Impact Investing vs. Whitewashing

Impact Investing

Impact Investing

I am very, very happy that I started speaking to Family Offices and regret that the Pandemic forced a reschedule of one event and kept me from attending another this week. But I am grateful to be allowed attending the first Family Office virtual conferences. It’s a rather steep learning curve. I am grateful for any event reference or invitation that I got and hopefully will still get.

European Climate Goals

Given today’s jabbering by the EU Commission (Mme. von der Leyen) that they – wow – will reduce the CO2 to 55% of the 1990-level … Oh wow? Shall I be impressed? Or cry? EU parliament would have been okay with 60% the news say. But even as is, this “deal” is full of small-print and not really worth the paper it’s written on.

We must be better to make an impact. And we better stop lip-services, white- and greenwashing but address the issues we can address today. Or this expert saying we’re way too late is right.

Though this is totally in line with my initial experience about “impact investing”. Lots of talk and lip services, with little substance too. Hard to find the ones that believe that this is something real.

And what industry is more in desperate need for a sustainability makeover. And having the chance for it?

Aviation Impact Investment
… a Barrel Burst?

Zunum 50 seat electric planeWhile we have clear plans to become Carbon-Neutral in realistically in three to five years, you got to start. And an “impact investor” told me this week that we are too little innovative. Really?

The EU plans give airlines 15 more years to fly dirty. Yes, that is a barrel burst! You got to be kidding me. But sure, it’s completely in line with German and European aviation lobbying, managed well by Lufthansa, Ryanair and the likes. Lufthansa, the airline with the single-largest bailout package in Europe but with virtually no ties attached, especially none about job saving or evolution into turning “green” and flying clean(er). And in Hamburg I heard the synkerosene pilot suffered from disinterest by Lufthansa, aside of a single carbon-neutral flight by Lufthansa Cargo. A nice example of greenwashing!

I’ve summarized the possibilities to turn aviation carbon-neutral for a start (and what comes then) into another article Clean Aviation Whitewashing and the Real Deal, which I publish simultaneously with this article. But the Future of Clean Aviation is Now. It just needs someone with a real interest to start the process. No talking, no lip-services, no whitewashing, but the real deal! With a real ROI.

Impact Investment in IT & AI … What Impact?

AI Impact InvestingThere is a lot of buzz ongoing about Impact Investment in IT and AI. Whereas I just wrote about Big Data & AI, feedback from family offices principals recently confirm my assumption. Of one emphasizing that ESG “tools” are usually a means to white- and greenwash family offices’ IT investments. And as I posted that on LinkedIn, got a lot of feedback from other family office principals that IT hardly makes a real impact by itself. It’s simply a profit-focused investment, mostly just improving existing processes or digitalizing them.

There also was a discussion this week about “decision making AI” or “decision support IT”. From my aviation background, I see IT as an important support tool. One that improves productivity, but more important safety. I do not see an IA-tool taking more than a supportive role at the time being. But I see a lot of claims that direction, which I can only consider white- and greenwashing.

It’s a Trust Thing

Use a magnet to find the needle in the haystack
Oops. Didn’t we tell you? We seek the toothpick…

In my opinion, there is no “impact investing” if you don’t find the right managers with a mindset to leave the beaten path and find profitable developments in the industry. For KOLIBRI.aero we don’t just think about carbon-neutral aviation. Or some solar parks. We think beyond! We understand it’s our duty to make an impact. Investing into our people and the regions we serve. To foster gender equality, diversity and to develop a future beyond our own. In turn, KOLIBRI.aero addresses not two or three, but all 17 of the U.N. Sustainability Development Goals.

In the overall plans, there is one issue being in the U.N. SDGs and EU’s TEN-T, regional connectivity at affordable price. Going carbon-neutral is more important on that in our opinion, but there are obstacles that must be overcome, that is a journey. Decently paid, qualified jobs and ongoing, structured training to fight against poverty. Ideas aplenty on how to establish a disruptive airline, that shows how sustainable aviation can be. If you look outside the box. If you embrace “sustainability”, even the notoriously loss-making scapegoat aviation can change.

The Quick and Dirty

If you want to go Fast, go Alone. If you want to go Far, go TogetherOn the other side – and back to the topic of my previous article, Big Data and AI provide quick success stories. So much easier to use those for white- and greenwashing. But real impact investment may not be so sexy, it may take a longer breath. To turn around our world is a journey, no sprint. It’s why even UBS recently confirmed in a webinar that family offices are more likely the ones truly investing into impact. Because they think long-term. About family impact across generations. Not as politicos or banks or “institutional investors” and venture capitalists in quick, maximized returns, happily overlooking the negative impacts for an improved profitability.

