Each week we catch up with a different entrepreneur to discover what makes them tick, their top tips and more. This week we spend five minutes with Adam Twidell, CEO and co-founder of PrivateFly.com
Hi Adam! What exactly is PrivateFly.com?
PrivateFly.com is a booking service for private jet flights. It compares live pricing and availability for over 7,000 accredited aircraft worldwide via bespoke and unique technology. When we launched, our aim was to create a profitable, disruptive business model in the traditional, private jet booking sector – something we feel we’ve successfully achieved.
Where did the idea for your business come from?
I started my career in the Royal Air Force, serving 10 years as a pilot, including time spent on active service with the UK’s Special Forces. I then joined private jet market-leaders NetJets, during a time of European expansion for their fractional ownership fleet. I spent three years as a captain on the Citation XL, seeing the business aviation industry at close hand.
I then worked with London City Airport to lead a successful bid to the MOD to manage the new private jet centre at RAF Northolt.
From this experience, I was able to see the industry from all perspectives – pilot, passenger, airport, handling agent – and recognised the major inefficiencies in the fragmented private jet charter market. Through PrivateFly, we set out to offer greater accessibility, speed and transparency.
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What is your favourite part of your job and what is your least favourite part?
I have always loved aircraft, so this my dream job. Receiving customer reviews is probably my favourite thing, it’s so gratifying to know that we are getting things right. The least favourite? My early morning run – painful but necessary!
How did you fund your business?
In 2008, we sold our family home for initial seed funding. This felt like a big risk at the time, but we had a lot of belief in what we were doing.
What has been the biggest challenge for your business?
The recession has been a major challenge for the whole private jet industry. It’s a tough market out there. We launched just as it struck and so we have had to fight for a smaller pool of customers.
But I also think the recession has been a catalyst for us in some ways. The new private jet customer now demands more transparency, cost-effectiveness and more speed – all of which we are in a great position to provide.
What do you feel are the biggest obstacles to growth for SMEs in the UK?
A lack of highly-skilled staff can hold back many SMEs. We took the view to take on young people in our Flight Team and train them in-house. But even so, recruitment is still very time-consuming, it’s so important to find people with the right potential.
And while we’ve used it to our advantage at PrivateFly, the recession is still making its presence felt for many businesses. But I am optimistic about the future.
What mistakes have you made along the way and how did you overcome them?
We’ve made some minor mistakes along the way – but some measured risk-taking is part of the balance of being a disruptive business. For example we were intent on organic growth in the early days of the business and, in retrospective, we could have gotten more traction earlier, if we’d expanded earlier and taken on more staff.
What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to anyone looking to start their own business?
Hire the right people! Make this a priority – our technology is the brain of our business but the team is its heart and soul.
For more information, visit PrivateFly.com