First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Chris Crawford: For our family, the past year hasn’t been easy. However, we’re still doing well and in good spirits. The pandemic has brought us closer without question and made us more resilient as we continue to navigate these uncertain times. Overall, we count our blessings and view each day as a gift.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Jet It.
Chris Crawford: My path to Jet It was somewhat unconventional. From an early age, I aspired to be a leader and followed that passion from Houston to West Point, where I earned an engineering degree and a commission in the Army. (Interestingly, Jet It’s founder + CEO—Glenn Gonzales—was pursuing a parallel path at the Air Force Academy at the same time).
Following my military service, which culminated with a year-long deployment to Iraq, I found myself at Harvard, where I earned an MBA and landed my first post-Army job as an investment banker at Goldman Sachs. My early career on Wall Street was a rewarding experience and a fast-paced education about capital markets and the technical aspects of corporate deal-making and finance.
I spent the next decade as a growth investor in private equity, working primarily with the founders and leadership teams at high growth businesses in sectors ranging from healthcare to technology. During these years, I continued to develop a broad set of tools and uncovered my professional passion—helping to build and scale-up businesses—which led me to Jet It.
How does Jet It innovate?
Chris Crawford: Private air travel is prohibitively expensive due to the high costs of acquiring, maintaining, and operating aircraft over time. Jet It has solved this problem with an innovative, hybrid business model that enables us to provide private jet transportation to individuals and companies at a fraction of the traditional cost of jet ownership and private charter.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Chris Crawford: Our top priority is the health and safety of our customers and employees. Maintaining that commitment during COVID has required pivoting to bring on new protocols and a relentless focus on getting the details right. Deeper cleanings to sanitize and disinfect our aircraft interiors are just examples of how our processes have adapted.
The pandemic has also brought increased demand for our service offering. Discerning travelers, who are hyper-aware of avoiding potential exposure at airports and commercial flights, are choosing private air travel. Because we deliver a private jet experience that is far more accessible than ever before, our clients save time and money while enjoying far less risky or worrisome travel.
Lastly, another opportunity we see is attracting talent. Unfortunately, thousands of highly skilled individuals across aviation, hospitality, and other sectors are furloughed indefinitely or worse. This presents a unique window of time for us to find and attract great people who fit well within our culture.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Chris Crawford: As a young aviation company, it can be terrifying to continue investing limited resources as the world grinds to a halt. This requires an intentional and difficult choice between playing defense and going on the offense. In Jet It’s case, our commitment to meeting our customers’ ongoing travel needs, primarily successful, small-to-medium sized business owners, has made the difficult choice much easier.
John Wooden, the legendary basketball coach, is quoted as saying, “If we fail to adapt, we fail to move forward.” For me, that is probably the main lesson learned.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety? How do you project yourself and Jet It in the future?
Chris Crawford: I find that only focusing on things I can control goes a long way toward reducing anxiety. Every day I try to set aside time to reflect and be grateful for opportunities and wins. On my best days, self-care is another way I keep grounded, whether that be enjoying an unrushed healthy meal, picking up a favorite book, walking the dog at sunrise, or simply enjoying a “jazz timeout” with my favorite playlist.
In my opinion, these same principles can apply to leading teams and businesses through change and uncertainty. What factors are in our control, and how do we align and focus our efforts around those things? Are we measuring and celebrating our gains, even the small ones? How are we doing with supporting and looking out for one another?