… or The Neverending Story

The concept of the Hyperlook has long ago been visualized by Roger Leloup.A German investor this week told me: “There is too little change in what you’re doing.” That investor referred to either air taxi or hyperloop. Whereas I’ve often enough expressed my concerns about air traffic control taking individual mobility into the third dimension and into potential conflict with commercial (and military) aviation. Just thinking about the increasing drone-warnings disrupting airport operations the past year. That is a very long way to go.

The same for hyperloop, which may connect high-density routes, similar to (German) Transrapid in China. Will this be more successful? The concept is around for more than half a century. And I don’t like the pipes over ground, even Roger Leloup planned them underground. I’ve written more than a year ago in the #flygskam Reality Check about it and about the so much smaller footprint an airport has.

… Academic Thinking – Research Forever

Academic ResearchGlobal CO2 emissions dropped by 7%, with 11% in Europe due to Corona. Especially aviation reduced due to the lockdown by 22% global, some regions by 30%. But those are expected to come back quickly (Source).

Now the EU says it turns the European Investment Bank into a Climate Bank. And they will focus on research. Or to give the dinosaurs a facelift. Maybe it makes more sense to look for ideas to apply the research results to the real world? Why is it that German Transrapid only runs in China, European Skype is now U.S. Microsoft, the first industrial Synkerosene-facility is being build in Norway (EU associated)? Examples aplenty. We research but we’re utterly incompetent turning research into practical products.

Others are faster, but we have a PLANPeople should take rail the politicos wrote. Yeah, I can see Merkel spending a day to travel from Berlin to Brussels. An interesting LinkedIn post, and German Tagesschau reports “Strategy falls short of what is possible and necessary”. A carbon-neutral aviation we plan on existing technological solutions for 2025, latest 2027 for Kolibri and by 2030 operating +200 aircraft carbon-neutral.

It’s embarrassing! Why does everyone find reasons not to invest in large-scale change? No, it is not quick, requires industrial site funding, but it’s about real change! Which in turn would apply pressure on the “establishment” to get their butts up and move. Get out of your comfort zone and make a change.

Divesting the Bad, Investing in Sustainability

Scottish Widows For 200 YearsThere are exceptionally good examples recently, like Scottish Widows devesting “bad stocks” in the value of almost half a million Euro. Whoops?

And whoops again. But they work with Black Rock, a company with a very bad reputation, funding most of the dirty stocks in the world. But on the other side, Black Rock may have started their journey to change? Maybe the money divested may be well invested into those change makers?

Corona is a testing time for about everybody. But also an opportunity for new methods and thinking to rise.

Impact Investment for better ROI!

Kolibri - disrupt aviationThough also notable, there is a bad misinterpretation that impact investment would mean low ROI. I think our business concept for Kolibri is looking at very competitive ROI at a residual risk below other investments. But it is so much easier to accuse impact investment to justify one owns look the other direction, right?

Impact Investment ain’t Philanthropy.
Invest into the future and benefit from it!

And as real impact investment gains support and more and more investors look at their investment portfolio and clear out the dirt, suddenly your “max-ROI”-investment in crude oil, guns or other “bad investments” will turn foul on you. Investment into the main investor in “bad business”, namely Black Rock will backfire on your own reputation. So Black Rock will likely recognize the headwinds and start divesting too? Not to be caught in the fray.

Funds, Indices, Shares or what?

Change ResistanceWell, it’s always easy to invest into existing business. Buying in on indices or major shares, you don’t need to understand anything beyond their “performance” and “marketing message”. If they wash well enough, they might appear shining green or white, right?

As if we did not learn the very recent lessons from German Property Group, Wirecard? On a report that week, a Shortseller mentioned that the higher the interests and dividends, the likelier they are on a rush against the wall. So they look at those stocks first. As do greedy investors…

My very personal experience includes working for a company that became one of the “New Market winners” when they entered the stock market. Happened, after a short flash in the pan, they ended up a penny stock.

Grounded Aircraft FleetsThe “typical” aviation investment is aircraft funds. Whereas KPMG valued them at an average 4% return in 2019, look at all those assets now. Liabilities in most cases, because they had and have no USP. And even back in 2019, the big aircraft lessors being well established with the airlines made good returns, but many funds also underperformed or failed completely.

Shareholder value got a very bad reputation, didn’t it? As if all shareholders would believe in Max-ROI? How about some long-term benefits, how about impact, sustainability and a return that is above the inflation rate and what your bank pays? But that is to my experience and observations the normal “manager type” our world suffers from. Maximizing the own short-term remuneration and bonuses, leaving a wreck behind. Back to IT-investments?

