Open for Business: Advice from entrepreneurs on starting and maintaining a successful aviation business

Open for Business Advice from entrepreneurs on starting and maintaining a successful aviation business By Michelle Garetson August 2000 Some people believe that as long as someone else is signing your paycheck, you're replaceable, so...

In February of this year, Brown Aviation Tool Supply moved to an 8,000-sq.-ft facility in Oklahoma City, OK, and is located less than a half mile from the main entrance of the Will Rogers World Airport.

Though the focus of its business is mail order, Brown does have a walk-in facility with six employees. Michael Brown is currently looking for another salesperson. "I like to be out selling and meeting with customers," says Brown, "and I don't want to be tied down with the office management tasks."

Freeman's contract for the medical center's Messerschmitt is presently underway. He says this is what will make or break the business as it is their inaugural project. In its former life, this helicopter had been used for oil rig work in the Gulf of Mexico. Freeman and his staff of two full-time technicians, along with several part-time employees, will completely strip the inside of the helicopter, configure and install a custom interior, as well as provide airframe, electrical, and avionics upgrades, and give the aircraft a new paint job. The work has been bid to be done in three months and to include more than 3,000 man-hours. Pretty ambitious, but Freeman claims that everything has to be done perfectly as this is the benchmark by which Helicopter Specialties Inc. will be measured in future bids.

HSI hopes to obtain repair station status and several manufacturer's service center approvals in the future.

A little advice

It has been said that if you want to make a small fortune in aviation, start with a bigger one. Starting a business requires a lot of effort and expense in both time and money. Those with aspirations of making huge profits in the aviation industry quickly or ever should heed the advice of Michael Brown:

"Being an entrepreneur requires skill, much like an artist or a singer requires skill in order for them to succeed. You have to accept that you'll be living lean at first and that you have to put any profits realized back into the business - no living large until the business is well established. It's a 24-hour-a-day, 7-days a week effort to own your own business - no matter what industry you're in. You are constantly thinking about it, evaluating it, and planning its future."


Brown Aviation Tool Supply Co. Oklahoma City, OK 800-587-3883 or 405-688-6888

Helicopter Specialties Inc. Janesville, WI 608-758-1701 e-mail:

RAPCO Inc. Hartland, WI 262-367-6210

Excerpt from the "Facts About Small Business 1999" report published by the U.S. Small Business Administration, Office of Advocacy in Washington, DC.

• Small businesses with fewer than 500 workers employ 53 percent of the private nonfarm work force, contribute 47 percent of all sales in the country, and are responsible for 51 percent of the private gross domestic product.

• New business formation reached another record level in 1998. An estimated 898,000 new firms with employees opened their doors - a 1.5 percent increase over the record 885,000 in 1997.

• About three-quarters of new business owners are also employed in a wage and salary job at startup and 60 percent of new firms begin at home (U.S. Dept. of Labor, SBA-sponsored research). About 21 million Americans - 17 percent of all U.S. non-agricultural workers - are engaged in some entrepreneurial activity, including both full-time and part-time entrepreneurship (SBA-sponsored research).

• A recent Advocacy study, E-Commerce: Small Business Ventures Online, show more small firms using electronic commerce.

• The share of small firms with access to the Internet nearly doubled, from 21.5 percent in 1996 to 41.2 percent in 1998.

• Small businesses using the Internet have higher revenues, averaging $3.79 million compared with $2.72 million overall.

• For 78 percent of small business owners, the major reason for having a web site is to reach new and potential customers, and 35 percent maintain a web site.

• Cost is small business' major barrier to the adoption of e-commerce.

• E-mail and research (finding new customers) continue to be small firms' most popular uses of the Internet.

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