs.”

Numbers game
Service excellence, identifying customer needs, offering flexible price and maintenance points – all are key drivers when it comes to creating an FBO that delivers a high-end experience. The Wings annual FBO survey was designed to identify properties that deliver on these important value propositions. For the fourth consecutive year, we asked readers to identify their top Canadian FBOs, fuel brands, and charge or credit cards. In an industry driven by service impressions as well as price, the survey offers a unique overview of the Canadian market and this market alone.

The methodology for the survey was straightforward. The survey was conducted online for six weeks in June and July. Respondents were allowed the opportunity to select up to five FBOs and rank them based on everything from service and pricing to the bricks-and-mortar aspects of the venue. Respondents were asked for a rating on each section using a scale of one through 10 for such attributes.

What makes the Wings FBO survey unique is that it is based solely and completely on respondent recall without prompting – readers choose an FBO based on their experience only, without a cheat sheet or prompt list. Our research and experience over several years has shown this to be a proven method to not only focus on Canadian service and support providers, but also allow for the inclusion of all airports from across the country on an equal footing.

With the end scores tallied, we then were able to see how the selected FBOs rated overall for their markets – both in the number of times they were selected and in the total scores by attribute. Of the 64 FBOs receiving votes this year, winners were selected region to region across the country – including a “Top 3” and a “Rising Star” award – and an overall winner was determined based on the total votes cast and related scores.

Once again, the survey illustrates that customers do remember their service experience – and when it is good, they feel loyal enough to comment. As any professional from the service and retail sector knows, most customers don’t say much about your service until it is really great – or conversely, incredibly bad. And it is seldom expressed directly to the company, so a survey such as this provides a valuable third-party insight into how the people who put money into your cash register see you.

Listed below are the overall winners broken down by region:

  • Best FBO in Canada: Signature YUL  (Repeat overall winner four years in a row)
  • Best FBO in Western Canada (B.C., Alta., Y.T., N.W.T): Skyservice YYC  (Repeat winner in this category)
  • Best FBO in Central Canada (Sask., Man., Nunavut): KREOS Aviation YXE (Repeat winner in this category)
  • Best FBO in Ontario: Skyservice YYZ (Repeat winner in this category)
  • Best FBO in Quebec: Signature YUL (Repeat winner in this category)
  • Best FBO in Atlantic Canada: (N.B., N.L., N.S., P.E.I.): Shell Torbay Aerocentre YYT (Has captured the award previously in this category)

The top three FBOs in each region includes:

Top 3 Western Canada

  • Skyservice YYC
  • Signature Flight Support/Airside FBOPartners, YEG
  • Million Air, YVR

Top 3 Central Canada

  • Kreos Aviation, YXE
  • Central Aviation Services, YWG
  • Kelly Western Jet Centre, YW

Top 3 Ontario

  • Skyservice, YYZ
  • Skycharter Ltd., YYZ
  • Landmark Aviation, YYZ

Top 3 Quebec

  • Signature Flight Support, YUL
  • Avfuel H-18 FBO, YHU
  • Skyservice, YUL

Top 3 Atlantic Canada

  • Shell Torbay Aerocentre, YYT
  • Gateway, YHZ
  • Irving Aviation Services, YYT

Rising Star Award (FBO making the largest jump from last year)

  • Avfuel H-18 FBO, YHU

Fuel ’em up
Survey results once again revealed that FBOs continue to accept a variety of fuel cards and charge services to remain competitive and responsive. Here are the top fuel brand choices and preferred fuel card providers:

Top 5 fuel brands

  • Esso
  • Shell
  • Uvair FBO Network
  • Epic
  • Irving Oil

Top preferred cards for fuel

  1. Colt
  2. Visa
  3. AvCard
  4. Amex
  5. MasterCard
  6. Uvair
  7. Multiservice
  8. Epic
  9. Avfuel
  10. Airworld

Service with a smile
Providing top service is essential for the success of any FBO, and this year’s results firmly indicate it is the top priority in determining if customers come back. Some 75 per cent of respondents indicated impeccable customer service was their top reason for choosing a specific FBO while price was the top-determining factor for some 25 per cent.

These results note a slightly higher trend towards service excellence this year than last (74 per cent in 2013), underscoring the premise that service with a smile is key to customer retention.

“The commitment to service transcends everything we do, and everyone is responsible for making it happen,” says Paul Weeks, Vice President of Maintenance and Central Region with Skyservice YYZ. “It’s everyone knowing what everyone else is doing, from the line staff on the tarmac to the FBO CSR to the driver taking the pilots to hotel. This takes a concerted team effort to make it all happen and it looks seamless. That’s what we want.”

High service standards can often go farther than that: providing clients with a sense of coming home, a sense of refuge. It can even mean something as simple as ensuring the bathrooms are top notch. Sound far-fetched? In the FBO world, a nice bathroom can mean repeat business in the future, even in a smaller location such as Saskatoon.

inviting space
The open, inviting space at Skyservice YYC is a perfect spot for pilots seeking to relax in comfort.

“Our FBO isn’t cookie cutter for sure . . . it’s not meant to be a McDonald’s,” says KREOs’ Ramsay. “It’s welcoming, comfortable, a fireplace . . . there is a real attention to detail throughout the facility. And you know, people talk about washrooms all the time. Well, in Saskatoon, I don’t know if there are better washrooms.”

Franks laughs, but adds that in all seriousness, quality washrooms reflect a top service standard that is indicative of an overriding philosophy of service excellence. “I was at an FBO conference earlier this year and they talked about the three top things that you needed to concentrate on. Washrooms were in the top three with service and your first contact with people. The first thing people do when you welcome them in is they ask, ‘where the restroom is.’ ”

Ramsay notes that the goal at KREOS – and everyone else in the Canadian FBO business – is to maintain a standard that sets you apart from the crowd.

“This thing with the washrooms didn’t just come without a lot of thought,” Ramsay says. “We understood that and when that place was built, it was understood what people want and value. When you buy a house, you look at the kitchen and you look at the washrooms. A lot of thought is put into every aspect of the process – there is a lot of attention to detail here.”

A high commitment to service excellence, teamwork and attention to detail certainly makes winners out of sports teams – and as the Wings annual FBO survey reveals, Canadian fixed based operators as well. Congratulations to all of the winners.


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