… or what?

Another version has a third question: Who wants to lead the change. Whoops, all gone…

Especially thinking about impact investment, we need long-term thinking. Something bank managers, institutional investors and venture capitalists fail to provide. We need people thinking in decades, in generations. We need Family Offices, private investors. And we need company managers, entrepreneurs, founders thinking not in three years at max ROI, but in 10 years and a real ROI, including but beyond monetary. Maybe at a much better ROI than those straw-fire-startups burn up?

What Impact Do You Target?

What’s the “Impact” you want to make? Is Tesla truly the future? Or is it more hydrogen? How about impact on poverty? Why not investing in “developing countries”, poor countries? Giving them the infrastructure and tools to develop themselves. Another German history lesson. While the leading industry nations cannibalized German technology, machines, entire factories, it left a void in it’s wake. A void that was filled with the help of the Marshall Plan leading Germany into the Wirtschaftswunder.

The investments back in those days did not target the surviving companies, but enabled startups. The remains of those funds are known as KfW, Germany’s Bank for Reconstruction.

Impact vs. Whitewashing

My final topic today is to take a look at the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals or U.N. SDGs.

United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

Good Health & Wellbeing = biotech, right? Every biotech something claims to be SDG3, even the pharma-giants o chem-giant BASF.
Or Decent work and economic growth also used a lot for good argument to be “sustainable”. The Real Estate industry talks a lot about their focus on 9 and 11. Those are just the ones I see a lot “abused”. But also tech companies claiming sustainable under 3 ,4, 5 and 10… Be careful if someone tells you they’d be “sustainable” under consideration of the SDGs.

I like the approach of some family offices very much, that they qualify the real impact. Over time, what is the change. Targets, Milestones. And understanding that real change takes real efforts.

Food for Thought
Comments welcome!

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Long-Haul Low-Cost? Supersonic? Quo Vadis?

While we work here on a business plan for a new airline, we did discuss and disqualified many of the existing airline models. Is that negative? Or realistic?

These days some news hit me in short succession, that make me rethink the assessment my friend Ndrec and I made when discussing possible, viable business models for a new airline.

I did the picture above a mere year ago. Meanwhile Niki is gone too, as is Virgin America. Mighty Norwegian being said to be likely acquired by IAG shortly. We have “new” players like Blue Air. But the question for any new business case must be:

What is Your (E-)USP?

Now Ray Webster, former CEO of easyJet opened the Routes Europe Conference with a keynote:

“I don’t see long-haul low-cost as a viable model. Operating a small aircraft across the Atlantic is not efficient, and low-cost carriers aren’t going to fill a 787 or an A380”

Ray Webster, former CEO easyJet

Even students traveling on longer flights do want more services the longer the flight gets.

In contradiction to that assessment, Eurowings now opens up New York-services, taken over from the late Air Berlin operating from Düsseldorf. We all looked at Norwegian, though their “success story” also seemingly was bought on the cost of revenue, the airline now is said to be acquired rather shortly by British Airways/Iberia holding IAG (also owning Aer Lingus).

Whereas I simply do not understand the “brand strategy” of either Lufthansa or IAG…

  • IAG: Aer Lingus, British Airways, Iberia, Level, Vueling … Now Norwegian adding to the mix of “it’s not me”?
  • Lufthansa Group: Air Dolomiti, Austrian, Brussels, Eurowings, LGW, CityLine, Swiss, Sun Express. Also “it’s not me”?

The work on a business plan for a new airline was triggered last year initially by some investors, going down the same “me-too”-dead end using old, inefficient Boeing 737-aircraft. Cheap to get, but their fuel consumptions renders them virtually useless.

BlueSwanDaily believes in the future of Supersonic… Are you kidding me? Yes, I believe supersonic will come, but expensive niche for the rich and wealthy. No real change to the Concorde business model.

I myself worked out a “green” concept a few years ago, but we’re neither getting there… The project got grounded in the wake of Lehmann Brother’s and a world financial crisis and the original interested investors gone never took up speed again. [Update: The Korean Wingship seems a ready-to-go WIG, though using conventional fuel, no green hydrogen or battery powered e-engines]

So we looked at models that differ from the existing ones. Where are unservered or underserved markets and why are they not served well? One issue sure is the airline analysis tools misleading their users to “established routes” and airports.

So we started with the original intent of a small scale operation. And recognized why so many such projects are doomed. There is a pilot shortage hovering on the horizon, Ryanair running pilot acquisition as far as South America and Asia. Most airlines do not value their workers but drain them.

