First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Bryan Del Monte: We are all fine. Minnesota’s cases are growing, but overall, the state and its residents take COVID very seriously, and I believe that spread of the disease will be restrained compared to the rest of the country.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded The Aviation Agency.
Bryan Del Monte: For the past 30 years, I’ve used communications and traded words and ideas for profit. I’ve been a trial consultant, a policy analyst, a speechwriter, and an advertising executive. In all those roles, I’ve had to use words and ideas to get people to take actions that I wanted them to undertake, find in favor of a client, accept US policy positions, sway constituencies to our way of thinking, or get people to buy products and services. Thus, while I’ve had all these various positions in my life, the thread that ties them together is the idea of inspiring action. That’s my expertise in my professional career – I know why people do what they do. With the right words and emotions, I feel confident I can demonstrate to people that acting one way or another is in their best interest.
I founded the company following the dissolution of a family corporation that I joined in 2010. That company was an advertising agency that primarily focused on lead generation and internet marketing for service companies (roofers, electricians, plumbers, etc.) In 2013, I founded Clickafy Media Group, LLC, which started out as an agency specializing in sports and leisure products, CPG, and hospitality. I continued running that company as Clickafy until about 2016, where for a period, I did consulting for corporations and other advertising agencies as “bryandelmonte.com.”
In that year, 2016, I took my first discovery flight in an airplane at Flying Cloud airport. Following that discovery flight, I wound up spending a fair amount of time examining the aviation marketplace. After two years of study, we decided to create an advertising and marketing agency that looks solely at the marketing and advertising needs of aviation and aerospace companies.
How does The Aviation Agency innovate?
Bryan Del Monte: By our nature, we’re a creative company – you can’t employ all the people we do (artists and writers) and not be. But creativity and innovation aren’t the result of going to the bar and drinking and having a good idea or slipping in the bathtub and inventing the “flux capacitor.” Creativity and innovation are the results of being able to see new relationships and connection possibilities in existing structures. Thus, our company innovates by having a very firm understanding of the past, the culture, psychological triggers, and looking for ways to develop strategies that motivate people. We have a culture that is challenging and open and fosters people wanting to do “great work” in an environment where failing isn’t punished.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Bryan Del Monte: Coronavirus didn’t affect our business as much as others in the field and industry. We have functioned as a matrixed team across the country; thus, regulations on distancing and shutdowns didn’t affect us much. We’ve also developed procedures and processes to continue as a cohesive business, even when all of us are scattered around the country. We’re lucky in that we developed these processes years ahead of the virus’s onset.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Bryan Del Monte: No. We saw the challenges of a sudden collapse coming in November of 2019. We believed at the time the likely “catastrophe” was a sudden and severe unravelling of the corporate bond market which would trigger an economic collapse and cascade in other financial markets which would result in a recession; similar to the 2007 collapse that was brought about by escalating defaults in the MBS market. We were already positioning ahead of that risk, and when things went sideways in March, we were prepared for it. We had access to credit lines and were ready to pivot. It took us about two months to pivot, but we were ahead of the curve. While most businesses stood still and watched CNN 92 hours a day… freaking out about Corona… we were moving ourselves and our clients into stabilization.
Part of that comes from having to have dealt with crises in my career as a trial consultant and later as a policy official. You learn that crises have stages and steps, and you learn quickly to identify where you are in the cycle, and as a consequence, you know what to do. While most people were paralyzed by fear and uncertainty, we took action because we know from experience that it’s in the earliest stages of the crisis where you have the most flexibility to determine the final outcomes.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety, how do you project yourself and The Aviation Agency in the future?
Bryan Del Monte: Stress and anxiety are typically the results of feeling powerless. So you have two choices… accept the powerlessness or do something. Typically, we choose to take responsibility and accountability and then undertake action.
The projection of the company is really about the actions and habits you undertake daily. What many people don’t seem to appreciate is that “reputation” is in the minds of others, their interpretation of your actions. You don’t control their perceptions or your reputation. All you control is your accountability and your actions. We undertook action, refused to be paralyzed by fear, and as a consequence, we undoubtedly fared better than most. In all reality, life didn’t change that much for us except in March and April, where paralysis was so strong, nobody wanted to do anything. So we took that time to regroup, pivot, and come up with a better plan to move forward, assuming the COVID crisis lasts as long as 3-5 years (which, unfortunately, given our understanding of crises – it’s likely to continue.)
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Bryan Del Monte: My competitors are largely companies that tell a dramatically different story than our own. My competitors are largely composed of people who were pilots or who did executive management in the aviation business, and one day did a website or a brochure, so they tell themselves they’re marketing people now.
Our business is composed of people who have spent their entire careers in marketing and advertising – selling products and services. We have a passion for marketing aviation, but our craft is selling and marketing. Thus, not to be glib, we don’t see we have any real competitors in the space because companies with our experience aren’t really playing in this space. It’s in part why we chose to enter two years ago.
That said, there are agencies in this space that specialize solely in aviation – some of them do good work. What is lacking from our perspective (and we’re in a position to judge given our expertise) is that most of the work lacks strategic direction and a real understanding of why people buy. Thus, we see lots of pretty websites and sell sheets that are exactly what the client asked for – but not things that are likely to ultimately move a client’s business. That’s what we believe makes us different, and that’s what we characterize as our “know how.”
In terms of “staying in the game,” we’re actively advertising our products and services, we are actively engaged in public relations, and we are actively engaged in sales outreach in various modalities. We don’t just preach these things to clients – we do it ourselves as well.