Ed Bolen: The power of face to face

The president and CEO of the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) on how his association represents more than 11,000 companies and why creativity is key when problems arise.

I tend to have a lot of breakfast meetings, but on the days when I don’t, I start by reading. There are usually a lot of publications to read, including those focused on industry and policy. I try to make sure that, at minimum, I read the headlines, and in many cases, do a deeper dive.

My commute to work typically takes around 30 minutes, so I use the time to listen to the radio, which is another good way of keeping up with the events of the day. I want to come into the office aware of what the headline issues for our industry are.

That said, at NBAA, we also make sure to keep our focus beyond just what’s in front of us on a daily basis. This means ensuring that people understand what we're trying to accomplish this week, this month, this year and beyond.

Coordination and communication are key to maintaining focus.

Coordination and communication are key to maintaining focus. We have annual goals. We hold quarterly board meetings. The senior executive team meets at least once a week, but anyone, from any part of the organization can walk into my office anytime to report a new challenge or concern.

Having this kind of robust communication approach helps us obtain all relevant perspectives, and understand what all our options are when a concern needs to be addressed – it helps focus our minds to ensure we’re at our most creative.

Many times, the solutions needed to address a challenge can involve a mix of different things. It’s not just saying “we have the following five ways to get something done.” Instead, maybe we have five tools that can lead to almost an infinite number of ways to address a concern, and we know how to best leverage all of NBAA’s assets to do so.

Equally important, we are very fortunate in our particular industry to have highly effective resources beyond NBAA and its employees working every day to promote a positive environment for business aviation.

For example, we have a very active and engaged membership, including committees and volunteers, right at the grassroots level – a reality not just in the U.S., but around the world.

I make it a point to be continually engaged with these advocates, because their ability to echo NBAA’s message is key to the association’s overall success. That means I spend a lot of time on the phone and, like a lot of people, I spend a lot of time on email. But I also spend a lot of time on the road – typically two nights a week.

At NBAA, we believe that there is something magic about face-to-face communication, and that the quality of communication is much higher when you can talk, and share ideas and perspectives, in person. I have a commitment to myself to be out of my office and do face-to-face meetings as much as is practical.

As a result, I visit member companies, and I spend time with state and regional groups. I attend a lot of the conferences and seminars that NBAA hosts, and I spend a lot of time on Capitol Hill for legislative efforts.

I often end the day with a reception or dinner. I really enjoy building relationships, and the fullness of communication that those personal conversations provide. I think almost everyone involved in business aviation recognizes the inherent value of those kinds of face-to-face communications.”

CJI Connect

Ed Bolen – President and CEO National Business Aviation Association 202-783-9000 | info@nbaa.org

Alasdair Whyte, Editor, Corporate Jet Investor