Flying Success in Canada
from the Leader-Post newspaper of Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada 02/13 enhanced by Peter/CXO Wiz4.biz
Don Bell, co-founder and former EVP & COO of WestJet (the low cost Airline of Canada – which is similar to Southwest), was a former Airline Pilot. He has some words of wisdom for anyone thinking about starting up and running their own business: “Don’t you believe conventional wisdom about starting & running your own business”.
In fact, Bell – who founded WestJet in the early 1990s along with 3 other partners – said that conventional wisdom told them starting an airline was a recipe for disaster, with hundreds of bankrupt or defunct airlines littering the landscape in North America. “There’s a propensity for failure. We knew it was going to be an uphill battle, but we couldn’t resist the challenge.”
So the WestJet Partners decided to do things differently than most startup airlines. “We learned that if you could keep the model simple, keep your costs low and pass those (cost savings) onto your customers, (and) if you lowered the fares by 30 or 40 %, you could increase ridership by 140 to 150 %. “By making air travel cheaper, the fledgling airline could get people ” off the couch, out of their cars, and have them fly to family & friends or take more vacations,” said Bell.
With $8.5 million raised from 12 original investors, WestJet launched in February 1996 with three Boeing 737 aircraft (purchased from the now defunct Canadian Airlines), about 200 non-unionized employees and five scheduled destinations in Western Canada. Today, WestJet has a fleet of > 100 aircraft, >10,000 employees flying to 100 destinations in >12 countries. “We reinvented air travel in Canada and have flown 100 million people,” Bell said. Revenues have increased from $37 million in 1996 to $3 billion in 2012.
So how did WestJet succeed where so many have failed? Bell provided 10 tips for success in the airline business or any other business, including:
“Find a Biz Model you like & copy it.” WestJet’s founders copied the Dallas-based Southwest Airlines model, which is now one of the largest, most successful airlines, with 38 consecutive years of profitability.
“Hire for attitude; Train for skills.” Hire people with a positive (+) attitude, who have “customer service as part of their DNA.
“Treat employees as # 1.” If you take care of your employees, they will take care of your customers, and the profits will take care of themselves.
“Share the wealth.” Profit-sharing & Stock-savings plans encourage employees to “buy into” the company and align their interests with the company’s.
“Create an equality environment.” WestJet has no assigned parking spots; sales offices get the “mountain view,” while executive offices overlook the parking lot.
“Empower the front lines.” Give employees the power to make quick decisions, rather than blindly follow company policy.
“Embrace technology.” Use technology to simplify processes & reduce costs.
“Keep it simple.” Complexity drives away customers, business & profits.
“Party, party, party!” Use any excuse for a celebration.
Bell said: “We wanted to change the perception of airlines in Canada & beyond and create an attitude for success.”
Comments: What did you think of this? Did you get some ideas you could use?