And having discussed the very same issue again yesterday with friends who must relocate in the automotive industry as a direct consequence of overpaid managers, back again, using old images:

Maybe. Just maybe. I believe Ndrec and I came up with a sound business idea, which requires far higher investment than we originally envisioned. Coming with a round and sound business plan paying off that major investment in 10 years safe. Because we do have a unique selling proposition (USP). Because we do have an emotional USP. Because we thought it through and instead of failing at the first obstacle, we save cost from day one and make this a company to work for?

And working on that, we learned a big deal about the faults of the airlines we see in the market. And it boils down to the normal questions: What’s your (emotional) USP? What makes you different, why should the intended consumer decide to use your product. We see too much “me too” in the market. Buy your market share in the B737/A320 shark pond?

30+ years ago, my training officer told me that joke:

A man starts a business selling screws.
His friends questions him: “You buy
the screws for 1 €, you sell them for 95c?
How do you want to make money?”
“Oh, the quantity does it!”

My training officer told me to look after yours. Not only in the company, also your supply chain. Make sure you have long-term suppliers selling you the quality you need for a good reputation.

Later I learned the same lesson from space shuttle Challenger, management ignoring their own experts warning them of the temperature being below safety specifications. Shuttle Columbia dying of a piece of foam worth a few cent perforating the heat shield. Of Concorde crashing from a “minor” piece of scrap metal.

I’ve paid very high (in hard Euro) for another lesson. Starting with a sound idea (regional airlines’ franchise concept to share cost and operate a larger scale of operations), it turned out later that the stakeholders did not look for a franchise, but a means to start their own small operation and “share” the cost with the other small players. Clearly understanding the small operations to face obstacles they cannot overcome on their own. Could not. Cannot. Will not. A costly mistake I made. But lesson learned!

Then at delair I learned about airline disruptions and how our industry uses historic processes to “manage” somehow. How airlines use manpower instead of intelligence to cope i.e. with a winter storm.

With Ndrec, I found a seasoned manager understanding the need to either do it right – or don’t do it. And we got surprised how much money we save if we do it right! Not short term, there we need more to invest. But then very shortly, within less than 10 years. Now we reached the point of the reality check: Will we find solvent institutional investors helping us to pull this off? Cross your fingers.

For all those other airlines out there… Do your homework. First and foremost: What’s your USP? What’s the business case?

Food for Thought
Comments welcome

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Changing Roles

Juergen is one of the very few people, I really mean, VERY FEW, people that understand both airlines and airports.

As many of the readers of this blog know, I am somewhat personally attached to that little airport in Central Germany, Erfurt-Weimar.

Last week I was taken into a discussion by Thuringia’s Minister President Bodo Ramelow, about how to stop the down-spiral of emigrating Thuringians. Which reminded me about the likewise discussion we had in 2009 shortly before I joined Erfurt Airport with the task to stop their downward-spiral on their passengers.

Real Life Example

What I was faced with was an extremely negative image of the airport within the region. And a lot of demands on how to do business from amateurs in the industry, politicians, tourist offices, etc.

First day at work, the GM of Tourism Thuringia, Bärbel Grönegres was quoted in the local newspaper (TA, 02Mar09), having visited the United Arab Emirates to promote medical tourism to Thuringia. Having a Munich-Erfurt flight by Lufthansa-Partner Cirrus Airlines at the time, she recommended the Arabs to take a flight to Frankfurt, to be picked up with a bus for a +3 hour tour to Thuringia. Tourism material did not contain reference to the airport. Questioned about the reason, her reply was “Who knows, how much longer we will have that flight”. Ever since, that became a prime example I use for “negative thinking” or “calling for disaster”.

The next winter, the Thuringian Olympic athletes brought home a record number of medals. But at the following ITB, it was more important to promote Franz Liszt, who lived a dozen years in Weimar. The fact that the Russian-Orthodox chapel, Grand Dutchess Maria Pavlovna who’s invitation brought him to Weimar has built and got buried in is under direct protectorate of the Russion Orthodox “pope”, the Patriarch, such making it a pilgrimage site for the Russian Orthodox church has completely failed to trigger any support by Weimar or Thuringia Tourism. Air Berlin reported it to be a “known reason” for a substantial part of their Russian Berlin-passengers to add Weimar to their travel plans.

In order to promote the government-funded route, after fierce discussions, Cirrus Airlines agreed to offer a low-cost ticket at 99€ return, having only about 6€ after the high taxes on the ticket. That offer was made available especially to the Thuringian government offices and the state development agency (LEG). Nevertheless, LEG planned and executed delegations traveling with the train to Berlin to take flights from Berlin, instead of promoting the route. The same also for the ministries and ministers. Even the responsible minister taking flights from Frankfurt and Munich instead of using the PSO-route he signed responsible for. During the months we’ve actively promoted that 99€-fare also to the industry and the travel agencies and also had it largely available, not one of the flights used up the 99€ tickets allocated to them. Being at the verge of a bankruptcy, Cirrus Airlines finally ceased to operate that route in December 2010.

By the time, working with the local industry associations, political parties I have been able to increase the passenger numbers by about 20 percent. In fact, to date, the airport is far from the 320 thousand passengers I left them with. With Weimar being the neighboring but historically better known city internationally, I pushed forward the renaming to Erfurt-Weimar with the attempt to improve the incoming for the airport. Paid almost completely from the limited marketing budget. A strategic decision executed after our parting-of-ways in December 2010 after my two-year contract was not extended in the wake of the retreat of Cirrus Airlines. A strategic decision though made obsolete by the “political” decision by traffic minister Christian Carius to not replace the route as I recommended with an Amsterdam-service. Sad decision indeed, as with our parting ways, the discussions with KLM were simply discontinued (KLM calling my number reached someone speaking German only, I was gone) and despite their interest in a PSO (public service obligation) financial route support, we had discussed flights based on mere startup incentives and marketing support.

Opposing myself ongoing subsidies, to demand a route but to leave the (substantial) risk completely with the airline is neither the answer. Whereas comparing the CheckIn.com-data about airport catchment areas with the data provided by airports we found that data to be completely off-set in a majority of cases. It caused us to make basic data available for free. But if the data provided by the airport is not hard, but guesstimates or outright lies, when the airline starts a flight based on that data, the airline takes the risk. To not only does the airport sneak out of the responsibility, they increase the airlines’ risk – is that a game? Or serious business?

Fraport Bulgaria’s more than doubled “population within two hours” can not result from the “drive time off-sets implied by Fraport Bulgaria investigating the discrepancy.

Changing Roles

Now since I started in aviation 30 years ago, the market has drastically changed. In the good old days, there were (often highly subsidized) “national airlines”, used to promote the country. Back in my early days, the airlines were the executive for the tourist offices and also worked closely with commercial development agencies. But ever since, those national airlines have either adapted or went out of business. The emerging “low cost” airlines virtually evaporated the income of the airlines, competition becoming fierce.

As I keep emphasizing with my updated image of Purchasing Power and Airports, there is a relation between a strong airport and the regional purchasing power. It is indeed a hen/egg issue, but if you are a small airport in a weak region, maybe it makes sense to consider how to attract travel (tourism, commerce) to your region. Not how to drain your region of the money by sending the population to the Mediterranean for vacation, but by having incoming, scheduled services, by adding point-to-point routes and to attract low cost airlines.

If we do not talk about PSO (Public Service Obligation) where the government pays for basic flight services, if you build an airport and wait for airlines to find you, keep on sleeping (and burning money). So if you are a small airport and you have little to no money, what can you do?

Having an airport is not enough any more.

The airport is part of the region’s infrastructure. As such, it needs to be integrated into a political and commercial strategy. Whereas in the example of Erfurt-Weimar, the airport is being kept as a scapegoat, being challenged in one sentence for the aviation noise (a good joke with so few flights) and for not having flights. A political punch-ball.

Other, successful airports like Memmingen in Southern Germany are integrated into and understood as a strategic value for the regional development. In fact, Memmingen is not politico-owned but owned by more than 60 co-owners from the region’s industry. Such, instead of being a scapegoat for political power games, everyone in the region understands the need to actively support the airport. Anyone harassing the airport confronts everyone in the region. A political suicide!

At Erfurt, I was asked to establish flights to Moscow. One company. 10 employees. Even with a small (expensive) 50-seat aircraft and weekly flights only (which are usually not sufficient for commercial demand), we talk about 40 seats by 52 weeks in two directions or 4.160 tickets to sell every year. But for a decent offer that is useful to the industry, you need at least twice weekly flights.

Leaving that task to attract airlines to the airport alone, at the same time running blame games and scapegoating, the airport cannot justify such flight. But what if the state development agency and the chambers of commerce, on demand by the political PTBs (powers-that-be) qualify the demand from all those small and midsized companies? Not on a low-cost, but with reasonable ticket prices. Not at prime time at the maximum risk for the airline. Maybe instead of a weekly, can the region sustain a double or even triple-weekly flight making it interesting for the companies in the region? Are those companies willing to support the launch period by committing to use the flight, even if slightly more expensive than a flight from Frankfurt or Berlin? Keep in mind, the people have to get there, you also pay for gasoline/parking or rail. Transport to those hubs is not free either. And the longer check-in times make them even less attractive, right?

Interesting approach. I’ve talked to several smaller airports where they agreed that their chamber of commerce and regional development agencies “pre-purchased” tickets at the cost of the average ticket price needed to cover the operational cost. Then they to sell it to their members. Not covering the full cost of operations, but simply taking their share of the risk! Why should they not, if they believe in the numbers and data they provide to the airline to promote their business case?

Then talk about Tourism. Given such flight, are the local tourism PTBs ready to promote such flight in the outlying region? What about other promotion? Don’t leave it to the airport! Is there a joint concept by the political PTBs, the state development and commerce PTBs, the tourism PTBs on what flight they want, how they will promote the flights?

“We have an airport”. That’s nice. But not enough.

And for a Minister President even only on a state level? You better think about a strategy. Or close down the airport. Having flight to summer vacation is not enough. It drains money from your region into those destinations. What’s in it for you? Why do you fund an airport? No scheduled services? No incoming? Do your homework.

Changing Roles

It’s no longer the job of the airline to promote your region! They simply don’t have the funds to do that. It’s not their business case.

It is the job of the political, commercial and tourism PTBs to qualify what they finance an airport for and come up with ideas and business cases for airlines to take the risk to fly there. And no, a “business case” is not necessarily paying subsidies. If you have a good business case that the airline will make money on the route by flying paying passengers, I can rest assure you that the airline will prefer that over subsidies that are usually associated to political nightmares.

Compiling sound numbers is a good start… And yeah, I might be willing to help you with that.

Food for Thought!
Feedback welcome…

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Management Salaries

Juergen is one of the very few people, I really mean, VERY FEW, people that understand both airlines and airports.

The highest paid workers in Silicon Valley are not software engineers … but “project managers”.

Reading this, it reminded me of my own experience, as well as something my dad told me decades ago: “Keep in mind that the people doing the productive work pay for all those supportive jobs.”. Including the bakers, the medical, schools, trainers, … Not talking about all those “managers” that nowadays make a living by explaining how to do things differently.

Source: https://fabiusmaximus.com/2012/09/10/american-military-force-changed-43153/
Source

Growing up with American military, there was a saying that you can’t have more chiefs than Indians. In fact, it’s a clear pyramid with given salary schemes where the general earns more than the private, but in a reasonable amount. At the same time, there were only about four generals and flag officers for each 10,000 uniformed personnel*. Today it’s seven. And they soon have more “admirals” than ships…

CaptainsvsRowerLooking at current structures in the industry, we have too many Chiefs and too little Indians. In fact, I know companies (i.e. consulting) having 10 Chiefs on a single Indian or less. Mostly secretaries, IT support and cleaning staff, often enough outsourced. And we pay the Indians badly and feed the Chiefs. Some figures in Germany make me afraid. In the last years, the numbers of people living of social security despite having a job increased year over year. Yes, they have work. But not enough to live from, they need state support to survive!

The number of retirees needing a side job to survive grew the past years from 15 to 35 percent. That means that one out of three can’t survive of the retirement plan they paid into most of their life?

German Wirtschaftswoche (“Commercial Week”) magazine reported 2015 that top managers make 54 times the salary of an average employee. This is the average. At Volkswagen they made 170 times the salary of their workers, Adidas 100 times. In the U.S., they make in average 273 times the salary of their workers the German Zeit (“time) magazine reported. 30 years ago, top managers made approx. five times that of the average employee. This is about paid managers. It’s a different issue on the owners of the company, but even those usually made about the same income as their top managers and invested the revenue into the company, their employees and reserves. When there was a “crisis”, they had reserves to dig into. Where today the managers fire their workers (same time often increasing their own “salaries”).

“Human Resources”?

automationAt the same time these highly paid managers reduced their personal risk in case of failure by insurances and contractual clauses. But imply that their mega-salaries are because of all the responsibility they have for the company and its employee and their well-being. Whereas the net income of their workers have in reality dropped many years as a result of inflation, tax and social security increases, etc. And not to forget by making “Leiharbeit”, subcontracting labor. That way, the history of working for a company throughout your lifetime became a myth, companies, no, not faceless companies, but company managers are no longer loyal to their workers. And not paying subcontracted labor a surplus for the job risk but paying them mostly even less than their own.

branson_quote_train_people
“Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t want to.” [Richard Branson]
My friend Erica was hired for a temporary job with one of the large global players. While they denied her any surplus for the risk of a temporary contract she was asked to not do any side jobs. Similar for me when SITA acquired delair. The same time that they both denied us any job security. Are they crazy? Companies recently start paying minimum wages, adding contract clauses that the workers are not allowed (!) to have a second job. Forcing them to live of state aid, despite a full-time job, often in combination with unpaid overtime. That is reality. Now Erica is happy to leave the bureaucrats, I was quite happy to part ways with SITA (with +400 peers). I prefer smaller companies with less hierarchy but also support and fair pay for the Indians. Recently there’s studies and case studies proving better payment proved to be far better on the motivation of the work force with substantially higher return on the “investment”.

Source: http://jampackedbear.blogspot.de/Another issue on salaries is “variables”. I truly believe a fair base salary and a fair results scheme are motivating. Unfortunately – and I hear that from a lot of friends – the “targets” set are unrealistic. Such you can rarely rely on them. The manager’s goal not being motivation, but cost savings, is also counter productive. Aside, it’s simple greed and also just aside, that’s a mortal sin.

Food for Thought
Comments welcome!

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Thoughts about Networking

Juergen is one of the very few people, I really mean, VERY FEW, people that understand both airlines and airports.

UpsideDownAcademic – Epidemic

During my vacation, I just had another discussion with a “senior manager”, showing how little many of these highly paid people understand about the value of networking. It often seems to me that this is nothing they ever learned during their university times…?

People buy from people, not technologies.

No matter, how good your product is, no-one will believe it, if they don’t believe they “know” it.

The Wrong Questions

I had some questions and statements (Q) repeadetly the last years and think it might be wise to share my answers (A). If that stuff is voiced that often, you may be faced with the same smart people…

Q: “It’s very much about being at the right point at the right time.”
A: And the right point is the mind of the someone who thinks about buying. If you’re not in the mind, you won’t come to mind and you won’t sell.

conferencenetworkingQ: “Why should I go to this event, I can talk to them on the phone.”
A: Do you know, how many phone calls that someone gets every week, from people trying to enter their mind and memory? At these events, like-minded people meet. With the possibility to speak longer with people and face to face, trust can be established. An important factor for purchasing decisions.

Q: “Why should I be active on LinkedIn?”
A: For one, there are a lot more people on LinkedIn than you likely ever meet on trade shows. If these people are allowed to attend trade shows in the first place…

Q: “Then why should I attend trade shows – the people I seek to meet are not there!”
A: Because even if they themselves are not there. Their colleagues who are allowed to go will tell them. If you leave some impression.

Sales-meets-Marketing
“Wow, I had five real promising meetings today” – “Don’t worry, I didn’t sell anything either”

Q: “Is it better to have a stand or not?”
A: That depends. Can you attract people to your stand (it does require a catchy stand design and/or an established brand awareness). In my experience and for conferences with exhibition: If you are alone, skip the stand. Meet your audience face to face. Conferences are not about sitting around, but to meet and to talk to people! What I recommend though is that you use accessories that show who you are. Be it a cap, a polo-shirt (or light jacket) with logo or a catch phrase that attracts the right people to you, be it a bag – under all those black-ties, you got to stick out showing “Here I am!”
Interesting side note: I know a lot of sales & marketing people being too proud to “show off”. If you don’t want to show off (your product) you maybe got the wrong attitude for the job…

Q: Hey, I got invited for a speaker slot. I can present my product there.
A: If you can have a speaker slot, don’t use it to sell your product, but make sure you provide lasting value for your audience. If they are interested, they’ll be interested in your product. And after you paid for some of such slots, the organizers (if they’re worth their money) find you valuable and maybe even worth-while to invite or even pay you next time…

These opinions of managers do remind me too much of an old quote: “If you don’t try, you cannot win”.
But have they understood that they sell to people having their own priorities, agendas and opinions?

On the other side, I’ve received a nice graphic on LinkedIn lately I’d like to share with you. I like the first point very much, as I believe that you simply got to become a trusted partner to succeed, which is why it’s vital to build up “trusted networks”.

selling

Food for Thought
Comments welcome

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The Power of Bureaucrats

Juergen is one of the very few people, I really mean, VERY FEW, people that understand both airlines and airports.

The past weeks have been quite a dramtatic change to me. Taking over the marketing at Erfurt Airport was the right decision. It calls for a fire fighter. And the first weeks produced a lot of bureaucratic overkill that made my life more miserable than it hat to be – challenging and fun as these weeks were.

bureaucracyWhat I discussed with family and friends is actually the thought, why bureaucrats are that way. Why is it, that they require reports and statistics on obviously clear things? Why do they knowingly destroy instead of create? I will never truly understand it, but we are all facing them, so the bureaucrats are somewhat a part of life we got to live with.

Some discussions on LinkedIn address the same topic. What makes a “leader”? My first ever boss told me some basic rules:

  1. Keep your supplier in mind. Only if you pay decently he will produce good work and only then he will remain your supplier. And suppliers are a small family always – they know each other. So once you go the cheap route, you will have trouble getting decent quality.
  2. A leader decides. Get as much data at as short time as possible and decide. Sometimes you have no data. Trust your experience. Some call it “intuition”. It’s as good a guide than any made-up figures. Future holds no guarantees.

Thinking about the last sentence: We all learned that lesson well last year, did we not? But one sentence is also true and may make the bureaucrats happy. We do need the bean counters. They shall question us. We better have a good idea, what we are doing. But we are here to do something. Not to count the beans.

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Crumbling Facades

Juergen is one of the very few people, I really mean, VERY FEW, people that understand both airlines and airports.

What is money all about?

Crumbling FacadesFirst the financial market in the United States failed. Constructs where a single person is responsible for the loss of 50 Billion US$ are just the top of an iceberg. That ice berg turned and we all feel it’s repercussions.

But it was not the U.S. that caused the problem, but the greed of financial managers and the corruptibility of the politicians that made it possible. German’s federal state banks had to be sold, only to learn the buying banks from the other states are simply in similar troubles.

Deutsche Bank manager Ackermann and Deutsch Bahn boss Medorn keep up the facade of the reasoning for the indecent salaries they and their buddies in other corporations pay themselves, blaming others in their companies for the problems their companies face. Isn’t it the CEO who is ultimately responsible? If he has his company not in check, he may not be worth his salary. If his company looses money, they make a bonus? When they fire people, they make another bonus? “No risk, just fun” the yellow press recently titled…

Companies asking for help, often “suddenly” coming up with hidden “treasures” and financing leaks often as high as the losses so far admitted. Oops. If I have a management that has no up to date information about their financial situation, I can imagine this in a start up or small company – but we talk “global players” here! My advise: Fire them! Sue them! You got to, they got to learn the basics of business before they are allowed any management job again!

Politicians having been informed as early as August about the financial troubles of German Hypo Real Estate but now claim their innocense?

In Russia, Oligarch Boris Abramovich lost first the control on AirUnion, which meanwhile “somewhat” restarted as Rossavia as a state airline, now looses Malev as well. His buddy Lebedev is out of a deal to take over German Öger Tours, he’s short on money – weren’t these the people anyone worldwide envied for their incredible wealth?

And wasn’t “U.S. President” a synonym for integrity? Thank you Mr. Bush… What a legacy for Barrack Obama.

So with all these crumbling facades, it is not the time for blame. But it’s time to roll up your sleeves and work to get us out of the mud hole these irresponsible and greedy idiots drove us all into. I am daily facing cases, where good people loose their jobs to managers, still thinking to cut heads is the solution. Or airline managers believing that it’s important to increase revenue at all cost. Flights take off fully booked but causing the airline to loose money?! That has nothing to do with bad sales, but with a bad, price-only-focussed strategy of short-sighted managers. Good service needs good people. But our industries miss to show their own strategy. What makes an airline commercially successful? More aircraft with less people? A drop in service? A university graduade being sent to the key account having no idea what a cross ticket is or what makes a travel reseller select one airline vs. another? Pay for coffee inflight? The next business for airports and catering companies is logically to have vending machines offering snacks and drinks at the gate (or on the aisle infront of the waiting room) at cost below that offered inflight…

BethuneQuote

But what keeps my mind busy is the question, why the facades visibly crumble, why we work in an industry where everyone tells me no one in his right mind would invest in? I did question the human “resource”-thinking. I hear from Lufthansa that the “Lufthanseat” (the employee news) is off reality. American Airlines staff tells me they have never heard of the company update video I remember from the 80s.

BransonEmployeesOur industry is like the opposite to the car industry, but not any better: Where they focus to build the big cars for big money and ignored the growing demand for low-consuming cars, our managers seek quick revenue at any cost…? Load factors and market share at the cost of yield and income.

We can learn from the current U.S. president. Airlines got to learn again that the manager is head of the family. That means (s)he also has to look after the family income and budget. But they got to get out of their glass domes, listen to staff and customers alike and finally start face reality!!! And come to grips and learn to make money!

Food For Thought – your thoughts about this sure are welcome…

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